A new era in farming

Words by:
Andrew Vaux
Featured in:
April 2024

Andrew Vaux meets Anna and Andrew Jackson, the Lincolnshire father and daughter farming team whose pioneering processes feature in a special documentary to be shown worldwide.

Looking back on her earlier life and reflecting on advice from her parents, Anna Jackson probably never thought her passion for farming would be the subject of a documentary titled Six Inches of Soil and being watched by audiences around the world!

Anna and her father Andrew, who are based at their Pink Pig Farm in Scunthorpe, are pioneers in a new aspect of farming – an evolution of conventional agriculture, reducing the use of chemicals and other inputs, preventing land degradation, and increasing organic matter. It protects and improves soil, biodiversity, climate resilience and water resources while making farming more productive and profitable.

Anna explains: “My dad and I farm together. We mainly grow crops and I’ve got a flock of sheep as

I’m starting to sell my own wool and we also have the Pink Pig Farm Park on site.

“For years, we farmed with chemicals which haven’t helped us in any way. We haven’t been working with nature; we’ve been working against it. What we’re effectively trying to do now is regenerate our soils to improve the organic matter. In theory, with less inputs and less chemicals we’ll still retain the same yields. So, this will be a ‘win, win’ for both nature and farmers.

“I feel quite confident for our future because we’ve made our fields more resilient. We’re more resilient to drought, which is great because the roots go down further. We’re more resilient to disease because we’re growing blends of crops. We’ve stopped using insecticide. We’ve got lots more bugs and birds, and it’s like a new era of farming.”

Working with nature
Anna remembers: “I grew up on the farm and had a bit of a wild childhood! My parents told me there’s no money in farming so to go out and get a proper job. I left the farm and did a random degree in Media & Communications at Birmingham University and ended up being a photographer for about 10 years.

“I worked in Oxford as a commercial photographer and then in London as an architectural photographer before starting up my own freelance sports photography business in London which was really fun.

“Then Covid hit, and I couldn’t carry on renting in London or meet up with all my clients, so I thought I’d have to go back to the family farm.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

“We launched the farm park 20 years ago and it’s grown slowly. Mum started off literally with a table at the end of the drive selling cakes and eggs from our chickens. Then she moved into the old chicken shed which she converted into a restaurant, and gradually expanded over the years. Now we’ve got a restaurant where we do functions and celebrations, as well as a wedding barn, and indoor and outdoor play areas.

“As much of the food in the restaurant as possible is locally sourced and so we’re also supporting other farmers in the area.

“We do school visits so kids can come onto the farm and see how food is produced. In the Pink Pig, they eat food from on the farm. We have machinery days where kids can sit in tractors and using QR codes they can see how all the machinery works. It’s connecting people with farming which I think is super important.

“We line up jars containing all the crops we produce, and kids can shake them, feel them and smell them. It’s a really great experience for them.”

Screen stars
The pair’s farming techniques feature in the new documentary, Six Inches Of Soil, which tells the inspiring story of young English farmers standing up against the industrial food system and transforming the way they produce food – to heal the soil, our health and provide for local communities.

It follows three new farmers on the first year of their regenerative journey – as well as Anna, it features Adrienne Gordon, a Cambridgeshire small-scale vegetable farmer; and Ben Thomas, who rears pasture-fed beef cattle in Cornwall.

As the trio strive to adopt regenerative practices and create viable businesses, they meet seasoned mentors who help them on their journey. They’re joined by other experts providing wisdom and solutions from a growing movement of people who are dedicated to changing the trajectory for food, farming and the planet.

The production team is arranging as many in-person screenings as possible in 2024 across the UK and the world – they already have requests from Australia, the Netherlands and California, as well as the southernmost farm in mainland Britain.

These screenings will include a panel discussion, and in many cases food and drink, and will make for impactful, local community events in their own right.

Producer Claire Mackenzie explains: “Community screenings are a hugely important part of our impact campaign. We’re excited that so many farms and venues are signing up to host events. It’s important that people have discussions at a local level, to find ways to move forward to create profitable food systems that benefit the community whilst looking after our soil and the environment in the best possible way.”
So how did Anna first become involved in the production?

She explains: “I create a lot of TikTok videos and ramble on about farming and things that go wrong. My dad and I have an interesting relationship where we’ll argue, and people will pick up on this and enjoy listening to it. I posted videos saying what I was doing and what was going on and they ended up getting quite a bit of traction.

“The production company contacted us and asked if we’d be interested in taking part. Dad said we weren’t the type of people to be in a film, but I convinced him that we’re trying to change the world for the better. If we keep ourselves to ourselves then no one will hear about it but if we go out and shout about it, then we can help save the planet in our own right.”

She adds: “All the filming was very natural. But we’re not interview savvy, we’re just farmers. So, it was quite interesting when they were trying to get stuff out of us!

“They literally just captured everything that was happening. They wanted to know how things were happening and how we were doing it. Regenerative farming is a journey. You can’t just do it in one year; it can take up to 10 years to make a big impact.

“We had a screening of the film at the farm recently and lots of my friends came who aren’t farmers and aren’t interested in farming, but they’ve now all said that they’ve gone out and sourced locally produced food whenever they can and thought about exactly where the food is coming from. This is all really exciting.”

Asked to sum up the importance of her and her dad’s work, Anna concludes: “We’re doing this to make a difference – either persuading people to buy local or persuading other farmers to become regenerative.

We’re proud of what we’re doing and what we’ve achieved and it’s nice to know that it’s happening in Lincolnshire.

“We work with others locally, for example we’ve got a bee man who comes and uses our land. The whole point is that if you eat food then you should be involved in the food process.”

For further information about the documentary film Six Inches Of Soil, including screenings, visit www.sixinchesofsoil.org

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