George Young

George Young

Fobbing, Essex

Agroecological (mixed)

AGROECOLOGICAL (MIXED), ESSEX: George farms approximately 1,200 acres (486 hectares). Part is devoted to crops such as wheat, heritage cereals, beans, peas, linseed, lentils and buckwheat, while the rest - his home farm of 650 acres (263 hectares) - is planted with nutrient-dense herbs, grasses and clovers that are grazed by his herd of native Red Poll and Shorthorn cows.

The arable part of the farm is zero-till, which means the fields are never ploughed and the soil never disturbed. This is to improve soil health and store carbon in the ground. George does not use any insecticides on his crops and has significantly reduced his use of fungicides and fertilisers. Soon artificial inputs will be eliminated altogether, as George is converting his entire farm to organic.

He's also on a mission to build the farm's ecology so on his home farm he is establishing a "wild seam", which will link every field. This can be seen as a motorway for wildlife to traverse, with field hedgerows and wild margins as further tributaries off the seam, to allow nature as much access to the fields as possible. In addition to this, he has established his first field (50 acres/20 hectares) of agroforestry - tree belts in arable fields that provide further permanent pathways and shelter for wildlife. These tree belts will produce a diverse array of fruits and nuts as well as timber, which will offer important food for wildlife too.

George grazes his cows on 'herbal leys' (a mixture of herbs, grasses and clovers). He says this is superb for keeping livestock naturally healthy without the use of wormers, and the cows do really well on it. He hopes soon to be selling beef from the animals into butchers.

George acknowledges that reintroducing livestock to arable areas, which have only grown crops for many years, is a massive cultural shift in agriculture and is still very unusual. But he's encouraged to see that more farmers, particularly the younger generation, are taking the plunge, believing it promotes soil health, works as part of their crop rotation and improves crop yields.

With the aim of educating the wider community about food and farming, George has a YouTube Channel, as well as a blog (published in the local Parish magazine and online) and is very active on Instagram.

Contact George

George did not want to be a farmer until he was 27. Before that he worked in London in oil trading. The stress and long hours in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis made him reconsider what he was doing in life, so he came home to farm. In his London days, George was a semi-professional musician playing clarinet and saxophone. He has also dabbled in film-making.