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Heale Farm

Rebuilding soil with livestock: one farmer’s story

What would you do if farming the way you’ve always farmed was not working anymore? Would you keep on following the industry’s recommendations or would you search for alternatives? The SFT is very interested to know how farmers reach the point where they decide to shift away from farming in ways that rely on large amounts of chemicals and result in depleted ecosystems and turn instead to more sustainable methods.

This film is about Duncan Leaney, a conventional tenant farmer near Taunton in Somerset who realised his farm was no longer viable due to the increasing costs of inputs such as chemical fertilisers and pesticides. At the same time his profit from cereal crops was not going up resulting in a cost-price squeeze. Heale Farm, a 300 acre mixed farm has been in Duncan’s family for 57 years. When Duncan heard about the potential of mob grazing methods he decided to try it out and was surprised by the results. Not only did a diversity of butterfly and bird species return to his farm, but his soil organic matter increased and he could put his stocking rate up. Duncan tells about an old farmer who once said to him, “in farming it’s easier to save money than to make money.” As a result of improving the rotations on his farm and using livestock to rebuild the soil, Duncan has also succeeded in making his farm viable.

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