Farm Manager - Zara Dorrington
300 herd dairy plus arable
Farming for the future
Farmers face a fundamental challenge to the way they work if they are to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2040.
So, Lloyds Bank has partnered with the Soil Association Exchange - a service which helps farmers to improve their environmental performance, and measure and monitor their progress.
One of the first to benefit was Zara Dorrington, whose family have been farming in Lincolnshire for nearly a century.
She was visited by an Exchange adviser, who audited the farm’s operations to identify sustainable financial and environmental strategies for the future, with a focus on soil health, carbon emissions, water quality, biodiversity, animal health and social impacts.
It’s an initiative that Zara, of White House Farm in Lincolnshire, was keen to join.
Located in Bourne, the fourth-generation, 800-hectare dairy and arable farm has a herd of nearly 300 cows producing high-quality milk exclusively for Arla.
Efficient, sustainable and resilient – Zara’s story
Zara, who’s great-grandparents moved to White House Farm in 1924, runs the business along with her father Ross and uncle Simon.
She said: “For me, farming has always involved the need to protect and sustain the environment that we are so fortunate to work in.
“Mixed livestock and arable farming has always been my passion and I’ve always aimed to farm efficiently and sustainably.
“But it can be hard to record certain aspects of sustainability and you can end up with a big slew of data that’s hard to interpret.
“Farming is under increasing scrutiny, but it doesn't have to be daunting. It’s an exciting new era and we need to be open to the help and guidance that’s available.”
And Zara says that working to improve sustainability can also boost a farm’s resilience, which is even more important as we face up to the challenge of climate change.
She said: “With climate change bringing all different types of weather systems, having a very good soil structure with plenty of organic matter means that, if it's suddenly very dry or very wet, the land is much more able to adapt because it’s healthier.”
But Zara says modern farmers require a new set of skills to be able to track and report their progress towards Net Zero.
And the Soil Association Exchange gave her the tools to measure the impact of their sustainability strategies.
A different approach
Zara said: “We know we’re improving, but you can only take that message to customers if you've got the data to back it up. The Soil Association Exchange adviser had a different approach. They took the time to get to know us and it means that the data and direction you get at the end of the process is much more relevant and meaningful, rather than just being very generic.”
The process involved the collection and analysis of soil samples, and a review of processes to calculate the farm’s carbon footprint.
But it’s not just another carbon calculator. Rather, it’s a holistic programme with six dimensions, covering not only soil health and carbon emissions, but metrics across the farm, to get a unique whole farm view.
All the data generated is accessed through a user-friendly online dashboard, so farmers can see immediately where they have opportunities to improve.
And now Zara has been trained to take soil samples herself going forward, so she can continue to monitor the farm’s progress independently while the Exchange team support her journey.
She said: “Every farm is different. There's always more to learn and room to improve. We now have this fabulous dashboard that covers soil health, energy use and other sources of carbon, as well as areas where we might be capturing carbon too. It’s shown us how we can start to better integrate the livestock and arable aspects of the farm so they work in harmony together. Good data recording makes that a lot easier. It's going to be quite exciting to continue soil sampling and monitoring the carbon cycle.”
Start your journey with Soil Association Exchange
Zara now has a strategy for the future, and she urged more farmers to start their journey with Soil Association Exchange.
While she admits taking a new approach can be intimidating, farmers have always worked with the best interests of their land in mind.
She said: “Without realising it, most farmers are already doing something positive that they can build on, even if it’s just trying to save on fuel to cut costs.
“It’s time to start the conversation with a positive approach.”