“We drilled beans when our neighbour’s farm was covered in water”

At the beginning of March, when much of the UK’s farm land was under water, the Jacksons from Pink Pig Farm in Lincolnshire were able to drill their beans as normal.

Anna Jackson was featured, alongside her father Andrew, as a main character in the film, Six Inches of Soil. She said, “I think [regen] has made us way more resilient. I think actually resilience might be the reason our farm survives in the future.”

Speaking to 8.9ha editor, ffinlo Costain, Anna explained how the farm’s regenerative transition is progressing and talked about the way that it has delivered increased resilience to extreme weather.

Jackson said, “Interestingly, all of our tramlines flooded in most of our fields, but the fields themselves – I think because we are living roots in every field over winter – none of them flooded.

“There are some patches where we’ve had a sort of mini-puddle, but we were really lucky and it could be that we… (on this farm we have a lot of sandy land which massively helps… and also we’re on wold land on our other farm and that’s got some hills, however it does have slumps or sort of craters and they didn’t flood…) and all I can think is that it’s our system that we’re doing that means we’re more resilient to the amount of rainfall that we’ve seen – and I’m hoping that it’s also holding that water in for the drought (I’m presuming we’re going to have a drought with these extreme weathers nowadays).

“I think living roots are super important and it has really helped, for example, nobody in our area has been able to drill anything into the ground since… well, we were supposed to drill beans in February and basically people are drilling beans now, if they can get in the ground, just because it’s been so wet.

“However, we managed to drill our beans because we drilled it into an old grass crop – we grew grass for seed and then we drilled these beans in… but no one else could drill.

“We drilled them at the beginning of March, and we were able to get them in, and it was incredible, because we were driving on this soil that should’ve been completely waterlogged. The next door neighbour’s farm was covered in water, and we were just driving through this swath of grass and just getting these beans in – and now the beans are six inches high, which is really good for this time of year (and because of the year we’ve had), so I think yeah, I think it’s made us way more resilient, and I know a lot of regen say this, but I think actually resilience might be the reason our farm survives in the future and I think it’s really important.”

In the past, the Jacksons had farmed organically, but because of the economic pressures they faced they returned to conventional. Now, having discovered regenerative, they feel more confident that they can produce food while integrating their system positively with nature.

Anna said, “I think the difference is that you’ve got a safety net. With organic, if we had a massive weed burden in the field, or something went dramatically wrong, you had no back-up. You could lose a lot of money and be in trouble quite quickly. There would be lots of moments – I remember in my childhood – where dad would be really stressing; it really affected his mental health, whereas now, we have that safety net. We can either lose a whole crop and lose all the money from that field, or we can use this one chemical, spray it and save the whole field. And I think – much as I hate chemicals and I want to go away from them as much as possible – as a farmer, you still need to make some money and that’s how the farm keeps going.”

You can watch 8.9ha’s interview with Anna here – and listen to a slightly extended version in next week’s 8.9 Newsweek podcast.

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