‘What you are showing people and introducing them to is of such great importance in terms of regenerative agriculture and reminding people of the absolute critical importance of the health of the soil, building soil fertility, capturing carbon,’ said HRH The Prince of Wales, when he officially opened FarmED, the new centre for farm and food education, in the Cotswolds today. (Full speech below.)
FarmED helps lead the debate on how diverse farming systems can reverse climate change and increase biodiversity while feeding everyone healthy food. The not-for-profit CIC was founded by Ian and Celene Wilkinson of Cotswold Seeds, which for decades has championed sustainable farming, herbal leys, wildflower meadow creation and soil health.
On arrival at FarmED, HRH was met by the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Brian Buchan, and other dignitaries before Ian and Celene Wilkinson escorted HRH around the farm and centre. During the walk, His Royal Highness saw how mixed farming, incorporating diverse crops of herbal pastures, with grazing livestock and arable crops, builds healthy soil and leaves space for nature. HRH viewed samples of fertile soil, produced by this mixed farming system. He met young farmer, Hallam Duckworth, who owns the micro dairy herd of cows and their calves and Emma Mills, owner of the community supported agriculture scheme and vegetable box system at the kitchen garden, which supports 125 families as well as the FarmED kitchen with vegetables through a subscription model. HRH also viewed the Honeydale wildflower meadow, where pollinator experts, Tanya and Esme Hawkes, discussed the ecology of the meadow and their natural beehives in hollowed out tree trunks.
At the education centre HRH met local farmers and growers taking part in a workshop about inspiring farmers, growers and land managers to move towards a mixed and diverse future. He met Head of Sustainable Farming, Jonty Brunyee, who explained the FarmED educational programme that aims to inspire, educate, and connect farmers, advisors, academics, students, policy makers and the general public through courses run onsite.
His Royal Highness was presented with honey from resident beekeeper and manager of Cotswold Seeds, Paul Totterdell before he unveiled a plaque made of Welsh slate, on a plinth created by Rhys Davis Woodcraft out of two century old horse chestnut tree.
As delivered, a short speech by HRH The Prince of Wales at the opening:
‘I am thrilled to have had this far too brief opportunity to come and see the remarkable things you are doing here, if I may say so, Ian and Celene. I can imagine what a huge effort has gone into it over the last five or six years. What you are showing people and introducing them to is of such great importance in terms of regenerative agriculture and reminding people of the absolute critical importance of the health of the soil, building soil fertility, capturing carbon. If we could regenerate more soils around the world we could recapture at least 70%. People forget it’s not just trees, it’s the soil and the plants you are showing people; all the different mixtures that you can grow, and the effect that they have, biodiversity benefits, all these things, the combination of everything, to remind people how interconnected we are with nature. We are a part of it. What we do to nature, we do to ourselves. I have always believed what we take out of nature, we need to replace. All the traditional societies around the world have always known that and it seems to be a madness that we ignore some of the wisdom that’s been around for thousands and thousands of years. I can only offer my warmest congratulations for what you are doing and hope you have the greatest possible success. I hope you manage to encourage even more people to understand the importance of getting away from monoculture systems to something much more sympathetic.’
‘It was a real honour and pleasure to have His Royal Highness join us today for the formal opening of FarmED,’ said Ian Wilkinson. ‘From the minute His Royal Highness arrived he fully engaged in conversation about diverse mixed farming and the benefits that brings. It was wonderful to meet a man with such like-minded
views who fully appreciates what we do here.’
Media Contact: Fiona Mountain 07429 187434
FarmED is based at Honeydale Farm in the Cotswolds and is a not-for-profit organisation, it is made up of a diverse 107 acre mixed farm. Three eco-buildings are central to FarmED and include a multifunctional educational, meeting and conference space, and a farm to fork kitchen and demonstration area.
The centre’s mission is to accelerate the transition towards agroecology and sustainable food system by providing space and opportunity for inspiration, education, and connecting people, with the message - we need to talk about farming. It opened its doors earlier this year. There are 70 scheduled events across 2021, ranging from ecology for farmers, soil health, pasture management and reintroducing hedgerows (agroforestry), through to conferences and festivals. The farm is a diverse mix of low input arable and temporary grass, and permanent pasture. Their trail plots include herbal pasture, heritage wheat, oats, wild bird seed and various soil-improving crops. The grassland is managed by mob grazed sheep and cows. The site is also home to a micro diary and vegetable box scheme business. Other features include a natural flood management scheme, a whole farm Countryside Stewardship Scheme, heritage orchard, tree planting, wildflower margins and an apiary, and woodland areas of 12,000 trees.