I have been refreshing my knowledge on how to manage our soils in our growing business. Soil is my pet area of interest, as ultimately everything we eat, whether this is meat, milk or vegetables comes from the soil it was grown in. Looking after soils both nutritionally and physically will ultimately look after us, to this end we have not ploughed on our farm since 1998. Ploughing is the traditional way farmers have prepared ground to plant crops for thousands of years. It has many benefits, which up until the last hundred years was mainly carried out behind a horse. However with the advent of the tractor, bigger and heavier machines have been used, which has bought some disadvantages from a soil health perspective.
At Bottom Farm, we talk terms such as ‘Minimum Tillage’ or ‘Direct Drilling.’ We use ‘Cover Crops’ and various other techniques, all of which have bought huge, measurable benefits to our soil health in increased organic matter and improved nutrition. However as our soils have improved, my knowledge has not kept up with the latest advances, so it has been really refreshing to learn more on the better use of cover cropping, crop rotations and improvements in how to establish crops. Some may say it is a dull subject and if you were to accuse me of being a soil nerd, I am happy to go along with that.
Agriculture and farming offer very interesting careers, not often considered by those from outside the industry. It is at the cutting edge of technology, for example I have just learnt about the use of LED lighting to grow British Strawberries throughout the year, or in my case understanding the biology involved in creating healthy soils. However it is also about an appreciation of the natural world we work within, the weather, wildlife, animals and living plants.
Agriculture is a growing industry, needing to recruit around 60,000 people by 2020. There are jobs for all sorts of careers from animal husbandry, engineers, biologists, financial and commodity trading and so on. I am just looking at recruiting one person this year, perhaps someone who is willing to share some of my passion about looking at the very ground beneath our feet.