A group of arable farmers and specialists committed to more sustainable and resilient production systems and frustrated by the continued lack of independent information, advice and support are forming a specialist members’ organisation to share ideas, techniques and experiences for mutual benefit.
Biodiversity, Agriculture, Soil and Environment (BASE) UK has been developed to parallel the innovative and influential association established ten years ago by conservation agriculture enthusiasts in Brittany and now with over 1000 members across France.
Although organisationally independent of BASE, active links to the parent association and its inspirational leader, Frederic Thomas give the UK group access to a wealth of valuable extra minimum tillage, direct drilling, cover cropping and other conservation farming expertise and experience to complement that of its own members.
“Many of us keen to improve the sustainability and resilience of our conventional farming systems by working greater harmony with soils and wider environment have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of an effective independent forum for sharing and developing our ideas and techniques,” stressed long-time conservation tillage advocate, Jim Bullock from Malvern – one of the farmers behind the initiative.
“These days it’s almost impossible to find up-to-date information and guidance on the modern
tillage and other approaches we believe are essential for more sustainable farming that doesn’t have a commercial interest behind it. The Soil Management Initiative made a valiant attempt to bridge this gap for a while until its funding dried up. And despite the enthusiasm of those of us who originally set it up, the No Till Alliance has failed to get off the ground in a sustainable way.
“That’s why we felt an organisation allied to the thriving French Association would be the best way ahead, providing members with valuable practical experience and advice from the start;
a self-funded and properly-organised group open to anyone with an interest in conservation agriculture in its widest sense and without any commercial involvement or influence.
“We don’t need our group to be big,” he insisted. “At least, to start with we’d like it to be relatively small for the greatest flexibility and individual member involvement and value. What we really need are members who share our interest to the whole ‘more from less’ approach; our desire to improve current practice; our willingness to share information and experience with others; and, our strict commitment to parking any commercial interests firmly at the door.”
Leading independent tillage adviser, Steve Townsend has agreed to provide professional administration for BASE (UK) from his offices near Gloucester. He explains that the group which will be established with agreed Articles of Association to guide its democratic organisation and development will be holding its inaugural meeting in mid-November.
“We envisage running two or three subject-focused days a year initially, together with an annual conference which will also serve as the group’s AGM,” he said. “Frederic Thomas will be giving us the benefit of some of his most relevant BASE experience at our November meeting, which will also give a chance to discuss our draft Articles and group development. We then plan to hold the first annual conference and AGM next February so we can move ahead rapidly to agree the Articles, elect officers and develop our initial activity programme.
“Our meetings will be strictly members only, with an initial annual fee of £120 + VAT per head to cover expert speaker and organisation costs. For founder members this will extend for the first 18 months so everyone has the benefit of a full year of activity. Any farmer, agronomist or adviser interested in joining us should contact me at Soil First Farming on 01452 862696 for full details.”