Reflections from Groundswell: Insights from the SFT Team

  • 02.07.2024
  • article
  • Abattoirs
  • Events
  • Global Farm Metric
  • Measuring Sustainability
  • Sustainable Livestock
  • Adele Jones

The SFT is fresh back from the Groundswell festival where our team was out in force. We hosted four sessions at this year’s ‘Glastonbury of agriculture’, covering everything from holistic metrics to working with wool. Here, Executive Director, Adele Jones, shares some of her reflections and conversations from Lannock Manor Farm. 

Groundswell is one of my favourite events of the year – it brings together, in a judgement-free way, both people who have been working in this space for a very long time and those who are just discovering the world of regenerative agriculture. Leave your preconceptions at the gates, you can really feel an atmosphere of coming together and excitement from everyone wanting to learn and share experiences. Not only is there the opportunity to go to some amazing talks (bodybuilder Eddie Abbew was a highlight for me, although unquotable here!) but also have some fun and chew the cud over a few beers.

Small Abattoirs: Progress and Hope

Our first session focused on small abattoirs, where we discussed the progress of two DEFRA funds. The first fund, The Smaller Abattoir Fund, aims to help existing abattoirs with sustainability and infrastructure improvements. The second fund is a new initiative to support the construction of abattoirs in areas that are lacking in services.

This second fund is particularly exciting for a campaign that has often faced challenges. It was uplifting to share some hope, especially through inspiring case studies. Robyn Munt, NFU County Chair, discussed her plans to build a new abattoir on the Isle of Wight, and agroecologist, Jonty Brunyee, shared his efforts to save Long Compton abattoir. The interest from those looking to set up facilities on potential new sites was encouraging, giving us hope that we can rebuild local abattoirs as part of a broader effort to decentralise our food systems. This aligns with ambitious goals such as Labour’s manifesto target of achieving 50% local food procurement within the next five years.

Wool, Hides and Skins: Sustainable Innovations

Our next session focused on wool, hides and skins – topics that took centre stage at Groundswell for the first time. When discussing food and farming, we often overlook the sustainable and circular nature of animal and plant by-products. Wool and leather are increasingly being revived and embraced in the fashion industry, especially by premium brands. However, innovative uses in the building sector and products like wool tree guards should also be highlighted. To make these products competitive, we need to find ways to reduce costs – a tax on plastic could be a good start.

A couple of dozen people sit under a gazebo experimenting with wool and other animal by-product materials

Partnering with Soil Association Exchange

Our final session was with Soil Association Exchange (SAX), where we announced our new partnership to embed the Global Farm Metric (GFM) into the SAX platform. This collaboration, long in the making, allows us to share the benefits of working together more widely. At the Sustainable Food Trust, we will focus on aligning all actors around the GFM framework, ensuring consistent measurement and reporting on progress. Partnering with SAX will help us scale up the delivery of these metrics on the ground.

Fabia Bromovsky, GFM Director, Adele Jones, SFT Executive Director and Joseph Gridley, SAX CEO, sit together with Adele holding the mic as she speaks

So, thank you to the Groundswell team for yet again organising a brilliant event, bringing the weather and opening your farm up to be a stage for learning, collaboration and dodgy dance moves.

For a more detailed account of the SFT’s session on small abattoirs and local meat supply at Groundswell 2024, click here.

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