Bucks growers win Soil Farmer of the Year at Groundswell

Market gardeners Tracy Russell and David Newman from Buckinghamshire have been crowned “soil farmers of the year” at this week’s Groundswell event in Hertfordshire, in recognition of their efforts to build soil health.

Their business is called Bucksum and rents around 6.5ha from Shabbington Field Farm near Long Crendon, to grow produce for their thriving farm shop, both outdoors and in polytunnels.

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They use a four-year rotation, taking a cash crop once every four years while building soil health and fertility by using herbal leys grazed by sheep for the other three years. 

“Sowing green manures, using homemade soil improvers and making sure plots are rested, mean we get the very best from the land while keeping the soil in good heart for future cropping,” they say.


The Soil Farmer of the Year competition is jointly run by Farm Carbon Toolkit, which measures carbon emissions, and Innovation for Agriculture, a farm extension service provider.

Deborah Crossan, head of soils at Innovation for Agriculture, said she was impressed by the diversity of approaches taken to improve soil health at Bucksum.

“During the judging visit, Tracy and David shared how they are using chickens to clear the ground under the agroforestry fruit tree lines, and how the agroforestry, together with the introduction of sheep grazing in the fields, has brought more natural predators to the farm. 

“They are also making their own soil improver using their own green waste, composted wood chippings from a local tree surgeon, and spent hops from a nearby brewery,” she added.


Commenting on the award, Tracy and David said they were “pleased, and surprised” to have won.

“Market gardeners are not always recognised as part of the wider farming community, despite our contribution to local food production,” said Tracy.

“It was really be good to have been up against other more mainstream farmers, and to have won.” 

Ed Horton from SS Horton & Sons in Gloucestershire came second in the competition, which is sponsored by Cotswold Seeds and Hutchinsons, and Ben Richards from Middle Trelan Farm in Cornwall was placed third.

Following the awards, all three finalist farms will be hosting farm walks to demonstrate their practices and approaches.

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