Will’s World: Restorative trip serves regenerative insights

Cast your mind back three years to the dark days of the Covid-induced lockdown.

It seems strange to think of now, doesn’t it; like some kind of surreal fever dream that never really happened (although for those of us who had to home-school multiple children, it was more of a horrendous nightmare).

Nevertheless, I’ve thought about it lately, as I’ve been fortunate enough over the past few weeks to be at a couple of different large-scale events in relatively close contact with several thousand other joyful and exuberant people.

See also: Carlsberg signs up 23 farmers to grow ‘regenerative’ barley

About the author

Will Evans
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Will Evans farms beef cattle and arable crops across 200ha near Wrexham in North Wales in partnership with his wife and parents.
Read more articles by Will Evans

The events have been wonderful to be a part of, especially considering that during 2020, when the future of everything we’d ever known seemed desperately uncertain, we weren’t sure that anything like this would ever happen again.

What aspect of life that you’d previously taken for granted did you miss the most back then? Was it catching up with old friends in the market, or at your local agricultural show?

Maybe it was taking part in sporting activities or hobbies? Perhaps it was being able to casually jump in the truck and head off somewhere interesting for the day?

Or was it just the touchingly human act of being able to hug much-loved family members and simply be in their presence?

Pint-sized dreams

All entirely relatable, but apologies to any of my friends and family who happen to be reading this because, for me, all those things paled in comparison to the one thing I missed more than anything else – draught Guinness.

It’s a love affair of mine that began when I was 19.

I can’t tell you how many times during lockdown I found myself wistfully staring off into the distance, daydreaming of sitting at a quiet bar somewhere, watching a freshly pulled pint of the black stuff settle into the glass for the requisite 119.5 seconds, before taking my first satisfying sip and feeling that everything was alright with the world.

It was with this at the forefront of my mind that I made a solemn vow: if normal life ever resumed, and we could once more venture forth unto horizons other than our own, we’d make the pilgrimage to the place of legend that is St James’s Gate, Dublin – the Guinness Brewery.

And last week, the present Mrs Evans and I finally made it there.

I’ve always been fascinated by brewing as a process anyway, but when you throw in some of the incredible facts about Guinness, as well as that genius marketing and advertising campaign that it’s made so famous over the decades, it really is an amazing place to visit.

Did you know, for instance, that more than 130,000t/year of Irish barley are used in its production?

And every day, more than 10m glasses of the stuff are drunk around the world, with annual sales exceeding more than 1.5bn pints?

Barley targets 

But what really piqued our interest was reading about the brewery’s three-year pilot regenerative agriculture programme, and how it intends to drastically reduce the carbon emissions from barley produced for its product.

There are five main goals: regenerate soils and sequester carbon; enhance habitats and biodiversity on farms; reduce the use of synthetic fertilisers; enhance farmer livelihoods; and protect and improve water quality.

The plan is then to analyse and share the results before scaling up a global solution.

We pondered this, and whether it could have a knock-on effect throughout worldwide barley production and the supply chain, as we drank our pints together at the end of our visit, looking out over the Dublin skyline.

Good things come to those who wait.