BIG changes are taking place on farms in Herefordshire in a bid to cut their carbon footprints.
Farmers were shown around Lower Blakemere Farm in Herefordshire on September 24 by farmer Phil Gorringe, who explained how by, using audits and improving soil organic matter by just 0.2 per cent across all land, using methods including reducing soil disturbance, using cover crops, preventing runoff, the farm could become carbon neutral.
The agricultural sector has ambitions to reach net zero by 2040, with the spotlight on farming and its significant contribution to the UK's greenhouse gas. Herefordshire has over 176,000 acres farmed by over 2,300 full-time farmers.
In a bid to understand where farms can cut carbon emissions and become more sustainable, a programme of energy audits has been embraced by a diverse mix of farms to extrapolate facts and provide a fair picture of what's going on in the county.
The early results show total product emissions in Herefordshire are much lower than the UK average, with farms sitting in and around the top 25 per cent, according to Greener Footprints. Herefordshire Council said they hope to see all farms in Herefordshire using a common methodology by 2030, benefiting the audits and exploring change.
At Lower Blakemere Farm, farmers came to meet the Greener Footprints team and other key stakeholders including the county council, which is spearheading the campaign and funding many of the audits, 4R Reassurance who are delivering them, and others, including the county’s Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission teams who work with farms to support change. Farm Herefordshire and the Duchy of Cornwall Estate are also supporting delivery.
The event saw farmers discussing carbon capture initiatives inclduing new woodlands and enlarged hedgerows, reduced fuel usage, grazing strategies, and the use of renewables. A benchmarking exercise as part of the programme is also giving farmers insight into which part of their business needs closer attention and the audits, redone in three years, will evaluate the performance of changes made.
"We are really encouraged by the efficiencies being highlighted," says Ian Howie, a retired farmer, industry commentator and member of the Council's Climate and Nature Partnership Board.
"Herefordshire is a county that's farmed well but its farmers know, too, that there are always things they can do to improve their way of working, to become more competitive, and to give their customers confidence in their commitment to the environment.
"It's a good morning's work getting all the data together, but doing so can increase their productivity and save them thousands of pounds – and give them confidence in the steps they need to take to reduce their carbon footprint."
"We are incredibly encouraged by the impact of this initiative, and what farmers are learning from the process and from each other," said Herefordshire Councillor Elissa Swinglehurst.