Soil is one of the most overlooked natural ecosystems. It supports all life on earth.
It has huge potential to sequester and store atmospheric carbon.
The amount of carbon in the soil is directly linked to the SOM (Soil Organic Matter) content.
If we increase soil organic matter we are increasing soil carbon levels.
In UK farmland organic matter levels have been falling due to poor farming practices. This is a trend that urgently needs to be reversed.
Soil has the solution to our climate crisis.
Farming systems with higher soil carbon levels will:
Have higher nutrient densities in the food it grows and therefore the food we eat
Contribute to national food security
Increase biodiversity of soil ecosystems which supports above ground diversity such as insects and birds
Have higher quality landscapes to improve the well being of society
Reduce flood risk and improve water quality
Sequester and store atmospheric carbon
How we work with soil the Gentle Farming way.
We use a system which allows us to grow nutritious healthy food alongside environmental improvements and carbon sequestration.
Each of the farms we work with sign up to our pledge.
1. Public profile
All farm businesses will be open and honest, providing information and welcoming visitors where appropriate.
2. Environmental benefit
All our farmers manage in partnership with nature. At least 10% of our farm areas are managed for nature. This may include but not be limited to: woodland, permanent pasture, ponds, rivers, meadows, moorland and rewilding areas.
3. Minimum soil disturbance
We will seek to disturb the soil as little as possible, avoiding ploughing and heavy cultivations to stop the release of carbon.
4. Soil cover
We strive to eliminate bare soil by using cover crops and crop residues, to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health.
5. Use of fertiliser and chemicals
We will endeavour to use natural organic fertiliser wherever possible to increase the carbon content of the soil. Minimise the use of synthetic fertiliser.
We will only use crop protection products where absolutely necessary with precision techniques.
6. Crop diversity
Our farms will have a diverse range of crops, using large rotations to minimise pests, diseases and weeds.
7. Energy efficiency
Using minimum disturbance soil techniques means we use much less diesel than the average farm. Monitor and minimise energy usage.
8. Water quality
Our farming practices will promote water quality, minimise pollution and help reduce flood risk.
Soil carbon on farm.
To quantify the amount of soil carbon our farms capture from the atmosphere we are using a Green House Gas calculator called the Cool Farm Tool.
This was specifically designed for farmers and is continuously improved by a consortium of leading European universities. It is supported by 60+ companies including McDonalds, Nestle, Pepsi co, Kellogg’s, McCain, Tesco, Walmart and Unilever.
On average each hectare farmed following our pledges, captures 3.18 tonnes of C02 equivalent out of the atmosphere per year including accounting for emissions.
A typical conventional farm can emit 2.17 tonnes of C02 equivalent per hectare per year. (reference for average fertiliser use here)
So the net benefit between Gentle Farming and typical conventional farming can be 5.35 tonnes of CO2 Equivalent per hectare annually.
As well as the carbon stored in the soil our farms have many hectares of grassland, woodland and hedgerows which also draw down carbon and are part of the holistic management of the landscape that our farms take pride in.
Farm margins can be very tight and weather volatility is an increasing challenge for farmers to manage. This is why supporting regenerative agriculture is so important today.
Sponsor a hectare.
of local regenerative agriculture.
Each hectare sponsored:
-Lasts 1 year.
- Supports the capture of and reduction in emissions of 5 tonnes of C02 equivalent.
- Keeps previous years carbon stored in the soil.
- Supports a UK family to farm regeneratively and focus on soil health.
- Produces high quality local food.
- Improves the natural capital and biodiversity of the landscape. (click here to view our biodiversity report)
- Allows us to spread the word about soil health and regenerative farming.
- Support to share your good work with your customers.
- A certificate and full use of our marketing materials.
- Farm visits and farmer contact time.
We will be allowing the sponsor of 5 tonnes of C02 capture per hectare and keeping 0.35 tonnes as a buffer.
We will only be allowing the sponsoring of 80% of land committed to Gentle Farming and we will be keeping 20% in reserve as an additional buffer.
Buffers are used to balance against variations in estimates used in the figures above.
Meet Our Farmers
Each of the farmers we work with are previous Soil Farmer of the Year Winners/Finalists.
The below farmers are our first group and are currently signing our pledges.
Gentle Farming founder- Lincolnshire.
I live and work on our family farm in South Lincolnshire. We have been farming regeneratively for around 12 years.
During the first lockdown I started to look into soil carbon and the opportunity it could bring for farmers.
This led me to the creation of Gentle Farming.
My father runs the day to day operations on our farm giving me the time to focus on this exciting project.
2016 winner, Staffordshire.
Clive is a zerotill arable farmer from Staffordshire, and founder and owner of digital media company AgriWebMedia Ltd which operates The Farming Forum and publisher of the very popular Direct Driller Magazine.
Farming combinable crops at scale, Clive managed the transition to a zero tillage system in 2010. His farming system places focus on increasing soil organic matter levels, biological health and water infiltration and capturing sunlight through cover cropping, rotational diversity and even the reintroduction of livestock.
2020 winner, Worcestershire.
Jake farms at Overbury enterprises across a range of soil types. Jake has been working on soil management since he started at Overbury in 2003, with the biggest change happening after completing a Nuffield scholarship in 2013 and switching to regenerative agriculture system in 2015. Jake plants his crops using a direct drill and uses cover-crops and rotational grass leys to protect the soil structure and minimise erosion. A longer and more diverse rotation enable sheep to periodically graze specific crops on arable fields to help build soil fertility. He is using companion cropping and is starting to experiment with biological additions to further stimulate his soil life. He is currently working on reducing Nitrogen use and moving the sheep grazing to a paddock grazing system on the permanent grassland.
2017 winner, Staffordshire.
Tim farms 300 hectares near Wolverhampton.
He has won many awards including: Arable Innovator of the year 2019 and Sustainable Farmer of the year 2020.
Tim says "I farm as biologically as possible, working with nature instead of against it. Soils here are becoming a carbon sponge which you can feel with your feet. I love showing visitors around the farm to demonstrate what can be achieved when you start to regenerate the soil. Providing a healthy ecosystem provides healthy food and clean water for the wildlife and human population. Together we can all make a difference"
2020 Finalists, Shropshire.
Michael is an arable and sheep farmer. His zero till arable crops are grown with a focus on plant health and minimising synthetic inputs. Biology, manure, cover crops and correct nutrition allow him to farm this way. He grows a range of combinable crops including Quinoa, a crop traditionally grown in south America. All lamb is fed on diverse forage grown on the farm, meaning incredibly nutritious and sustainable meat is produced to supply a local farm shop.
Michaels farming methods have encouraged regeneration of his soils, alongside flourishing wildlife, with regular bird surveys confirming the presence of a large numbers of rare birds.
2019 winner, Oxfordshire.
Julian is a FACTS and BASIS trained agronomist and has a commitment to continuing to improve cropping performance, in a sustainable manner. In 2012 he implemented a controlled traffic system across the estate which has given a leap forward in soil health. He carries out regular field trials. He is currently in a major government funded trial to investigate integrated management systems as a way of delivering sustainable intensification. He was one of the first tranche of AHDB monitor Farms (a farmer to farmer knowledge exchange program) from 2014-17. Is a committee member of SEESOIL ( South East England branch of the British Society of Soil Scientists ) and is keen to help improve the flow of knowledge between Farmers and the Scientific community.
Outside farming he is a keen motorcyclist and Paraglider pilot but unfortunately the good weather that they require is also good for farming so do not get to indulge often enough!
2018 winner, Essex.
Simon has been working on improving his soils for the last 20 years, and moved to a no-till system 12 years ago. Simon has refined his compost making technique to produce a highly effective biological inoculant that makes a visible difference when it is applied. The compost includes horse manure, woodchip and garden waste. He says "Compost is the best thing ever! If the soil is not in the right condition, when you apply biology it will not thrive. However if the biology make their home in the compost, when the compost is applied to the soil, they won’t die off, they have a stable home and can thrive. It is changing my soils.”
2018 runner up, Yorkshire.
Angus is a mixed farmer with both arable crops and a suckler beef herd and has been farming regeneratively since 2013. As well as eliminating tillage, Angus uses cover and companion crops and grassland in the rotation and makes the most of residues, all with the aim of improving soil management, health and structure. A diverse rotation is grown on the farm and herbal leys are grown for the cattle which are mob grazed. Pesticides and fertilisers have been much reduced and biological products are used in their place. Animal and bird life is notably much improved since before making these changes.
2017 winner, Durham.
The altitude, weather and soil type on the farm are all challenges! It is a true family business. Richard says: "The decision to change to regenerative agriculture wasn’t purely financial, I came to the realisation that there was a need to look after the soil, The system isn’t easy, it requires a change of mindset; you farm for your soil.
Its all about flexibility, don’t force yourself to do something you’ll later regret, be patient.”
Gentle Farming totals.
6126 hectares pledged so far.
25,000+ tonnes of C02 equivalent offset per year.
Over 2.5 million tonnes of C02 equivalent stored.
100's of billions of micro-organisms cared for, promoting above ground biodiversity.
Find out more.
Students organising for sustainability.
We are working with a leading group of UK universities to learn more about soil carbon.
The Farming Forum
With over 40,000 member this online community of farmers are helping to get our message out
Direct Driller Magazine.
This magazine focuses on educating farmers on soil health are supporting us.
Indigro is a crop consultancy business built around a team of highly professional, agronomists providing independent advice.
We are a member of Farm 491 a leading incubation hub for food and farming entrepreneurs based at the Royal Agricultural University.
Conservation agriculture UK
A UK association to promote and support the spread and adoption of conservation agriculture in the uk.
One Carbon World
One carbon world is a global resource partner of the UN climate neutral now initiative, they specialise in helping certify carbon offsetting projects around the globe.
Zellar is creating a platform for small businesses to track their carbon footprint and a market place to allow them to offset it.
Kiss the Ground
Kiss the Ground is a US based organisation which recently became well known for the Netflix documentary. This organisation is working to educate farmers across the world.
Waste Management Facilities
From waste reduction and recycling to in-depth reporting and legal compliance, Waste Management Facilities create waste management solutions that benefit their clients and the environment.
The Planet Mark
The Planet Mark is a sustainability certification for business which recognises continuous improvements, encourages action, and builds an empowered community of like-minded individuals.
A global restoration network supported by the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich and Google. They are using google technology and big data to analyse restoration projects globally.
Oxford Sustainable Business and Entrepreneurship Society
We want to create a platform to discuss and promote businesses which demonstrate commercial success whilst integrating sustainable practices. Through hosting an array of networking and speaker events, we intend to explore cutting-edge ideas from sustainable start-ups.
Kids Country delivers exceptional, hands-on learning experiences for children based around food, farming and the countryside.
It is one of the largest children’s programmes run by a UK Agricultural Society.