Meet Mike and James - NSA's two E-Organic Erasmus participants
29th September 2021
Following the announcement that Mike Adams and James MacCartney have been selected by NSA to represent the UK as part of the E-Organic Erasmus project, the two Rutland-based sheep farmers wrote these short descriptions of their farming enterprises to introduce themselves to the NSA membership.
By coincidence, Mike and James farm just eight miles from each other near Oakham, Rutland. Having previously not known each other, they arrived in Milan, Italy, last week to spend five days visiting organic farms and learning more from the Humus Network of Italian organic cooperatives and organisations. They will go on to spend time in Spain and Turkey in 2022.
“I am a first-generation farmer, a Harper Adams REALM graduate (not quite in black-and-white days, but nearly!), married to Zia and the father of four children – Lois, Sienna, Monty and Austin.
“My passion for sheep started back in 1995 following a four-week Easter lambing job with Chris and Caroline Hodgkins in Washington, Sussex. Even the Beulah ewes jumping pens at feeding time didn’t put me off. I started farming sheep myself in 2005, stating with two acres and six Wiltshire Horn ewes. I have learned lessons the hard way. I have had a number of pedigree breeds, including rare breeds, and as my bank manager explained (and I now understand) some are rare for a reason.
“We farm approximately 320 acres in Rutland and Leicestershire. Our sheep are North Country Mules, Texel crosses and Suffolk crosses, an expanding flock or Poll Dorsets lambing three times in two years, and some Welsh draft ewes. We have a beef enterprise including pedigree miniature Herefords, a fledgling sucker herd and some dairy cross beef. Our arable rotation includes cereals, beans and herbal leys.
“Our long-term plan is to concentrate on Poll Dorsets increasing to 600+, maintaining a closed herd and continuing to lamb three times in two years to give us a consistent supply of lambs throughout the year, which in turn gives us more marketing opportunities. We are aiming to increase our suckler herd to around 40 cows and finish all the offspring.
“On 1st October 2021 we will start our organic conversion journey. We looked at regenerative agricultural methods, as these will really help improve our tired soils, and organic conversion seemed the sensible approach – from both a financial perspective and it fits neatly in our mixed farming system.”
“I am a third generation sheep and beef farmer from Rutland with an interest in improving grazing management and sward quality. We currently have around 600 breeding ewes and 150 cattle – with plans to increase the sheep flock significantly as grazing management improves. We have historically had a flock of all North Country Mules, but with increased worries about disease status have decided to close the flock and breed our own Lleyn replacements.
“We have a number of diversifications on the farm, including holiday accommodation and pick your own – and more in the planning stage It’s a great opportunity to welcome the general public onto the farm and sell the story that UK agriculture has to offer, straight from source.
“I am interested in investigating where conventional livestock systems can learn from both organic and regenerative practices to best improve the sustainability of sheep businesses and reduce inputs, and am open to ideas and suggestions on how this can be achieved.
“I am passionate about all things ovine and believe UK lamb is a truly fantastic product with a great future, if marketed right. I am currently undertaking a Nuffield Scholarship investigating how the environmental credentials of red meat production in the UK can be improved and how we can translate the environmental benefits of our industry to the consumer.
“I hope representing the NSA on the E-Organic Erasmus trip will give me a great opportunity to learn from farming in parts of Europe that I know little about. I feel we are too quick to always look to the Southern Hemisphere for ideas and improvements and am sure that there are things to be learnt much closer to home. I look forward to relaying this information back to members.”
More about the project at www.nationalsheep.org.uk/nsa-and-eorganics.