An Interview with The Soil Farm – Award Winners at our Conservation Awards 2019
The Soil Farm won the top prize in the Bailiwick at this years Insurance Corporation Conservation Awards, taking away £2000 to invest back into soil health in Guernsey. We caught up with team member Jock pettitt…
Congratulations on winning the Best Conservation Project! How does it feel after the hard work so far?
It felt a little surreal at the time. We hoped that the work we do would be enough to get some recognition somewhere, but as the prizes were handed out we thought our chance had gone, we had no idea we had won it. It feels great to be recognised in this way, it suggests relevance and gives external qualification that the direction of travel resonates with others. It can be easy getting caught up in passion projects without purpose driving the thing. We are delighted with the feedback we received from the judges too.
What does the award mean to The Soil Farm, and how will it help moving forwards?
It never hurts to get a pat on the back, it qualifies what has been done and empowers you to do more. This is no different. I guess it will also help with visibility and credibility in the partnerships and contracts we want to develop moving forward.
We had a record number on entries this year in both the Bailiwick and Jersey; are you excited for the future of conservation in the Channel Islands?
The number of entries throughout the Channel Islands reflects what seems to be an increasing awareness of the need to rebalance our relationship with the natural world and reduce significantly our impact upon it, which is positive and I would love to answer yes, a very exciting future ahead, but we could do a lot more and quicker. Data constantly suggests our behavioural change is happening much slower than the rate of change happening in our environment. We live in a time of information availability that ensures we are already empowered to make better choices, in much wider contexts and much faster. How we spend our £1 is key in supporting change and I think we could and should be bold as a community and look at things like single use plastics, fuel systems, energy systems, chemical usage, land management, carbon sequestration and more to set a bar… a high one.
“Ultimately conservation is one big collaborative effort, we are not going to achieve it alone”
How will you look to spend the £2000 prize to help develop the project?
We work with chickens to assist in the first stage of one of our composting systems and are going to purchase and plant fruit trees throughout these chicken systems to give the birds a more natural environment, including shade, and the resulting diversity of bugs and biology in their diets and our composts. We will also get a fruit crop which adds to local food production that we can sell with our very popular eggs, it all helps turn the wheels of the project financially. We are going to spend some of the funds on training too, with a focus on furthering our understanding of larger scale land management systems, to assist in our ambition to work with our dairy and farming industries, on our common land and of course with the National Trust.
What is your advice for all conservationists looking to make a difference in the Channel Islands?
The problem you see in the world is yours to solve… believe in your own resource, relevance and ability and start doing something, then seek feedback, lots of it and adapt accordingly.
You mentioned the idea of collaborating with some of the other entries from this years awards – can you tell us more?
Sure, we are ambitious, we aim to regenerate soils island wide that in turn support robust and healthy food and water systems, biodiversity and disease resistance to name a few… the only way we can undertake these aims fully, is to collaborate and we saw opportunities throughout the room to build relationships, most notably for us in that moment, with the conservation herd, the National Trust, the Little Bears Pre School and The Pollinator Project. These all stood out as being very relevant in the first instance. Ultimately conservation is one big collaborative effort, we are not going to achieve it alone.
How can the public keep up to date with your project activity?
We are pretty active on our Instagram account, @thesoilfarm, which auto posts on facebook and the guys at Clicksmith are just about finished on our new website too, thesoilfarm.gg. But there is no better way to stay up to date than to support us, get involved, save your food scraps and compostables and buy our eggs, and soon once we have relevant scale our fruits, composts and castings products too. Then we start to build community relationships which are the foundations on which our systems thrive. The feedback is always productive too.