From the Vault: Mark Wootton on Carbon-Neutral Farming at Jigsaw Farms

Recently the whole team here at Tenacious Ventures had the chance to get out of town and on to the farm. And not just any farm – we visited Jigsaw Farms, home to sheep farmer and long-time friend of the show Mark Wooton and his wife Eve. While out at Jigsaw, Mark and Eve gave us an update on their vision for “sustainable intensification” and their ethos for farm management.

In that spirit we wanted to revisit our original conversation with Mark that was published nearly two years ago. After the recent visit to Jigsaw, it’s clear there are insights from this first discussion that are still valuable and relevant today, as Mark talks about:

  • Balancing the social imperative to farm ethically with production methods that can keep businesses profitable,
  • Keeping an eye on emerging trends like ecosystem services markets, and being open to the possibility of accessing premiums where they might emerge
  • The growing regenerative agriculture movement, and the need for farmers to think critically about guidelines and principles that are often put forward as  dogma
  • The primacy of data in every decision that gets made on the farm.

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Key takeaways

  • Jigsaw Farms runs 20 thousand sheep for fine wool and prime lamb, as well as 500 cows. The farm has also a timber plantation and a biodiversity plantation that acts as a carbon sink. Mark regularly has biodiversity experts record and measure the environment at his farm. But he does not identify as a regenerative farmer.
  • Many farmers like Mark share a concern the label of "regenerative agriculture" is being used by people who are trying to sell products or practices that don’t actually have any evidence behind them.
  • Planting trees worked well for Mark but he admits part of the reason he did this was because he simply loves trees.
    It’s not a practice that will work for every farmer.

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