Do you sometimes feel like other people appear to be taking charge of what is happening with your farm’s carbon and farm biodiversity? And do you wonder just how much value companies gain from doing carbon offsets and boosting diversity in far-flung parts of the globe? It is something which has become a growing concern and a group of UK farmers has set up The Green Farm Collective (TGFC) in order to tackle both issues.
The group of six high-profile farmers (see panel, below) originally met when they were finalists in a competition for Soil Farmer of the Year.
All have chosen to embrace regenerative agriculture, and so are focused on reducing pesticide use, increasing carbon capture and improving biodiversity, water, air and soil quality.
They believe that farmers can be in the driving seat of capitalising on this and have set up TGFC to do so.
Now they are inviting like-minded farmers to find out more and to join them.
Biodiversity projects The group is offering two ways farmer members can benefit – the first is through trading their carbon, the second by allowing customers to invest in measurable biodiversity projects on-farm, either via broadacre environmentally-sensitive farming, or by crowdfunding individual projects.
Gloucestershire farm manager and founding member Jake Freestone explains their thinking: “Natural capital markets are there for carbon and biodiversity, they are all moving.
We want to make sure that we, as farmers who have many solutions for climate change and are uniquely placed, maximise the value of these assets for ourselves.
We do not want to let too many middlemen get in between us and our customers.
“We want to promote local trading with our neighbours, keeping money cycling in our rural communities, with projects that our business neighbours can see, touch and connect with.
For us, that is really important.
“Why offset on trees on the other side of the world when you could support a local farmer to be more sustainable while improving the environment for both parties?” Natural capital Farmers who are part of the group will be expected to measure and collate their carbon, natural capital and impact of their farming practices using Trinity Agtech’s Sandy app.
Trading of natural capital and carbon will then be done via Trinity Agtech’s natural capital markets division.
While there have been some warnings against selling farm members to have control over what and how they opt to sell, says the group.
Offering customers the opportunity to invest in biodiversity will also be done via Trinity Natural Capital Markets.
This can be in broader on-farm biodiversity sold as an annual agreement in multiples of 3sq.m which will be geotagged, and can also be in individual on-farm projects which will be scoped separately in line with their capital cost.
Invest The projects are aimed particularly at businesses close to members’ farms, adds Mr Freestone.
“We are really keen that local businesses can invest in their local environment and can see what they have invested in.
These could be things such as a skylark or turtledove package.”
These crowdfunded projects could include specific wildlife and habitat creation or enhancement, public engagement/ education facilities and education and care farming support activities, says the group.
The initial aim is to have farmer members who already are operating a net zero business, have certified credentials of their farm’s natural capital, regenerative management practices, high soil health status and quantified soil carbon verification.
However, Mr Freestone says the group is also keen to attract those farmers who are ‘on the way’ to achieving that.
“We want to create a community of like-minded farmers who are happy and willing to swap ideas and obtain collective benefits from improved farming systems.”
Farmers will be charged a joining fee, an annual subscription of £125 plus a commission on every investor transaction.
TGFC says these charges cover the costs of running the community trading platform and business administration.
Mr Freestone adds: “Incomes are under pressure and the risks of food production are increasing.
We can help facilitate reduced business risk by adding more income streams to our farms while engaging with customers who are keen and enthusiastic to do the right thing.
“We see a collective role connecting our customers – with Trinity and Sandy in the middle enabling correct recording, measuring, monitoring and certification – to have straightforward and safe business transactions.
Environmental services “We have a service for customers who are looking for carbon and biodiversity to access the best farmers in the country for enhanced environmental services and long-term relationships.
It is that relationship and trusting transaction that we want to be able to facilitate as part of The Green Farm Collective.
“It has been a very interesting 12 months and it is a very exciting position we sit at just now.
“There is a lot going on, a lot of conversations about carbon and biodiversity and how we put those parts of the jigsaw together – I think Trinity will hold the key to be able to facilitate that,” he says.