Working with nature

Words by:
Kate Chapman
Featured in:
March 2024

Kate Chapman meets Hannah Thorogood at The Inkpot, a thriving permaculture organic farm practising regenerative agriculture and producing award-winning food.

Regenerative farming and permaculture are the beating heart of The Inkpot – a working farm producing meat and wool, which has recently become a Community Interest Company (CIC) so it can offer more educational and training opportunities.

Farmer Hannah Thorogood and her family moved to Scredington, near Sleaford, from Bedfordshire in 2010. Since then she has devoted her time to transforming an 18-acre arable field into a flourishing regenerative farm, that today covers 130 acres.

Hannah has expanded her venture by renting in more land, and now keeps 16 Lincoln Red cattle, a mixed flock of 250 sheep, 50 chickens and bees and also rears 120 Black Norfolk turkeys for Christmas.
As a Great Taste Award producer, Hannah’s range – including beef and hogget – is often snapped up well in advance with a waiting list of up to three years for some of her delicacies. She sells at farmers’ markets, in ethical meat boxes, through farm shops and a local delivery round, while the majority of her festive turkeys are bought by returning customers.

Teaching opportunities
As well as farming, Hannah also teaches regenerative agriculture to degree level and offers teaching opportunities in field shelter classrooms at The Inkpot, where she enjoys helping more people learn about the practices used on her own thriving farm.

“The Inkpot is a permaculture demonstration farm practising regenerative agriculture and is certified organic. Last year we went through the process to become a CIC so we can advance the education and training side of things, which we have been doing since we’ve been here,” says Hannah, who is helped on the farm by her teenage daughters Elisabeth and Martha.

“Unfortunately, our courses had to stop during the pandemic and then, due to some family health issues, they have not been able to restart yet. But we are into the final round of applying for funding from the Real Farming Trust to help renovate our buildings to create new classrooms, a kitchen and dining area.

“We would also like to open a small pop-up farm shop on site so we can have monthly open days too. We have taken part in Open Farm Sunday previously, but I would like to have an open day here once a month so people can take a tour and then visit the farm shop.

“By becoming a CIC and getting the classroom up and running again, we will be able to offer level three regenerative agricultural training from January 2025. We will also be running some permaculture classes. There is a lot going on behind the scenes.”

Working with nature
Regenerative agriculture is a way of farming that works with nature to help tackle issues like climate change. It involves nurturing and restoring soil health naturally, so that it is capable of producing high-quality, nutrient-dense food, while permaculture is an approach to land management that adopts arrangements seen in flourishing natural ecosystems.

Hannah, who has an MSc in organic farming, comes from a long line of farmers and always wanted work in the industry herself.

She recalls: “This land came up for sale in 2010, it is really heavy clay and probably should not have been arable land at all – there were stories of tractors getting stuck in it. Initially, we had 18 acres and a tiny farm worker’s cottage – we started with two Lincoln Red cattle, 10 Lincoln Longwool sheep, a Norfolk Horn ram and a handful of chickens. Now we have over 400 animals.

“I was lucky enough to get a place on one of the first truly regenerative courses back in 2012, which focussed on holistic management and biodiversity and I am proud to say The Inkpot is a truly regenerative farm.

“Our cows and sheep live outside all year round. We follow a low-input system, they only have grass and hay. We utilise the whole animal and sell our own wool and sheepskins too.

“Our Black Norfolk turkeys – a large, hardy native breed – are our woodland managers. They are moved on each week and fed on GM-free food as well as foraging for insects and seeds.

“We also have bees and produce our own honey. The crux of regenerative farming is that we manage the land in a way that allows for net carbon and methane sequestration. There are lots of people talking about rewilding at the moment – some want to take land out of agricultural production, but Lincolnshire is the breadbasket for the rest of the country, a huge proportion of our food is produced here.

“That is poor thinking in terms of food security – importing more international foods is not going to do any good either. It feels like people are trying to pull in lots of different directions.

“But regenerative and permaculture sites can produce really abundant food that is nutrient-dense, by working with nature, harnessing the soil’s biodiversity without the use of chemicals.”

Thriving wildlife
It is thanks to these methods that biodiversity is abundant at The Inkpot, where 4,000 trees have been planted and hedgerows allowed to develop and produce food and habitat for wildlife.

“The wildlife is fantastic now, the biodiversity has gone through the roof,” adds Hannah. “We have owls, kites, kestrels and egrets here. There are great crested newts, bats, insects and butterflies, which we have seen a huge increase in this year.”

As for the future, Hannah has taken on two part-time workers to help keep on top of the workload and is keen to press ahead, expanding The Inkpot despite the shadow of uncertainty over the site.

Early last year Anglian Water announced it wanted to create a five-square kilometre reservoir on farmland south of Sleaford, which includes The Inkpot, and is currently consulting on its proposal.

“If it does go ahead, we will have to relocate somewhere else in Lincolnshire,” says Hannah.

“I love this county and the community of the villages around us. There will not be a decision made until at least 2027, so it is going to be hanging over us for a while.

“But we have our own plans for expansion and will be carrying on with them regardless. And if the worst does happen, we will not be able to leave the farm until 2030.

“We are going to be here for at least another seven years and plan to continue with our work whatever.”

To find out more visit www.the-inkpot.co.uk, or follow @inkpotfarm on social media

Photographs: courtesy of The Inkpot



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