Holistic land management

Regenerative farmers at Hillcrest Farm are using cattle and poultry to improve soil health and biology, encourage wildlife diversity and capture carbon

First-generation farmers Bracken Morris and Vicky Palmer bought their small farm in Acklam, situated between York and Malton, in September 2017 to pursue their dream of farming.

The couple currently farm 38 acres at the homestead and rent an additional 120 acres. Since moving to the farm, they have instigated some significant changes to their business to farm in a way they believe is right for the soil, the plants, the animals and the environment.

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First-generation farmers Bracken Morris and Vicky Palmer

Alongside their beef enterprise, they used to run a grass contracting business and had two tractors. They have since sold both tractors, replacing them with one, and all the grass equipment. This enabled them to significantly reduce their emissions and reinvest funds into a poultry enterprise and an on-farm cold store and butchery.

The couple describe themselves as regenerative farmers who manage their land holistically following the 3LM (Land and Livestock Management for Life) principles as advocated by the Savory Institute. They have been rigorously assessed by the Institute and have also been assessed to attain a ‘Land to Market Verified Supplier’ status.

Regenerative farming

They minimise soil disturbance by utilising their direct seed drill to maintain soil integrity andto improve water infiltration. By maintaining living roots, they ensure the soil mycorrhiza is undisturbed, and carbon capture is ongoing.

Keeping the soil surface covered and protected means little water is lost to evaporation.

Diversity is a key focus on the farm, and the couple’s aim is to focus on soil health by using grazing animals, animal impact and recovery period as their primary tools.

Using these in a carefully planned way, in effect mimicking nature, they are regenerating all ecosystems, which, in turn, can help recover soil biology, plant life, insect life as well as promoting diversity within each system.

Their farming practices are very much led by nature, and they are working hard to build resilience in every area. Their livestock are 100% pasture-raised on land that is managed without chemicals and artificial fertilisers. Their goal is to be able to out winter all their stock, which will also help regenerate woodland.

The farm’s 23-strong suckler Hereford cow herd and 150 laying chickens can be found grazing, trampling and fertilising the farm’s increasingly diverse pastures. The result is outstanding produce that is delicious and nutrient-dense. Bracken and Vicky believe they are guardians of the land they manage, and farming regeneratively enables them to improve the quality of so much.

They spend a lot of time talking with their customers, answering questions about their story, what drives them and how they do it. They know that the customers of regenerative farms are just as an important part of the solution as the farmers, and as a regenerative community, farmers and their customers are the way forward towards net zero.

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Hillcrest cows