The goings-on at Groundswell 2024

On behalf of the CLA team who visited Groundswell Festival 2024, Bethany Turner reflects on the major discussions and talking points at this year’s event
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The event takes place each year as a way of sharing concepts and ideas on regenerative farming practices

Groundswell Regenerative Agriculture Festival is an impressive event with over 8,000 attendees, and more than 300 speakers each year. This week, the CLA were out and about at the festival for the third time speaking with farmers, growers, and anyone interested in learning more about regenerative farming systems.

Our stand was a hive of activity for meeting current and prospective members, hosting a busy breakfast on the second day. We ran two panel sessions, regional and national advisers listened to presentations and visited stands of interest, while CLA Deputy President Gavin Lane also spoke on the festival’s main stage.

CLA President Victoria Vyvyan chaired a fascinating panel session on ‘quiet collaboration’ with panel speakers from M&S Foods, Bisterne Farms, and Robin Appell Ltd. The session underlined the positive value of collaboration in all its guises and how it can help scale-up regenerative agriculture, while panellists highlighted how fair and transparent supply chains are key to a thriving industry, and the range of ways people are collaborating.

Meanwhile, in a lively panel session in the Big Top tent, CLA Deputy President Gavin Lane discussed the hopes and expectations for support of regenerative and nature friendly farming from the next government. Key points included the fact that the agriculture budget must be increased in order to deliver the legally binding environmental targets, and the challenges of an effective Land Use Framework. The panel discussed the need for food and farming to be sustainable, not just in terms of climate change, but also economically and environmentally. Questions from the audience reflected the mood of the festival – optimistic, but aware that there are a lot challenges to be overcome.

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CLA Deputy President Gavin Lane (second from right) in discussion the Big Top tent

Elsewhere, CLA Chief Land Use Policy Adviser Susan Twining chaired a ‘teach in’ on natural capital and nature markets. This was a back-to-basics discussion about the different types of environmental funding available - including government funding, nature markets, corporate funding and charities - while setting out the market realities. Susan was joined by Helen Avery from the Green Finance Institute who presented practical steps for farmers and landowners who are interested in seeking funding for environmental projects. Glenn Anderson from Swallowtail Consulting also shared insights from his practical experience in a popular session with 200 people in the tent, demonstrating the level of interest in funding for environmental management. Attendees were keen to understand what nature markets might mean for their businesses.

CLA advisers were onsite both days, talking to members and learning about all things regenerative agriculture. Discussions ranged from teach-ins on how to carry out soil sampling and mob grazing demos, to hearing from Henry Dimbleby, author of the UK Food Strategy, about transforming the whole food production system.

The importance of collaborating featured in many discussions throughout the festival, both to deliver environmental benefits and to share risk and learning. Questions were asked about the role of farming in building a healthier society, and about what can be done to help the next generation of farmers.

It was heartening to hear favourable reports on the Sustainable Farming Incentive at multiple sessions, with presenters encouraging members of the audience to participate in the scheme. Providing opportunities for young farmers and new entrants was a recurring theme across the two days, with lots of discussion on the best ways of solving this issue.

It was a busy two days for all attendees, with everyone coming away feeling informed and excited.

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