Horticulturist will promote the Soil Association’s Innovative Farmers Programme in the hope of raising funds 

Horticulturist, farmer and writer Monty Don will be broadcasting a BBC Radio 4 appeal on behalf of the Soil Association on Sunday 28 August to raise funds to support the Innovative Farmers Programme (IFP).

Monty Don

Monty Don

Image: Marsha Arnold

The Soil Association’s IFP leads research into sustainable and nature-friendly farming methods. To date the programme, which is in its tenth year, has conducted over 120 farmer-led research projects involving over 12,000 farmers, such as using natural flower margins to attract predatory insects and combining trees with farm animals in agroforestry.

Don has been a supporter of the Soil Association for over 25 years and is a former president of the charity. He is also a passionate advocate of soil health and the need to change the way we farm to protect soil and climate so that they can feed people for generations to come.

He begins the appeal saying: “As a gardener and also a farmer I have relied on the soil to nourish me all my life. Soil sustains us, feeds us, nurtures our wildlife and captures carbon from the air. But all too often it is treated literally like dirt, and as a result, much of the UK’s soil is now in crisis.”

He goes on to describe how the Soil Association works with farmers and growers through the IFP to help them to produce food in ways that are better for nature, health and the global climate. 

IFP case study

In the appeal Don highlights a recent Innovative Farmers field lab where farmer Frances Standen, in North Yorkshire, was experimenting with nature as a natural pest control by planting flowers and grasses in her field margins to attract predatory insects to eat the pests.

The Soil Association connected her with a group of farmers and provided them with the resources they needed to set up a ‘field lab’ where together they could explore how many more flowers and wild plants on their farms could encourage more predatory insects which eat pests on crops, reducing the need for chemical pesticides and in the process attract many more birds, bats and other wildlife to farms.

Don explained: “There are many more Soil Association ‘field labs’ running across the country looking at a wide range of sustainable solutions, such as supporting farmers to farm with trees, and increasing the fertility of soil with earthworms. But there’s still so much more we must do to protect our soil. And if you donate to Soil Association to fund more field labs, a group of generous supporters will match your donation until the first £10,000 is raised.

”The Soil Association urgently needs your help to increase the support they can give to farmers and growers directly. Giving a donation today will help farmers develop more nature-friendly farming solutions, providing a sustainable food and farming future.”