The Grow Green team are working with farmers who are interested in transitioning away from animal farming and towards growing protein crops for the human-consumption market.
Moving towards growing protein crops for human consumption can bring a number of benefits to farmers, including:
- Requiring less fertiliser usage, as protein crops like pulses are natural nitrogen fixers;
- Providing a valuable addition to crop rotations, significantly benefiting the next crop, therefore reducing input costs and increasing yields;
- Reducing the reliance on animal manures for fertility. Growing both grain and green manure legumes reduces the risks associated with animal manures, such as varying costs, availability, and potential contamination;
- Improving the well-being of individual farmers. Farm business incomes can be low and uncertain particularly for farmers relying on animals. Tight economic margins, increasing care costs such as feed and veterinary care, and low farmer confidence are all realities for animal farmers;
- Growing protein crops can offer a positive alternative livelihood for farmers with lower and more stable input costs.
There are a number of steps that need to be taken in order to convert farmland from one system to another. Below we outline some of those steps. Although each farm will present its own set of site-specific challenges, it will give you an idea of the processes that may be involved in transitioning.
- Site survey – a site survey will give you an idea of the potential of your land e.g. what can be grown and where. Some of the main considerations to bear in mind are what shelter is naturally available, the topography, and soil type and structure. This will give you an indication of how much land is suitable for cultivation in its current state, and how much land will require further support to make it suitable for growing. Of course you may decide that this land can be used in other ways, for diversification into non-agricultural areas, or for re-wilding for example.
- Infrastructure – what structures and facilities are at your disposal, and what you will need to install. Some of the main considerations include the buildings you currently have that could be used, and whether you require polytunnels or other plant propagation facilities. Do you have a supply of water, and electricity? What additional equipment will you need? For instance, will you require tractors for cultivation, or will hand tools suffice? Will additional labour be required?
- Market research – study into market potential for possible crops will need to be carried out. Is there already someone in your locality supplying your intended produce? Is there a gap in the market in your area? How could you add value to your produce?
- Cropping plans – you will need to develop a resource giving information for the crops and quantities to grow for the proposed market. If necessary, soil fertility building will need to be incorporated into the plans.
- Financial considerations – an assessment of the inputs/outputs of the farm will need to be produced. You may be eligible for a grant e.g. LEADER grant, and you will need to put a proposal together.
There is an increasing number of farmers who are moving to growing crops for the human consumption market, and their reasons vary – from financial, to ethical and environmental; like Jay, the farmer we helped transition from beef to crop farm. Click here to read about other farmers who are successfully growing crops for human consumption without any animal inputs.
We are working closely with the Vegan Organic Network, and Iain Tolhurst, a horticultural specialist who has over 40 years experience growing and consulting on stockfree organic, to help farmers with the transition of their business.
If you are a farmer and want to find out more about growing protein crops for human consumption, you can get in touch with us at: campaigns[at]vegansociety[dot]com.