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Regenerative farming revolution in South West Scotland

Publication: Glenkens Gazette

A group of people close to the soil, looking at it.
Members of the RegenFarm Group carrying out soil tests at Balmangan Farm, Borgue. Photo by Abi Mordin | Licensed for use on Scottish Beacon | All rights reserved

Knowledge sharing between farmers, learning through peer-to-peer support, and disseminating the experiences. Writing for the Glenkens Gazette, Abi Mordin explores the approach taken by the Regenerative Farming Network in South West Scotland.

Led by farmers, for farmers – the Regenerative Farming Network, known to its members as RegenFarm Network, is an informal group for anyone interested in knowing more about regenerative farming.

For some, this comes after years of reading, researching, and trying out some ‘different’ things; others are completely new to regenerative farming and just stick their toes in the water.

The RegenFarm Network is an open door for anyone curious about sustainable and regenerative agriculture.

John Veitch farms near Gatehouse of Fleet. He joined the group over a year ago, first coming on a Farm Walk. He explains his reasons for getting involved:

“I’ve been trying to include nature and biodiversity in my daily thinking for a long time. I knew of regenerative practices and had been doing my own version – reducing fertiliser and grazing longer swards. It’s become clear something needs to change. I stumbled across this group when looking for further reading and learning opportunities. Finding more local interest, a knowledgeable and friendly group who put up with me was gratifying!”

Signing up to the RegenFarm Network gives you access to the email forum. Anyone can post to this, but mainly members receive the RegenRoundup – a weekly bulletin with links to online and in-person events, podcasts, videos, research and more.

A farmer with her cattle at a farm
Heather with her girls waiting for their move. Picture by Abi Mordin | Licensed for use on Scottish Beacon | All rights reserved

What is Regenerative Farming?

In a nutshell, regenerative and agroecological systems are farming with nature. Valuing biodiversity, reducing inputs and maximizing oil health through changes in management from what we think as “conventional” – for example, introducing holistic planned mob grazing, reducing ploughing and tillage, and valuing diversity in the pasture.

Regenerative systems are about supporting your underground livestock so they do all the hard work increasing fertility and structure. It’s economical, profitable, and offers huge benefits in carbon sequestration, water management, etc.

The RegenFarm network presents information and ideas around building healthy living soils, high nature value farming, holistic management and grazing systems, reducing inputs through biological and integrated management, and other topics of interest.

Further involvement can include attending monthly Farm Walks and other meetups, including film screenings and socials.

Dig a bit deeper, and you can join the Soil Health Group. This smaller group comprises around 20 farmers who share access to the SoilMentor platform – a space to log results from hands-on soil testing, such as infiltration rates and earthworm counts. 

The Soil Health Group also has a WhatsApp and a weekly Zoom call – often with invited experts who provide short presentations and join the conversation.

The Soil Health Group is also actively participating in Scotland-wide networks to engage with MSPs and Policy Makers developing the new Scottish Agriculture Bill.

Huw Connick, a farm and land manager across South West Scotland, joined the Soil Health Group about a year ago. He said:

“Every now and then, people or groups come into your life at the right time. It was a good time for me when I joined the Soil Health Group about a year ago. As someone who works professionally in lands management, the group, and individuals within it, have stimulated my thinking, encouraged me with their examples, challenged me to keep thinking differently and expanded my mind and knowledge base – all in a safe and non-judgmental environment. Many people in the group practice what they talk about and don’t just talk about it – there is engrained passion for regenerating land and not doing harm.”

a group of white sheep in a mob grazing system at Trostrie Farm, Twynholm
Farmer member Tim Barnes’ sheep in a mob grazing system at Trostrie Farm, Twynholm. Photo by Abi Mordin | Licensed for use on Scottish Beacon | All rights reserved

The discussions, the walks and the members are all locally based and seen as important to group members.

Recent Walks have included visiting small farms such as Baile Curraich near Dalbeattie, where the group looked at grazing systems and nature-based solutions. Upcoming Walks include Lochill near Crossmichael, where farmland birds will be emphasised.

Irene McCreath farms near Carsphairn. She points out that:

“Even though we have a diverse range within the group, e.g. from shore level to hilltops, things still have a similarity, making one person’s results and findings more relevant and relatable. For some of us, it is a lack of mains water and how to manage both grass and water access. For others, it’s dealing with the sheer amount of rainfall in this area. All of it is useful and encouraging.”

Tim Barnes farms near Twynholm and has hosted a farm walk. He adds that:

“The Network connects with local people looking to develop their approach and practices in regenerative farming. The farm walks, Soil Health WhatsApp, and evening Zoom calls generate free and wide-ranging discussion about soil, farming practices, environmental and climate issues, supply chain, and other economic considerations”.

The RegenFarm Network is free to join and open to all types of farmers and food producers. Members include beef cattle, sheep and dairy farmers, and market gardeners. 

More information and a sign-up link are available via the website, where you can also find information on how to become a member, a  growing resource library, podcast recordings featuring the voices of some members, and more on the Soil Health Group:

Abi Mordin is the group organiser and a market gardener based near Balmaclellan, in Dumfries and Galloway. She also co-runs Propagate, a collective specialising in sustainable, local and community food projects across Scotland.