The theme for this years Groundswell Show is health. Health is one of those over-used words which needs reclaiming…in its modern sense it normally means merely an absence of disease or, worse, it means the taking of medicine. When being tested for Assurance Schemes, we are asked what our ‘health plan’ is, they look baffled when you say ‘our plan is to have healthy animals’; you are meant to say we dose them with wormers, vaccines or whatever at regular intervals.
The root of the word ‘health’ comes from the Old English ‘hale’ meaning whole or wholesome, thus sound of body and mind with strong defence mechanisms in place to fight off disease pressure and, importantly for us farmers, to thrive.
In order to have a healthy farm, you need to start with healthy soil. Soil health is much talked about, but very hard to measure. There will be a few forums at Groundswell discussing exactly this, both from the point of view of farmers who want healthy soil to make their lives easier and the subsidy providers who want to see the benefits of healthy soil for the wider population in terms of carbon sequestration, water absorption for flood prevention, clean water for drinking and clear rivers.
Healthy soil will grow healthy plants which will need fewer (if any) fungicides, insecticides, molluscicides and herbicides. Good news for arable farmers and the people who eat their produce. Healthy plants will also result in healthy animals if they graze them; healthy animals are also cheaper to produce and better for the consumer. So health begets wealth (another pleasing word with its roots in Old English).
It all makes perfect sense…it sounds too easy, but it isn’t that difficult. Come along to Groundswell on June 27th/28th and find out more…
– John Cherry, Host Farmer