“Peasants can’t forget what our grandparents taught us.”



Some farmers are looking to old practices to improve the quality of the meat they produce, improve the health of the soil in the fields and mitigate climate change.

Cow dung on Peter Grieg’s farm is “real,” he says. Squat down in the field and look at the dozens of holes that the dung beetle excavated in a matter of hours.

“There is an absolute industry in that cow dung. There are billions of bacteria, hundreds of species, and we are thinking about what real agriculture is.”

His farm, Pipers Farm, is located under the wilderness of Exmoor on the fertile Devonshire hills, where a herd of his native Devon Red Ruby grabs a field rich in wildflowers and clovers. I am. Cows go out all year long to graze unsprayed land.

Peter and his wife have worked here for the past 30 years. He says they are farming regeneratively, with an approach inspired by the wisdom of prewar farmers, where hedges were wild, livestock mixed with fresh air, and industrial chemicals were the future. I will.

common sense

He describes it as a food production engine room. Well-fertilized soil produces good quality grass, which nourishes cattle and thus humans who eat nutritious meat.

He believes that modern intensive farming with synthetic chemicals, antibiotics and processed animal feed all works to upset this delicate balance. Agriculture has moved away from the “basic common sense” of acting in harmony with nature.

“It produces a large amount of industrial products, but it is very destructive to nature and does not provide the basic components of human nutrition.”

Peter Grieg

Peter Grieg wants young farmers to use “wisdom inherited from their grandparents.”

Regenerative farming has its roots in traditional small-scale farming. This approach focuses on soil restoration, which claims to save water, mitigate climate change, improve crops and promote biodiversity.

The basic principles include avoiding tillage and not disturbing the soil by reducing the use of chemicals. You can protect the planet from elements by planting cover crops such as clovers and naturally fertilizing with grazing animals. Proponents say nature will do the rest.

Peter expanded his business to work with about 40 family-owned farms in Devon Valley, moving away from a more focused system and helping sell produce under the Pipers Farm brand.

Companies such as Nestlé, McCain, Unilever, PepsiCo and Danone publicly support this approach. In comparison, organic farming is a stricter system, with strict animal welfare standards and rules banning herbicides and fertilizers.

Cow dung

Peter says my cow dung is “real”

He wants to encourage “young blood” on these family farms, so they can “put the wisdom inherited from their grandparents into action.”

“They didn’t have a choice,” he says of the older generation. “They didn’t have chemicals. They didn’t have big machines. They didn’t have industrial fertilizers.”

However, there are challenges. Some large-scale crops, such as potatoes and sugar beets, usually require land cultivation.

It costs farmers to switch to another system-and now farmers are not always paid more for food produced to higher standards.

Snell brothers

The Snells have been farming in Devon for 100 years and are now led by John (R) and Mark (L).

Richard Bramley, a cultivable farmer in Yorkshire, is the chair of the NFU Environmental Forum. He says the distinction between renewable and industrial agriculture is useless-there is no black-and-white answer. He says many farmers have been using regeneration technology for years.

“As a farmer, I know that I need to produce the food I need. It not only has less impact, but also improves soil health and biodiversity.”

He says “collective efforts” are needed to change the food system to meet environmental costs. “Unfortunately, we can’t withdraw from the economic side of things. We are often under pressure to produce less food. That’s the direction of an unsustainable journey.”

“I think it’s important to have a very objective view to consider all the scientific possibilities. Somewhere in it, there are a few sweet spots that can meet all the demands made on the farm. . “


Pigs and piglets are free to roam on Snell’s farm

Brothers Mark and John Snell, who had a herd of dairy cows in their thirties, are now raising turkeys and pigs for the Pipers Farm. Mark says most people want to farm regeneratively if possible, but warns that there is no “hellish hope” to feed the world.

“The ultimate problem is food waste. It’s too cheap. It has driven farmers into industrial agriculture. Farmers get a bad lap about how they cultivate more time, but do it. It was the general public and the government that drove it. “

John says there is always a need for industrial agriculture. “Industrial agriculture should be somewhere. It’s better to have better welfare than to import everything where you don’t know how it’s grown.”

However, the government is focusing on improving soil health as part of a plan to reshape the agricultural landscape, and the UK is now leaving the European Union. As part of the post-Brexit subsidy system, farmers can earn up to £ 70 per hectare for “actions to improve soil health.”

And the movement toward regenerative agriculture is progressing worldwide. In June, McCain, the world’s largest producer of frozen potato products, promised to embrace the principle throughout the food chain by 2050.


These ancient hedges are about 400 years old and are rich in wildlife if left untrimmed.

Sue Pritchard, CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Countryside Commission, said there was “hundreds of years of science” behind regenerative agriculture, adding that it was not a “hippie sideshow.” ..

“Our study shows that the transition to renewable agriculture will result in a net reduction of 66% to 77% in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Natural and health crises, and post-pandemic well-being and green restoration mean that the entire agricultural system really needs to tackle this challenge.”

Peter says farm types and sizes can change. “That’s what the younger generation says, remember what your grandfather said about growing your farm when you were sitting on his lap.

“The important thing is that they are the guardians of this magical wisdom.”

Follow Claire twitter

Posted on