The Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA) and Organic Farmers and Growers (OF&G) enjoyed a successful day at their fourth annual Livestock in Low Input Systems (LILIS) conference on the 7th of June, with delegates being offered a viewpoint that is both alternative to common practice and is proving to be highly successful on farm.

After a welcome from John Rowell, Home Farm manager on the Dumfries House estate, Alex Brewster of SOPA introduced Christopher and Sheila Cooke of 3LM Holistic Land Management.

Challenging current thinking about land management was a theme running throughout the day. 40 farmer delegates, organic and non-organic, were introduced to four ecosystem processes – energy, mineral, water and community – that are active in the agricultural environment. The group also learnt about pedogenesis, the formation of soil.

Key points taken away from 3LM’s workshop:

  • How to sustain the soil sponge
  • Using ‘rest’ as a tool for grassland management
  • The importance of microbes and their foundation to all life on Earth
  • The life cycle of energy flow through the farm environment
  • Plant diversity is critical to the preservation of balance in the farm ecosystem
  • Examining the nutrient chain in soil chemistry
  • Looking at the impact of overgrazing, rotational grazing, and challenging common understanding about grazing livestock

After an intense morning workshop, the group went on a land discovery tour around Home Farm where they could put what they had learned into practice.

They looked closely at different areas around the farm to assess the action and impacts of the four ecosystem processes. Delegates were then encouraged to take their new-found knowledge with them when they left the workshop so they could review their own land at home in the same way.

Debs Roberts, Policy Manager at SOPA had the following to say about the day’s event:

“You’d be forgiven for thinking that holistic land management sounds a bit airy-fairy, but the discussion at LILIS showed us how the four ecosystems actually work together in every real-life farm situation. It was a real eye-opener for all the attendees when they started to put 3LM’s ideas into practice on the land discovery tour around Home Farm.”

Steven Jacobs, Business Development Manager at OF&G, said:

“It was a fascinating day delivered by 3LM. It was brilliant to see farmers and landowners getting so enthusiastic about putting new practices into action on their own land. This sort of strategic pattern approach can save time and improve both animal performance and gross margins.”

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