While Rishi Sunak was proving to the world that he really doesn't want to take the difficult steps needed for us to reach net zero, I was in Chagford learning about the contribution farming can make to this very aim. Increasing organic matter in soil can help sequester carbon, and Ed Hamer of Chagford CSA has increased the carbon sequestration of his soil by an incredible 6%. Farming 9 acres of veg on a rotational system, Ed was passionate about his use of green lays, woodchip and biochar to help enrich his soil. Also presenting was low carbon lifestyle expert Mukti Mitchell whose Carbon Savvy Calculator can help people learn how to reduce their own carbon footprint - and how doing so can be life enhancing, rather than restricting. Mukti spoke of how farming can have a negative carbon footprint and how powerful that could be in the next few years when we need to drastically - and quickly - work towards net zero. Rishi Sunak may think it's fine to keep putting things off till later, but the longer we leave it the more expensive, damaging and difficult this process will become. Jonathan Smith of the Farm Carbon Toolkit took us on a whistle stop tour of soil testing and carbon absorption - and the other added benefits that go along with increasing organic matter. One of which is water retention, which would help us avoid flooding and reduce the need for irrigation. The Farm Carbon Toolkit helps farms calculate their carbon balance and find ways to improve it across their entire operations.
Increasing soil organic matter can clearly help sequester carbon. Scaled up across the UK and internationally this could be a really exciting development in our efforts to absorb carbon and work towards net zero. It's exciting that this work is happening in the South West, and I'm intrigued to see where it could lead.
Thanks also to Louise Wainwright and Lynda Kelly of Bigbury Net Zero or pulling the event together - and for their ambition to see Bigbury becoming the first genuinely net zero parish in England by working with local farmers.