18th February 2023
In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, beef farmer Edmund Sutcliffe talks to Jonathan Thompson from the Romsey office of the law firm Thrings.
When it comes to farming, Edmund Sutcliffe’s philosophy is simple – you get out what you put in.
Walking around Burntwood Farm in Martyr Worthy, near Winchester, where he manages a herd of around 120 beef cattle, Edmund talks in passionate detail about photosynthesis, micro-organisms, minerals and soil chemistry.
In the barn, surrounded by calves, he then sums up the complex concept of ‘regenerative farming’ succinctly: “The healthier your soil, the healthier your plants are, the healthier your animals, the healthier your food, and the healthier we will be.”
Edmund grew up on the farm, which has been in the family for three generations, but didn’t always intend to make it his career.
At first, he pursued other avenues, studying chemistry at Oxford, where he became frustrated at learning by rote but began to see how science applies to the natural world.
Following a series of internships and jobs, during which he learned more about regenerative farming, Covid lockdowns saw him return to the homestead to take a lead role at the farm and put his new-found knowledge into practise.
“I realised that food production and nature conservation didn’t need to be two separate things,” he says. “You can produce high quality, nutrient- dense food in an ecologically sound way that is not only less harmful but is actually more beneficial.”
The cows at Burntwood lead a natural life, free to graze outside all year round, which makes them far healthier than animals kept indoors. Edmund handles them every day, fosters a low-stress environment and on less busy days can be found laying in the field with the calves.
Food miles are kept minimal – none of the beef leaves Hampshire and it is delivered to customers directly or sold through a local butcher.
Edmund is keen on sharing his experiences and methods – he acts as a consultant for other farmers and plans to create a learning zone at the farm to teach others in a real-world setting.
He practises what he preaches, eating beef every day and takes every opportunity to enthuse about its benefits.
“I don’t just think beef produced in this way is sustainable – I believe it is the most sustainable food because all you are using is sunlight and rainfall,” he says.
“You’ve got a healthy ecosystem and you are eating the healthiest food from it – and we can continue doing this until… well, until the cows come home!”.
Jonathan Thompson is a senior associate in the agriculture team at the Romsey office of the law firm Thrings.