UK farm project to show intensive farmers another way

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Godminster Organic Farm in Bruton, Somerset, is among the UK farms involved and supplies Ocado with White’s Organic Jumbo Oats via White’s and Godminster organic cheese
Godminster Organic Farm in Bruton, Somerset, is among the UK farms involved and supplies Ocado with White’s Organic Jumbo Oats via White’s and Godminster organic cheese

Related tags Food security Agriculture Supermarket

Five UK farms are setting themselves up to be the gold standard in environmentally-friendly farming after research revealed that the deterioration of the UK’s natural environment could lead to an estimated 12% loss to GDP.

This comes as part of a wider partnership between retailer Ocado and the Soil Association to drive positive changes in the way we eat, farm and care for our natural world.

The five farms in the programme each focus on a different area of farming - from dairy cows, beef and sheep to orchard fruit and potatoes - and will host training sessions for other farmers, sharing technical expertise and support on a range of nature-friendly agricultural practices.

The training sessions will include:

  • Agroforestry, which combines trees with livestock and crops to provide shade and protection from floods and drought.
  • Restoring hedgerows to encourage natural predators and reduce the need for harmful pesticides.
  • Using diverse crop rotations to boost soil health and restore nitrogen naturally, as an alternative to fossil-fuel derived artificial fertilisers.

Three of the five farms involved in the programme supply Ocado, which has been advocating for small UK producers for some time, including through its Best of British aisle. This online aisle more than 800 UK farmed products and is endorsed by both Defra and the NFU.

"Supporting local farmers and promoting homegrown produce is something we care deeply about at Ocado. Earlier this year, we launched a Best of British aisle on site to make it easier for our customers to shop for food that's farmed and produced in the UK," ​said Hannah Gibson, Ocado Retail CEO.

"​Our new partnership with the Soil Association reinforces our commitment and, by working with farmers who are pioneering agroecological farming practices, we’re increasing the quality, freshness and sustainability of the food we’re able to offer our customers.”

Helen Browning, Soil Association CEO added: “Nature is under threat in the UK and, with 70% of land under farming, we believe farmers need support to shift away from the most damaging practices of intensive farming to restore biodiversity and mitigate the worst risks of climate change.

“Ocado Retail has always championed small producers and we are excited to be working together with such a young and innovative company which shares our commitment to nature friendly food and farming. Its support will act as a catalyst for change, allowing us to deliver a programme that champions and supports fixing our broken food and farming system.”

The partnership between the retailer and association is also set to support research to help advance farm animal welfare. To this end, the duo will be working with farmers to support best practice and to demonstrate the benefits of giving farmed animals a good life.

They will also building a ‘Farm to Fork Ambassadors programme’ together, which will look to give a voice to those providing 'healthy and sustainable' food, encouraging them to share their stories with others in the industry.

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