A Soil Academy

martian

DD Moderator
BASE UK Member
Location
N Herts
There's a lot of muttering about how rubbish standard Agriculture courses are at Universities and Colleges, which may be unfair but it got me wondering whether it would be possible to design a course that actually taught students to farm regeneratively. I imagine a small farm run by the students, they'd work each morning on the land (or in the workshop, dairy, chicken plucking shed or wherever) and have lectures/seminars in the middle of the day, before afternoon milking, mob moving or whatever.

Obviously you need a grown-up or two to marshal the activities, but the really exciting thing about having engaged students about the place would be getting them to work out how to do more with less effort, something we are always talking about (in one way or another) on this forum. You'd want a decent workshop so they could make tools for planting pumpkin plugs into a cover crop or whatever problems they come up against. Handy to have a microscope to look at the soil, do faecal egg counts etc, but nothing too flash by way of a laboratory. Students would learn about economics by working out the cost of what they were doing against income generated and whether it is worth adding value to your products...butchering, milling, cooking, tanning, marketing etc. With a pool of labour you could carry on stacking enterprises onto the acreage and find out what works.

Graduates could then take the model to existing farms and confidently offer the old farmer a deal whereby both sides benefit, for instance the youngster gets to start a business with mobile chicken coops and the farmer gets live fertiliser spread over his meadows and a market for his dressed weed seeds. If the whole thing worked as well as it might, fees would be very low as the farm would make money. You wouldn't want too many students, which might make it a bit dull for them in the evenings, but you could easily replicate the model all over the place.

What do you think?
 

onesiedale

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Derbyshire
@Rob Garrett was suggesting a while back about establishing an apprentice scheme that could run across the country between different farms, with the labour/students able to see a wide variety of operations through the year
 

sjt01

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
North Norfolk
There's a lot of muttering about how rubbish standard Agriculture courses are at Universities and Colleges, which may be unfair but it got me wondering whether it would be possible to design a course that actually taught students to farm regeneratively. I imagine a small farm run by the students, they'd work each morning on the land (or in the workshop, dairy, chicken plucking shed or wherever) and have lectures/seminars in the middle of the day, before afternoon milking, mob moving or whatever.

Obviously you need a grown-up or two to marshal the activities, but the really exciting thing about having engaged students about the place would be getting them to work out how to do more with less effort, something we are always talking about (in one way or another) on this forum. You'd want a decent workshop so they could make tools for planting pumpkin plugs into a cover crop or whatever problems they come up against. Handy to have a microscope to look at the soil, do faecal egg counts etc, but nothing too flash by way of a laboratory. Students would learn about economics by working out the cost of what they were doing against income generated and whether it is worth adding value to your products...butchering, milling, cooking, tanning, marketing etc. With a pool of labour you could carry on stacking enterprises onto the acreage and find out what works.

Graduates could then take the model to existing farms and confidently offer the old farmer a deal whereby both sides benefit, for instance the youngster gets to start a business with mobile chicken coops and the farmer gets live fertiliser spread over his meadows and a market for his dressed weed seeds. If the whole thing worked as well as it might, fees would be very low as the farm would make money. You wouldn't want too many students, which might make it a bit dull for them in the evenings, but you could easily replicate the model all over the place.

What do you think?
With no offspring to follow us, I was looking for options for the future of the limited company, and wanted to do something educational. We are also looking at future ownership options.
I would love to do something like you suggested, but do not have the time or energy to implement it (we add value with cheese from the cows, electricity from slurry and poorer quality silage, as well as the usual regen type stuff - as novices though).
 

onesiedale

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Derbyshire
I sense that there could be some sort of opportunities going forward for some joined up thinking.
Maybe this is something that could be facilitated by an organisation like Groundswell, Soil/Biodynamic association, PFLA
There is some massive funding available to get radical projects like this off the ground. Don't underestimate how much work would be involved in setting up, bit then don't underestimate the potential it could bring to industry education and even policy

@martian - a presentation at the next ORFC?
 

Gulli

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Somerset
The page layout on a mobile is horrendous on that

@martian it's a great idea, but it will all come down to money, a lot of universities have the facilities to do this sort of thing but few offer practical courses, even ten years ago the majority of our learning was theory based and persuading the ones in charge will be a big challenge.
I'd say around 25% of my course have since gone down a more regenerative approach in terms of grazing so there is definitely potential there as we were never taught anything much about grassland rotations etc.
 

martian

DD Moderator
BASE UK Member
Location
N Herts
The cheap and cheerful way of doing this would be to ignore the official education system and basically run it as a bunch of interns getting information and experience. They would end up with a reference rather than a degree or whatever and they'd be working over (most of) the normal school holidays.

The expensive way would be, as you say, to become an annex of a university or college. Rather more work, but greater potential, as @onesiedale says. Interesting.
 

martian

DD Moderator
BASE UK Member
Location
N Herts
They are doing a regen farming course at Writtle now, not doing much practical stuff, but they do bring students here and to other local progressive farms.

Yes, they're a good bunch, they came and had a snoop round here.

The thing that strikes me about farmers is their incredible appetite for learning as they grow older, they are forever going on courses to learn new stuff, or come to Groundswell and sit in lectures. So it seems daft to expect young ones to sit around doing a three year academic course. I remember being very bored in lectures at university, I just wanted to get out there and do something. I took on an allotment whilst there just so I could learn a bit about actually growing stuff.

Far better to make mistakes and then go to lectures...when you know what you don't know and actually want to know all about it. That's why I think a semi-practical schooling would suit young regen farmers. It's not as though that's all the education that they are going to get in their lives.
 

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Man fined £300 for bonfire-related waste offences

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Written by William Kellett from Agriland

court-640x360.jpg
A man has pleaded guilty at Newtownards Magistrates’ Court to waste offences relating to a bonfire next to the electrical sub-station on the Circular Road in Newtownards, Co. Down.

Gareth Gill (51) of Abbot’s Walk, Newtownards pleaded guilty to two charges under the Waste and Contaminated Land (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, for which he was fined £150 each and ordered to pay a £15 offender’s levy

On June 25, 2018, PSNI officers went to Gill’s yard, where they found a large amount of waste consisting of scrap wood, pallets, carpet and underlay.

Discussion with Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) officers confirmed the site...
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