Billy Lewis - Soil Farmer of the Year
Herefordshire Farmer Billy Lewis has won Soil Farmer of the Year at 25 years old for his 'regenerative' farming methods. Billy has more than halved its nitrogen fertiliser use, which has meant a drastic drop in outgoings and a big increase to the health of the soil.
"Basically what we're doing here is trying to stop writing out cheques to people. Using the sun and the soil..."
One method of regenerative agriculture is mob grazing - keeping your herd or flock in a specific space, and moving them regularly to new pasture. Billy has done this and introduced herbal leys - a mixed crop of grasses, herbs and legumes for grazing which build soil fertility, resist drought and capture carbon. He noticed a marked difference between his and other land during the drought and he feels the soil structure was definitely a part of this.
"You get ten times more grass with an electric fence than a bag of fertiliser..."
But he didn't make all his changes at once. He started with small changes - a change to grazing, or a change to how he sowed in one field - and he has continued to use conventional methods as he's experimenting. But as each change has proved its worth he's been able to scale up these changes and has more than halved his use of fertiliser, and has plans for how he can reduce pesticide use too. On the farm tour the soil looked great - and had more pictures taken of it than Billy!
Billy is looking at options for where to sell their meat locally - if you know a butcher keen to source locally, or have experience with vending machines, please share this with us and we can pool our knowledge.
Buy Pasture-for Life meat and dairy which uses regenerative agriculture methods.
Find local sustainable food businesses on the food map which is always being updated
Make good farming more possible in Herefordshire by joining the Herefordshire Food Alliance and signing up to the Herefordshire Food Charter - together we can do the things that support great local farming here, such as supporting a network of vending machines, and encouraging local retailers to champion local farms regenerating their soil. You can choose to keep in touch with the farming topic when you sign up.