ARABLE, ESSEX: George farms in partnership with his parents growing approximately 1,200 acres (486 hectares) of crops (wheat, beans, barley, oilseed rape, peas and linseed). He also has ongoing niche crop trials including heritage cereals, buckwheat for Hodmedods (a British pulse and grain company), hemp and teff. These unusual crops all figure into George’s desire to move away from “farming” into “food production” – producing nutritious, natural, unprocessed food.
The farm is zero-till, which means the fields are never ploughed and the soil never disturbed. This is increasingly common on arable farms; the aim being 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. While he continues to use glyphosate, he is working towards a rotation that would keep most of the benefits of zero-tillage, whilst drastically reducing and or possibly even eliminating the requirement for glyphosate.
He's also on a mission to build the farm's ecology; currently working to secure funding to establish a “rewilded seam”, which would link every field on the home farm. This can be seen as a motorway for wildlife to traverse, with field hedgerows as further tributaries off the seam to allow nature as much access to the fields as possible.
George buys store cattle to graze a further 150 acres (61 hectares). He recently planted a ‘herbal ley’ (a mixture of herbs, grasses and clovers for livestock to forage on). If the cattle fatten well on it, he would like to set up his own dedicated beef herd.
He also trialled sheep last autumn for the first time in more than 50 years on the farm. Reintroducing livestock to arable areas, which have only grown crops for many years, is a massive cultural shift in agriculture and still very unusual. Gradually 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 as well as online), and is very active on Instagram with his handle @FarmingGeorge.
Redundant farm buildings converted into commercial lets.
Roof mounted solar.
Member of the NFU and chairman of the South Essex branch from 2015 to 2017. Current unpaid member of the NFU Crops Board.
Previous media experience
BBC Radio One (talking about the drought in 2017), First Dates Hotel (Series 3)