Recently I swapped wellies and waterproofs for something a little smarter and set off at some ungodly hour into the Midlands to Dunchurch Park Hotel, which was hosting Organic Congress 2018.
It was great to see so many old and new faces, all eager to get stuck in to the varied programme which was a two-day feast for a mostly redundant brain like mine; the poor old thing being mainly fogged up by toddler life and cattle these days.
I was there with two hats on: the first as an organic livestock farmer – keen to learn more about advances made in health, welfare and forage utilisation; and the second as part of the exciting new venture – Whole Health Agriculture (WHAg).
The conference was the official launch of WHAg, and as a guest blogger for them, it was great to hear the team put into words what ‘whole health’ concepts and practices in farming really mean. Chairman Lawrence Woodward set the tone, putting the WHAg vision into words at a drinks reception on day one. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that the promise of wine and nibbles lured the crowds in initially but once he was waxing lyrically about the true meaning of ‘whole health’, the room was captivated and stayed put through some lively discussion!
The underlying concept of organic farming is that the health of the soil, plants, animals and man is one and invisible- and I think this concept gets lost in the melee sometimes, focusing on maybe a few aspects that really matter to farmers and the public within that moment.
I really feel that WHAg has evolved to get back to the roots of organic farming- putting ‘health’ back at the heart of the conversation. That health is not a ‘state’, it is a dynamic process that has many influences, but perhaps vitality, an unmeasurable concept, from holistic farming practices is really what defines it. It’s a slightly abstract thought, and one that got under my skin over the course of the conference.
By listening to the guest farmers from a variety of farm types, there was a recurrent theme; observation and gut instinct are worth more to a farmer practicing holistic/organic/biodynamic farming or gardening than any metric.
This is so refreshing to hear, and a relief to know that there are others out there that feel the same as we do.
I saw as many sessions as I could, spoke and listened to academics, gardeners, farmers, politicians and marketers- all passionate about their field of expertise and their enthusiasm catching.
Agricology kindly recorded all of the sessions, so I was able to tap into the ones I’d missed once I got home, becoming enthused all over again about Silvopasture, herbal lets, homeopathy and soil health.
I got back to our farm and at first light headed out to look at our cattle still out under winter skies amongst the trees of the parkland; I’m pretty sure our cattle have vitality – but there is always room for improvement.
I think I’ve got the Whole Health Ag bug now. Thanks for a great congress – I can safely say the grey matter is emerging from the toddler fog!
About the author: I’m Meg, an opinionated farmer’s wife, who is passionate about animal welfare, the environment and wholesome food.