Our first 2-day conference and AGM held in Stratford Upon Avon on the 7th and 8th February was a great success with approximately 90 members attending on each day and over 70 attending on days.

Unfortunately Professor Duncan Cameron was ill and unable to attend however David White and Edwin Taylor provided presentations on their respective farming practices instead.  Thanks go to all our speakers:

  • Barrie Hunt
  • Andrew Howard
  • Doug Christie
  • David Hyner
  • David White
  • Edwin Taylor
  • John Pawsey
  • Plantworks

Feedback from members has been that the 2-day event was a great opportunity for networking and information exchange which was greatly appreciated.

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Protected: AGM Conference 7th and 8th February 2017 – Videos

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Protected: Joel Salatin Presentations – 28th November 2016 at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.

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Now on Twitter

BASE-UK is now on Twitter.  Follow us for live updates from the upcoming Conference and AGM.

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Farm Walk Report – Courtesy of Simon Porter at Penn Croft Farms Ltd, Hampshire.

We had about 18 people join us for this farm walk held on 31st October 2016.  Some were farmers and their agronomists from Hampshire who are not yet BASE UK members while others were BASE members who came from as far as Kent and the Cotswolds.

A good discussion was had over lunch as to the reasons we are experimenting with mixed varieties of wheat crops and also Oilseed rape.  This decision is part of a bigger picture to turn back the clock in the amount of chemicals we use here at Penn Croft.  The discussion also included whether we would be using an insecticide on emerging wheat this autumn. Generally it was felt that we would not be doing this as there is some scientific evidence that uncultivated land is less attractive to aphids landing.

We then walked across a number of fields with some into cover crops and others with wheat planted behind Mustard or Sunflowers. Soil was dug in areas where there had been a problem in the past with drainage and compaction and the marked improvement in soil structure and condition was noted along with the huge numbers of worm casts on all the fields we were walking. This was the result of several years of Conservation Agriculture. An adjoining field had OSR growing with Berseem clover as a companion. There was a lot of interest in this and debates as to the benefit, the choice of companion crop especially as cleavers cannot be controlled effectively with Berseem clover present.

There were many individual discussions going on as we walked a number of fields revolving around cover crop species, how late to drill such crops, slug control, mixes of species, drill types and other topics.

The final destination on our farm walk was a field of Mustard that was over waist high and part way through flowering. In a section of this field we had recently cut the mustard at different heights to see whether we could get some regrowth from the stubble while preventing the mustard from setting seed. The discussion in this field ranged other ways of controlling the growth by rolling it once or twice before the next frost or when to spray it off with Roundup. We also discussed the value of this enormous mustard crop to the soil and how to make the best of that material.

Many thanks to Simon for hosting this farm walk. If any BASE Members would like to arrange a similar event and need help getting information to our Members, please contact Rebecca on with details including date, venue, type of event, booking contact details and a brief description of what will be shown (type of land/crops/machinery etc). By sharing, we learn.

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Joel Salatin – Conservation Agriculture for Arable and Livestock Farmers

BASE UK was delighted that Joel Salatin joined us on Saturday 26th November 2016 at Stareton Hall, NAEC, Stoneleigh after what was for him an exhausting week of travel and talking!

Tim Parton, BASE UK Member has provided the following comment on the day:

“What a day listening to Joel!  From start to finish I found him so entertaining.  The way in which all parts of his business complement each other and make money along the way was truly inspiring.  All the way home I was trying to think of ways in which I could implement some of his ideas, which made me realise I was already working along similar lines –  with a change in rotation and cover cropping on the farm here, in growing cover crops I am trying to improve the health, structure and fertility of the soil while grazing with sheep to cover some of the costs. 

Joel has really made me think about trying to make money as well as make improvements to the soil/business along the way.  One other point which I took on board from his selling strategy was getting people involved with the story of the product which I hope to implement with our haylage business.”

Joel also talked about having disruptive conversations with family and business partners.  The need for the different generations to step out of the way to allow the business and members of the business to blossom.

Joel states that the main cause for businesses to falter is often – in his words “constipation of the brain”!  Watch the video to learn more…

As Tim says, one of the most important marketing messages Joel had is that people love a story and want to understand what they are participating in when they buy a product.  We should tell that story!

George Young, who also attended has these thoughts:

“Joel Salatin was a name I first came across when meeting John Pascoe on his farm in Australia at the beginning of 2016.  Having researched Joel, I was especially pleased to be able to meet him and hear his experiences in person since his views seemed to align so closely to my own. 

The day was certainly no let down, with some prominent take-away points being experimentation, multipurpose tools / sheds / machines, and creative thinking to circumvent road-block regulations!  It was encouraging to hear that true organic no-till in a mob-grazing system is possible – useful if glyphosate does get banned, although the one year of arable in seven that Joel quotes means that a lot of my machinery is somewhat too large! 

The prominent take-away I will be working on will be to look at multi-livestock incorporation: returning cattle to the land in rotation will be stage one, but rotating other livestock for disease control, whilst adding a little to stress, seems fantastic.”

Joel Salatin is a full-time farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and an inspirational speaker on sustainability and food policy. A wordsmith, he describes his occupation as “mob-stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization.” His humorous and conviction-based speeches are akin to theatrical performances, often receiving standing ovations.

A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents’ ideas. The farm services more than 3,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobile eggs, pigaerator pork, forage-based rabbits, pastured turkey and forestry products using relationship marketing.

The family’s farm, Polyface Inc. (“The Farm of Many Faces”) has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Gourmet and countless other radio, television and print media. Profiled on the Lives of the 21st Century series with Peter Jennings on ABC World News, his after-broadcast chat room fielded more hits than any other segment to date. It achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in the New York Times best-seller Omnivore’s Dilemma by food writer guru Michael Pollan and the popular documentary Food Inc.

The author of nine books, Joel also writes extensively in magazines such as Stockman Grass Farmer, Acres USA, and American Agriculturalist.


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Gary Zimmer Visits the UK

Gary Zimmer at Bromborough Estate

Gary Zimmer spoke at Bromborough Estate, Poddington, Northants – on Monday 7th November 2016.

James Warne has kindly provided the following overview of Gary’s talk:

Over 70 BASE-UK members and associates packed into the Shooting Lodge at Bromborough Estate to hear Gary Zimmer speak about his knowledge of biological farming.  Gary spoke for over an hour before taking questions for another 1 ½ hours.   Topics included soil biological and chemical health, the effects of soil health on livestock, humans and nutrient dense food.   I think it’s fair to say it was delivered at a furious pace, most of the time!

The talk began with a little history of how Gary had arrived at his version of biological farming via conventional and then organic practices.   Having been trained by Albrecht, (who originally began life as a microbiologist) Gary understood the importance of calcium levels within the soil.  There was a good discussion on the difference between what the soil test shows as available calcium and what is actually plant available.

The talk continued placing emphasis on the importance of understanding the correct mineral balance within the soil and the importance of not underestimating the importance and relative amounts of the major and minor elements.  How the need to produce nutrient dense food impacted upon human health and animal health.   A great deal of the common ailments suffered by the human population and within the livestock we raise could all be traced back to a shortage of a particular mineral or combination thereof.

The merits of soil organic matter, humus and carbon were also discussed, especially the differences between organic matter return from cover crops.

The floor was then opened up to questions from the audience before being wrapped up with a warm thanks to Gary Zimmer for his presentation and Andrew Mahon for hosting us by Richard Harding.    I am certain that those who attended will agree it was a truly inspirational few hours.

Gary Zimmer – Frequently described as the father of biological farming, Gary Zimmer has spent 30 years developing and honing a system of farming that focuses on ‘Better farming through better soils’. This increasingly proven approach, now known as biological farming, seeks to balance chemistry, biology, (earthworms to microbes), and soil structure. His forthright views on the future of min tillage and direct drilling in this context are stimulating and entertaining.

Gary describes an approach to farming now practised on more than a million acres across 29 states in the USA, as well as in Canada and Australia, that is focused on delivering profitability for farmers at world commodity prices. Cultivation practices, rotations, cover crops and the role of balanced quality fertilisers will all be discussed in length. He explains how farmers are increasing yields while reducing purchased inputs and building the fertility required for truly sustainable farming.

Gary’s company, Midwestern Bioag, advises more than 3,500 USA growers, both organic and conventional. His demonstration farm in Wisconsin has received may visits from UK growers and attracted rave reviews.


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Farm Walk – Toby Baxter 13th July 2016

From left to right - Vincent Cugent, Simon Porter, Jason Butler, Toby Baxter, Alastair McGregor & John CooperToby Baxter hosted a farm walk on 13th July 2016.  The group met at Chavanage Farm near Cirencester and viewed Toby’s direct drilled Linseed, Winter Barley, 1st and 2nd Wheat and Peas.

The Linseed was direct drilled between 10th and 14th May after sheep grazed stubble turnips.  As a point of interest the stubble turnips had a cover crop of Spring Barley sown after them prior to the Linseed being drilled.  The cover crop of Spring Barley reached a height of 15 – 20 cm before it was sprayed and the Linseed was drilled.  Toby’s thought behind this was to ensure constant cover in the soil.

Toby then took the group to see his Winter Barley, Winter Wheat and Peas – a good discussion was had by all about these.

As most of the group travelled via Cirencester on the way home, Toby took the group to see his Ahi Flower – see picture below.

IMG_1955 - Ahi flower


This is a broad leaf break crop and a good source of Omega 3 oil.




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Edwin Taylor – Farm Walk, Shotley Bridge, Consett

Edwin Taylor hosted a farm walk on the 18th July 2016 at his farm near Consett, Northumberland.  Edwin showed his group the BASE-UK trial plot which is part direct drilled, part drilled into ploughing.  A good discussion was had by all on the merits of direct drilling.

Farm Walk at Edwin Taylor




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SAVE THE DATE – BASE-UK AGM 7th and 8th February 2017


For the first time this will be a two-day event to be held on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th February 2017 at The Alverston Manor Hotel, Stratford Upon Avon.

There will be plenty of opportunity to network over lunchtimes and during dinner on Tuesday evening.


Speakers will include:

Tuesday 7th February:

  • Barrie Hunt – Monsanto – “The Politics Behind Registration of Glyphosate”.
  • Andrew Howard – Nuffield Scholar and BASE UK Member – “Options for Companion Cropping and Intercropping in the UK”.
  • Doug Christie – BASE UK Member – “Two Decades of No Ploughing”.
  • David Hyner – “Embracing Change”.

Wednesday 8th February:

  • AGM
  • Professor Duncan Cameron – Sheffield University – “Soil Development at Sheffield University”.
  • John Pawsey – BASE UK Member – “Organic Farming alongside Conservation Agriculture”.
  • Plantworks – “Mycorrhizal Colonisation of Soil Under an Arable Rotation”.

For booking information, please email me on – closing date is 2nd February 2017.  Pre-booked entry only.

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