Regenerative farming group hopes to boost hyper-local food chains

Rebecca Mayhew with her Jersey cows at Old Hall Farm in Woodton near Bungay. Picture: Old Hall Farm

Rebecca Mayhew at Old Hall Farm near Bungay, which will host the inaugural meeting of the Regenerative Agricultural Community (East) group on April 12 - Credit: Old Hall Farm

A new group has been formed to galvanise East Anglia's growing "regenerative farming" movement - and to inspire more resilient "hyper-local" food chains.

The Regenerative Agricultural Community (East) will meet for the first time on April 12 at Old Hall Farm in Woodton, near Bungay.

The aim is to connect the region's farmers, producers, retailers and consumers - creating shorter local supply chains, supporting sustainable farming and helping improve food security.

Guest speakers at the inaugural meeting are due to include Josiah Meldrum from Hodmedod's, the producer of beans, peas, lentils and quinoa based at Brampton, near Beccles.

Also speaking will be Nathan Nelson from Deepdale Farms in north Norfolk, and Hugh Somerleyton from the Somerleyton Estate near Lowestoft, a founding trustee of WildEast.

Old Hall Farm co-owner Rebecca Mayhew will host the event at her family's business, which has undergone a radical regenerative transformation in recent years.

The former intensive pig farm now runs a high-welfare “cow with calf” dairy, with animals grazing lush pastures within a soil-friendly system.

Meanwhile, the farm shop and cafe has grown to £1.2m turnover and a 25-strong workforce in just four years.

"Since we started this regenerative journey, it has become more and more clear to us that soil, food, water and people are all incredibly important and most people who buy food feel they have no way of influencing what happens," she said.

"Now we are seeing food and fuel shortages, so how can we make our communities more resilient?

"It is also about trying to encourage people to shop in a hyper-local way. What can we do together to achieve that?

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"Josiah is growing pulses, so that's another really important food source. Could we be growing more chickpeas rather than keep feeding all our crops to animals?

"I would like to see more local food security, and to create more jobs for local people.

"People say: 'Surely you don't want more farm shops, that's more competition?' But of course I want to see more farm shops.

"Let's have them closer together so you don't have to travel so far, and let's do 'click and collect' so we can be as convenient as the supermarkets.

"People might think I'm punching above my pay grade, but we need massive system changes if we want to survive."

  • The meeting at Old Hall Farm takes place from 6pm-9pm on April 12. To register, see bit.ly/36ca1Xc