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Regenerative Farming at Knepp

The Knepp Estate is embarking on a new regenerative farming venture, to help broaden the reach of nature into the West Sussex landscape whilst also producing food for a new farm shop and café, due to open in 2022.

The project will be taking place on farmland, principally around Shipley village, adjacent to Knepp’s rewilding project, which has, for the past 20 years, been traditionally grazed. It will be designed and managed in such a way as to create nature corridors, linking with the rewilding project and other wildlife habitats, demonstrating how rewilding and regenerative agriculture can work together.

A key focus will be on the improvement of soil health, using proven techniques that result in healthier crops, healthier animals, nutritious food and therefore healthier humans.

What is regenerative farming?

Regenerative Farming is a relatively new approach to farming that seeks to regenerate the land, soil and water, as well as enhance the wider environment and improve the nutrient density of food produced.

However, the approach is not specific as every farm is different, with its own set of unique circumstances, soil type and geography. Farming in a regenerative way is more about farming in a direction rather than to a specific definition, as outlined by these six core principles:

Many other farming practices, such as agro-ecology and organic, fit within the regenerative farming spectrum. When combined with regenerative practices, however, they go beyond what is merely ‘sustainable’ – i.e. preserving the status quo – and, instead, work positively to repair our soils, rivers and landscapes for future generations.
The spectrum of Agricultural Practice with soil health example.

What will the Knepp farm project be regenerating?

Before the project commences surveys will be conducted to understand the baseline conditions of the land. This will be done with a triple bottom line approach, looking at environmental, economic and societal aspects.
This work will involve assessments by ecologists and specific experts in hedgerows, dung beetles and other pasture species. Data will also be compiled into the assessment frameworks being trialled for the development of new agricultural policy in England (Environmental Land Management, or ELM). As well as regular monitoring, many of these tests will be repeated in full in five years’ time to see what has changed on the land as a result of the new management practices.

How will the land be managed?

The Low Weald clay soils of West Sussex are naturally suited to grassland rather than arable (grain) production, so the farming project will focus on using grazing animals as tools to help manage this land, building soil health and soil carbon in the process.

We will be establishing a beef herd to rotationally graze the land in ‘mobs’, allowing the soil and plants to rest and regrow between grazings. This is known as ‘mob grazing’, a practice pioneered in North America, Australia and Africa, to mimic migrating herds of herbivores and now being adopted by some farmers in the UK. The mobs are moved on to fresh ground at frequent intervals with the help of permanent and temporary electric fencing, allowing the ground to recover behind them. On the Knepp project we will be trialling new GPS collar technology from Norway.

Longhorn in Epping Forest with NoFence GPS collar
The farm will embrace the creation of new habitat which will connect with other wildlife areas, including the rewilding project. We will be fencing off hedgerows, allowing them to billow out, extending the habitat for species such as the rare brown hairstreak butterfly and the nightingale, both breeding well in the rewilding project. The expanded hedgerows will also provide important, health-giving browse for the grazing animals, and their browsing, in turn, will stimulate denser, thornier hedgerow thickets with scalloped edges that are of benefit to wildlife. We will also be enhancing the floodplains of the River Adur which run through the Estate and provide an obvious corridor for many species. A market garden will be established on some of the Estate’s sandier soils to supply seasonal produce to the new farm shop and café (coming in Spring 2022) which will serve the local community and visitors to Knepp.

Who will be leading the project?

Russ Carrington, an experienced regenerative farming facilitator and previously General Manager of the Pasture fed Livestock Association, will be leading the regenerative farming enterprise together with the Burrell family and Knepp farming team. Russ considers regenerative agriculture pivotal for the future of food production. He believes regenerative farming is greater than the sum of its parts and the approach can not only heal previous ecological damage but also increase the land’s overall fertility and productivity.

Find out more:

Follow @KneppRegenFarms on Instagram and keep an eye on the Knepp website for more information. You can also sign up to our Regen Farms mailing list below:

Our 12+ Policy

Knepp Wildland Safaris and campsite are all about the quiet and patient observation of nature.

Some of the species we are likely to encounter are shy or can be frightened by loud noises or sudden movements. Our campsite with open-air fire-pits, wood-burning stoves and an on-site pond is unsuitable for small children.

For this reason, our safaris, holiday cottages and campsite are suitable only for children of 12 and over.

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