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It's small scale farmers who are up to challenges in sector, says Suffolk agricultural pioneer

PUBLISHED: 15:31 14 July 2017

Open day being held by Hodmedods, a firm based at Halesworth which sells organic beans. Left to right, Prof Martin Wolfe and Dr Jo Smith of Wakelyns Agroforestry. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Open day being held by Hodmedods, a firm based at Halesworth which sells organic beans. Left to right, Prof Martin Wolfe and Dr Jo Smith of Wakelyns Agroforestry. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Small-scale farmers are providing the answers to the challenges we face with climate change and the environment in a way that larger agricultural operators are failing to equal, a Suffolk-based agro-ecologist claims.

Open day being held by Hodmedods, a firm based at Halesworth which sells organic beans. Example of organically produced crop. Picture: GREGG BROWNOpen day being held by Hodmedods, a firm based at Halesworth which sells organic beans. Example of organically produced crop. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Professor Martin Wolfe of Wakelyns Agroforestry, who runs a 23ha test farm at Fressingfield, near Eye, co-hosted an open day alongside Halesworth-based Hodmedod, which works with farmers to supply sustainably-produced British-grown pulses and grains.

Prof Wolfe mixes trees into his growing system to provide crops while creating rich eco-systems which help soil fertility and health, and help guard against disease and pests.

Hodmedod founders Nick Saltmarsh, Josiah Meldrum and William Hudson introduced the event, and Wakelyns Forestry’s Prof Wolfe and Dr Jo Smith explained the agroforestry system which they had been developing 
there since the 1990s, showing around 40 guests some of the pioneering crop trials taking place.

“It’s been increasingly proven that the most efficient farms are the extremely small ones,” said Prof Wolfe.

Open day being held by Hodmedods, a firm based at Halesworth which sells organic beans. Example of organically produced crop. Picture: GREGG BROWNOpen day being held by Hodmedods, a firm based at Halesworth which sells organic beans. Example of organically produced crop. Picture: GREGG BROWN

“Mainstream agriculture really needs to look at itself very, very carefully indeed because it’s not providing the real answer in terms of climate change and the environment in the way that small scale but good, highly diverse systems can.”

Wakelyns produces a wide range of products, including bioenergy from willow and hazel coppice, timber, fruit, vegetables, cereals, nuts, cider and craft materials.

It is part of the Organic Research Centre’s (ORC) evolutionary breeding programme and has produced a diverse population of wheat suited to organic and low-input farming systems.

Kimberley Bell founder of the Small Food Bakery in Nottingham, described how she was developing a baking process with the Wakelyns ORC Population, and how this fits with her broader vision for a better, fairer food system.

“The day is really about getting together our friends - farmers, researchers, customers, people who are interested in what we are doing,” said Josiah.

“Feedback has been excellent, it’s rare for farm events like this to involve the whole supply chain and they clearly all got a lot out of the day.”

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