A WHARFEDALE farmer will soon be heading to destinations around the world thanks to a Nuffield Farming Scholarship.

Alastair Trickett will use the award to study the benefits of introducing livestock on arable farms.

Alastair runs a sheep farm at Arthington as part of the Trickett family’s Fortshot Farm which is based at Wike, near Harewood.

He is the third generation of the Trickett family to have been awarded the scholarship and will be following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

Alastair’s award has been funded by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and his study - entitled Nuance and Diversity. Mixed Farming for the Future Farmer - is also being sponsored by the National Trust.

His research will involve making fact-finding trips to farms in Australia, North America, Africa and Europe.

He said: “What I am interested in is how livestock can be used to regenerate land, nature and farms.

“Soil is really, really important to civilization. Without soil you have no food in supermarkets, that’s the reality.

“You look back through history and see civilisations collapse once they exhaust their soils.

“We have got to look after the soil and I believe, contrary to what we read in popular titles, that animals are the key to unlocking a food production system that regenerates the environment.

“I want to look at farms using animals to improve their soil health, productivity of their land and nature and biodiversity - as well as food production.

“There are some interesting examples in Australia where farmers are using animals to fight the severe droughts. They used controlled holistic grazing to capture and store more water in their soils. Similarly in the US farmers are growing cereals more environmentally because they have animals grazing the same land in rotation.”

The Nuffield scholarship takes farmers all over the world to study best practice that can then be shared, upon their return, with the UK’s farming community.

Reflecting on the role it has played in shaping his own family’s direction down the years, Alastair said: “When my grandfather was farming it was a dairy farm with pigs and a small bit of arable.

“He came from a non-farming background but he always had a passion for farming and agriculture, and he did a Nuffield Scholarship.

“When my dad took over the farm it was at a time when farmers were encouraged to specialize and achieve economies of scale.

“He did a Nuffield Scholarship in how to farm arable profitably in the early 1990s, bought his brother out of dairy and specialized in arable.

“We reduced labour considerably, took on more land and he ran a very successful, profitable, arable farm.”

He considers it ironic that he now wants to come ‘full circle’ by bringing back animals to the family’s arable farm, which he has done with his sheep farm.

He said: “This mirrors what we have seen in the industry.

“We were encouraged to specialise but that’s led to pressures.

“The industry is waking up to the fact that simple systems in nature are not particularly sustainable because nature is not that simple.

“We need the public to wake up to this also.

“I want to show that it’s much more damaging not having animals.

“The other element is about the role livestock play in regenerating the environment and taking carbon dioxide out of the air and locking it into the soil: reversing the effects of man-made emissions into the environment.”

Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, Nigel Pulling, said: “Alastair is one of just 19 farmers across the UK to be selected for this year’s prestigious Nuffield Scholarship.

“We are delighted to support his work.

“He is looking at some really key areas in shaping the future of farming – increasing profits and sustainability being at the heart of this.”

Alastair, meanwhile, has also recently set up a new online business for customers who want to eat less, but better quality, meat.

He said: “People feel guilty about eating meat; they’re told it’s either un-environmental or unhealthy. But what if they knew that the meat they were eating was helping to heal soil and nature?

“What if, when eating our meat, they could see the bigger mission that our animals are helping to achieve?”

To find out more visit www.fortshot.farm.