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Kent Farmer of the Year Runner Up: Nonington Farms

Nonington Farms is a family-run farming business covering 3,500 acres and employing regenerative agricultural practices to ensure that the crops we produce are sustainable.

K4 6803

Nonington Farms is a family-run farming business covering 3,500 acres and employing regenerative agricultural practices to ensure that the crops we produce are sustainable.

We are about to launch our own sustainable wheat flour to the local market. Nonington is the only LEAF Demonstration Farm in the South East, with core values of Learn Grow Protect. These values are underpinned by the principles of integrated farm management and contribute to our ability to reduce carbon emissions, building healthier and more productive, sustainable soils, delivering better air and water quality and enhancing the biodiversity of the farm.

Alongside this we run a comprehensive education programme, sharing our practices with others both within and outside the farming industry, for all ages and walks of life.

Our wheat is sold under ‘sustainable wheat contracts’ because Nonington Farms practises regenerative agriculture methods, which means the farm is proven to be sustainable.

This includes the integration of livestock into the rotation to reduce artificial fertiliser inputs and improve soil health; extensive use of cover crops and companion crops to reduce (and ultimately remove) the need for chemical inputs; and the adoption of direct drilling to minimise soil disturbance and thus further improve soil health.

These practices underpin the environmental work that the farm is doing, with 20% of our land in Countryside Stewardship options, such as bumble-bird mixtures, beetle banks, skylark plots and wild bird plots, which encourage natural predators and mean we do not use insecticides.

Each year we lay at least 800m of hedgerow, and plant new hedgerows (at least 500m each year), as well as plant 400+ trees annually. Our energy use is reducing year-on-year by employing precision farming techniques, making our machinery more efficient. We also have solar panels on our grainstore roof, generating solar electricity to the National Grid.

We are always running trials across the farm, the results of which feed into our quest to become carbon negative within the next couple of years.

Recently these have included N-min trials, aimed at proving the reduced need for artificial nitrogen to be administered to crops; water filtration trials – for example using cover crops as a natural means of filtration and sampling the nitrate levels across the field; and varietal trials, using disease-resistant varieties and combinations of varieties within the field to compare against a control.

All of these results are then fed back on to our farm and help us further strive to be more sustainable.