Launched in 2019 with the objective of becoming one of the South East’s largest farming machinery, supplies and services events, it has swiftly become a key date in the diary and attracts visitors and exhibitors from across the whole of the farming sector, including fruit and viticulture.

While the 2021 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, the 2022 event aims to replicate the successes of 2019 and 2020 and attract a footfall of over 2,500 visitors.

As well as being able to see a wide variety of machinery and farming equipment, with exhibitors including Agwood, R J Crawford and Bell Agriculture, visitors will be able to seek advice on everything from seed and agronomy requirements to financial and legal support gaining help with diversification, land sales and in-field technology. In addition, seminars will take place on topics such as diversification, the post-BPS funding landscape and natural capital.

Organised by the Kent County Agricultural Society (KCAS), a charity that has been supporting education and improvement in agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and related industries since its foundation in 1923, Farm Expo takes place on Wednesday 2 March 2022 at the Kent Showground near Detling.

Commenting on the event, KCAS General Manager Nikki Dorkings said: “We’re delighted that we’re able to, once again, organise and deliver this popular event. A core part of KCAS’ mission as a charity is around ensuring those working within rural businesses are aware of the latest techniques and trends. This event, together with our newly-launched farming conference, is crucial in helping us achieve this mission, which is why I am thrilled that such a wide range of exhibitors and speakers have booked to attend.”

Jo Forknall, Chair of Kent County Agricultural Society and owner of his own agricultural contracting business, agreed: “As Kent’s largest agricultural charity, we are committed to delivering new ideas and innovative technologies to the county’s farming and agricultural industry. After a turbulent couple of years, we are looking forward to bringing this valuable event back to the local farming community.”

Seminars return

The seminars hosted by Farm Expo have proved to be extremely popular.

In 2020, visitors crowded into the Astor Pavilion to listen to the headline seminar Future of Farming – The Next Ten Years with Phil Jarvis, Rob Yorke and Mario Caccamo. Many changes have taken place in the world of farming since 2020, and our show’s keynote speech is set to focus on a range of topical subjects faced by the industry. Speakers this year include Sam Barnes (S J Barnes Ltd), Tom Sewell (2021 Soil Farmer of the Year), Richard Wordsworth (NFU), Sarah Mannooch (Brachers), and Callum Preece (BTF Partnership). General Manager Nikki Dorkings said: “It is important that we continue to facilitate conversations about current issues faced by our community. These seminars are an excellent opportunity to hear and learn from industry experts on trending topics such as diversification, sustainable land and business management, and natural capital.”

Sustainable soil practices

With the recent emphasis on regenerative and sustainable farming practices, soil conservation could be the key to environmental sustainability. One man who knows all about this is Tom Sewell, a second-generation farmer from Kent. Tom farms in partnership with his wife and parents, and currently looks after estates for 15 different landowners. As a 2013 Nuffield Scholar, Tom travelled to North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Scotland, studying the practice of moving from sustainable to regenerative farming using no-till systems. As a result of his scholarship, Tom transitioned the whole farm to no-till in just one year. No P&K from a bag, no Sunday working, no cultivation, no baling of straw, no seed dressings, no insecticides, and no business borrowings! Awarded 2021 Soil Farmer of the Year (arable), Tom will be speaking at Farm Expo about what he has done to streamline and transition his farming business using no-till, cover crops, residues and rotations. He will delve into the current issues and challenges for the future, particularly in reducing fertiliser, fungicides and fuel while increasing scale with very little labour. Tom tells us: “As farming changes dramatically over the coming years with the loss of BPS, the opportunities and threats of carbon audits, ELMS, SFI and volatile commodity markets we will need to be quick to react to changes and ever-moving goalposts”.

Diversification of land into viticulture

The momentum for English viticulture is at an all-time high, with the industry growing exponentially over the past decade. Latest figures within the UK suggests that the wine industry is booming, with the South East making up 61% of the total hectares of land used for viticulture in the country*. Record breaking harvests have also been documented, with sales almost doubling year on year, a trend which is likely to continue over the next 20 years. With further reductions on farm subsidy payments, it is vital farmers look for additional income streams to protect their land and keep the business financially sustainable. According to the NFU, over 60% of farmers have already diversified their land, and as of 2021 of those who have already diversified, 34% have plans to diversify further. If you have agricultural land in the right location, with appropriate topography and soil, making the decision to diversify into grape growing can be a shrewd decision. Sam Barnes, owner of S J Barnes Ltd will be speaking at a Farm Expo seminar about his experience in viticulture, crop, and land management.

*WineGB 2020 Industry Report

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