UK Farmer Provides Opportunities “Where Learning Comes To Life”


Thrales End Farm is just about 20 miles north of London.  It is where Ian Pigott the 2014 Kleckner Award recipient and his family have farmed for quite some time – since the 15th century. That gives a whole new perspective to Century Farms in North America!

Ian has a great story to tell about his farm and experiences, but he’s been instrumental in taking it all an extra step or two, or three.  Let’s show you what we mean by that…

The proximity to one of the world’s great urban centers of London provides an opportunity that Ian has utilized extremely well.  Their farm is also a classroom.  He started The Farmschool which is open to anyone, but the focus is building a relationship with schools and the students so they have an ongoing place “where learning comes to life” and they can go experience and learn about farmland with a hands on approach – but let’s have Ian tell you about it himself: 

Taking that effort another few steps further, Ian is also one of the founders of LEAF Open Farm Sunday (LEAF stands for ‘Linking Environment And Farming’).  Each year more farms open their doors, or gates, to the public during a Sunday in June to give people a chance to learn about farming, where their food comes from, and the work that actually entails in the real world.  Take a quick look at this year’s event: 

Since it was started in 2006, well over 2 million people now have visited the farms opened around the United Kingdom.  The annual event has become a major success story.  Ian, also a regular contributing columnist to Farmers Weekly, was recognized with an OBE in 2016 – Order of the British Empire for services to Agricultural and Countryside Education, due in great part for his role in helping start this fantastic program.  It is a quite prestigious honor and very well-earned recognition for his efforts.

By now it probably won’t surprise you that Ian became involved with another effort linking agriculture, education, and getting people to the countryside.

The Pop Up Farm was just started in 2017 providing and opporutnity for folks to head out and pick sunflowers in the summer and then pumpkins in the fall – needless to say it has already been a big hit.  Check out this recent BBC Breakfast interview direct from the farm:

The reason is clear why Ian was selected as the recipient of 2014 Kleckner Award.  He’s also a great agvocate on social media (on Twitter @ianpigott) often requested to speak at events and participate on discussion panels.  All of which he finds time for in his very busy schedule.  And, we haven’t even touched on his actual farming skills and practical experience.

There are plenty of links on this page you that you can use to explore more about the great work Ian is involved with in the UK.  But let’s continue our ongoing series about views on sustainable farming from Global Farmer Network members, and here are some quick thoughts on that from Ian… 


A Farmer Reacts: Sustainability — Ian Pigott:  Thrales End Farm, Harpenden, United Kingdom

Question:  What is your definition of sustainable farming?

Answer:  Farming practices that promote soil health and biodiversity leading to increased soil carbon and numbers of target species whilst maintaining a profitable farming business.

Question:  What farming practices are you using on your farm today that helps the sustainability of your farming operation and the soil that you are farming on?

Answer:  Conservation agriculture, including no till and cover crops. Integrated farm and pest management, monitoring thresholds of pest and disease prior to any application of ag chem. Precision agriculture technology.

Question:  Where do you get information about sustainable farming practices that are appropriate for your farm?

Answer:  LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) of which we are a demonstration farm. Farming press, social media and meetings with farmers and influential organisations.

Question:  How do you determine what practices work best on your farm?

Answer:  Learning from others. Trial and error. In-depth research with neighbouring Institute at Rothamsted.

Question:  Are there specific technologies that will support the sustainability of your farming operation?

Answer:  Investment in no till drilling technology. Precision farming technologies such as satellite mapping, magnetic resonance testing of soil. Variable rate applications. Use of drones to undertake more in-depth canopy management.

Question:  Do you share sustainable farming practices that you use with other farmers?  If yes, how?

Answer:  As a demonstration Farmer (see above LEAF) hosting meetings and field walks for farmers, writing in the farming press [regular columnist for Farmers Weekly].

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott

Ian Pigott runs a diversified farming business in Harpenden, UK. Located just 20 miles from the centre of London, he grows wheat, oilseed, rape and oats in rotation. The farm is a LEAF (linking environment and farming) demonstration farm. Ian is a Global Farmer Network member.

Leave a Reply