We are very proud to announce that our very own Nick Padwick – the Estate Director here – has become the first British farmer to train and qualify as a Consultant for the Soil Food Web, a trademarked programme developed by global leading soil scientist Dr Elaine Ingham.
Nick joins just 39 people globally to have attained this qualification! Bravo Nick!
When Nick joined Wild Ken Hill in 2018, he not only brought with him over 30 harvests’ worth of experience, but also a relentless drive for change and a desire to learn continuously.
Early in his time at Wild Ken Hill, Nick was not satisfied with the soil samples he could obtain from established providers. This was a key motivation for Nick to embark on his first Soil Food Web course with Dr Elaine Ingham back in 2020. He wanted to learn for himself how to analyse soil health .
The Soil Food Web is not only the name of the course Nick has taken. It also refers to the complex and interconnected community of organisms that play a crucial role in soil health and fertility. Fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, and many other organisms essentially work together to ‘make’ soil.
When one element of the Soil Food Web is killed off through repeated use of pesticides and fungicides, the whole system collapses.
Speaking to Nick, he said: “If you look at soil under a microscope, it should be teaming with bacteria and protozoa. But the cyclical application of fertiliser and pesticide have simply killed all the life within our soils.
“When I first looked at the soils here at Wild Ken Hill, it was pretty dull. There was hardly any life. But we’re now seeing some amazing stuff thanks to the regenerative practices and composting programme we are using.
“We’re putting research into practice and are already seeing a difference. We want to share what we’re doing here so that we can help UK agriculture make the changes needed, at pace.”
In practice, this uniquely places Nick with an ability to implement complex soil science on the ground. He can take and accurately analyse soil samples under a microscope. Nick can identity different organisms living within the soil, and quantify them to give a statistical view of soil health.
He is also qualified to create high-quality composts. This is something we are working hard on and will update you on fully later this year. Nick can provide these composts as well as advice to other farms, under the Soil Food Web banner.
Nick is continuing his studies under Nicole Masters, and is also scaling up an exciting programme of composting to accelerate soil restoration. It is early days, but so far, the results are very promising.
Not only is Nick starting to witness more life in the soil, above ground surveys performed by Wild Ken Hill’s in-house conservation team suggest that biodiversity is improving on the farm.
Nick’s approach is also delivering for climate change, as regenerating soils sequester carbon from the atmosphere. In 2022, an independent assessor estimated that Wild Ken Hill’s farming approach had gone beyond net zero and was in the top 5% of arable farms nationally for sequestering carbon.
We continue to explore new ways to improve biodiversity across the whole site. This includes all three major zones of Wild Ken Hill: the rewilding area, traditional conservation of wetlands, and the regenerative farming operation. We also recently had planning permission approved for a visitor centre in order to share our approach further, and we are aiming to open a campsite next year.
Speaking to our Founder Dom, he said “We believe that a healthy soil ecosystem is a fundamental building block for a landscape to team with nature. Nick’s qualification as the first fully trained Soil Food Web consultant in the UK is a testament to our commitment to regenerative agriculture restoring that soil ecosystem.”
“We are excited about the positive impact this will have on our practices and look forward to sharing our learnings with others who also envision a sustainable future.”