The number one frustration in my career has been that farming and conservation are seen as two sides of the land management coin – only together if there are fences between.
I started in Environmental Conservation through the National Trust at Malham Tarn Estate as a Warden and then continued on to the Yorkshire Dales National Park where I was a Countryside Ranger for several years. In this time we worked with Farmers to minimise their negative impact on wildlife or to get permission to cross their land when accessing our project areas but not much more.
In my personal life, I was involved in Farming helping on a large hill farm that acted as a satellite Farm for a huge dairy unit near Bradford. The attitude towards wildlife of most Farmers I met in both work and socially was somewhere between indifference and disdain.
I was highly frustrated by the attitude and lack of understanding of both the conservation organisations and the farming community of how important managing a functional WHOLE eco-system is to land health and how this can only be achieved with both parties working together.
Then my Husband (at the time) and I got the chance to take on a National Trust Tenancy in the Lake District and the opportunity to explore a different model arose. At Yew Tree Farm we ran 600-700 acres of Fell, rough pasture and a small amount of meadow for winter feed. We switched from a cross-bred suckler herd to a Pedigree herd of Belted Galloway’s and returned the flock of ewes back to the regional Herdwick sheep which are perfectly suited to the wet Lakeland weather and steep terrain.
At Yew Tree we worked with the conservation agencies to manage the heather moorland and other habitats with the cattle and sheep and get the land in the highest tier of HLS possible in order to maximise our subsidy payment. We reduced winter feed and all the adult cows and ewes wintered out on the fell land, reducing our need for fertilisers, straw, and silage. We managed – through the meat business we had created – to sell all the animals direct to customers and overall the costs went down and the profits went up.
But something still didn’t feel right. It still felt like we were being paid to farm less in order to protect the land – from my experience, the number of animals are not the issue, it’s all down to management.
I discovered Alan Savory’s work the usual way – the famous TED talk below.
About the same time I was invited to attend the Prince of Wales Summer School for sustainable food and farming, these two inspiring influences changed my perspective of farming, conservation, food and, well, life!
At Yew Tree Farm we also ran a five-star guest house, tea room, farm butchery and catering vans selling handmade burgers as part of our diversified farm enterprise. I learned the good, the bad and the ugly of running multiple businesses and the toll it can take on your family life and health. If you don’t manage a business it will take over every area of your life. It nearly ate me whole!
Luckily years of self-development in everything from positive psychology and NLP to marketing, business skills, effective communication and ancestral health gave me the toolkit to get life back on track.
After I separated from my Husband and left the Farm I had the chance to re-evaluate life and find my ‘true calling’.
I took four years to give myself a self constructed degree in ‘integrated approaches to producing healthy food and making money from regeneratively farming ecosystems.’ I studied ancestral health, regenerative agriculture, animal health, ecology and trained in holistic management through the Savory Institute.
I knew that we needed to create a demand for nutritious foods reared from regenerative systems in order to convince farmers and land managers to change course so Stephen and I created the on-line meat company Primal Meats to build demand and educate customers. I actively campaign research and write about all the subjects close to my heart: regenerative farming, health, food, connecting to nature and saving our environment.
Holistic management makes total sense to me; it takes us from a model of degenerative or at best sustainable farming and conserving habitats to an integrated regenerative management of land that can feed people and support biodiversity. Holistic Management gives us an effective way to include the social and economic elements when managing; something that so often kicks our butts.
Now with my wonderful and supportive Husband Stephen, we have built a life I could never believe possible and a business that allows for a balanced family life, robust health and a sense of deep fulfilment. Holistic management provides a great framework for this.
We use Primal Meats as a way of connecting farms regenerating their land to customers who are healing their health through an ancestral diet and lifestyle techniques. I work with innovative and inspirational farmers, land managers and conservation bodies to help them implement holistic management. Holistic management can improve the lives of people, the welfare of animals and the health of our desperately sick planet.
If you want to know more about Holistic Management UK please, ask in the comments below or get in touch through the ‘contact us’ form.