New Foundation Farms appoints leading regenerative farmer Clare Hill to its board

“Oh yes, we are doing regenerative.”

It’s a phrase we hear a lot and we celebrate it.

It is confirmation that the shift towards nature-friendly farming is moving from the edge towards the mainstream. This is good news.

Clare Hill Non-Executive Farming Director New Foundation Farms

New Foundation Farms appoints regenerative farming expert Clare Hill to its board

However, it is also a sign that “regen” is becoming a suitcase word. A suitcase word is a word that contains multiple and expanding meanings across disparate contexts. Suitcase words can obfuscate as much as they clarify. Sustainability is a suitcase word. It means so many different things to different people. From a deep holistic commitment to a fundamentally different relationship with nature through to statements like “We are sustainable because we are profitable.”

Similarly, “we are doing regenerative” is a claim that is made by some simply on the back of a commitment to start using less chemicals. We are agreed: it’s better than doing nothing. But we are also agreed that it’s perhaps not what many people would expect to be under the hood of regenerative farming.

At New Foundation Farms (NFF), the very big picture for us is that regeneration starts with a small mindset shift. You want to do things differently. You’re off in the regenerative direction of travel. It’s not a destination. It’s more like a continuous improvement attitude. Once you “get it”, you can’t “unsee” it. At some point comes the BIG mindset shift at the heart of which is seeking to grow abundant ecosystems that also grow nutrient dense food in regenerating soils: it’s all inseparably connected and also includes water quality improvements, biological diversity increases, and carbon sequestration. Seeing it as a journey acknowledges that even the best of us today are achieving a fraction of what may be possible in the future in terms of positive ecological, social and economic outcomes.

We’re about demonstrating what’s possible in ecological, economic and social terms. We are on the leading edge of the radical natural story of planetary scale regeneration: locally rooted, globally responsible. A story in which humans establish themselves as a beneficial keystone species in the wider global ecosystem. We do this through transforming the food system by building a regenerative field-to-fork enterprise that can scale in operation and impact. That’s our purpose.

That is why when we bring people into our team, we look carefully at how they see the world. A critical capability is their starting point. Is it based on the ability to see things differently or still rooted in the industrial paradigm? Are they a “tweaker of the status quo” or a “radical natural transformer”?

Clare Hill, who has joined the New Foundation Farms board is definitely the latter. A leading practitioner in large scale regenerative farming, she has worked literally on the ground in regenerative transitions. As a farmer, she led the transition of the 1,200 acre FAI Farms-managed Northfield Farm owned by Oxford University. As an advisor, her expertise has been applied to the design of pilot regenerative systems in food businesses such as Arla and McDonalds.

In traditional farming, the narrative has frequently been that of an individual farmer having to cope with every aspect of managing “a farm”. In a fully regenerative system there are too many arenas for one person to be able to master and control – multiple layers of farming enterprise, processing, farm shops, home delivery and more. Therefore the skills required to develop and lead a diverse farming team are different. Clare brings these skills to the NFF table in addition to her regenerative farming expertise.

Commenting on her appointment Clare says, “I am delighted to join New Foundation Farms. Globally we are just at the beginning of learning how much economic, ecological and social value can be created in a transformation from global industrial monoculture supply chains to a system where growing hyper-local, hyper-diverse, nutrient-dense food to meet the needs of local people, everywhere. In everything from perennial grains, through horticulture, orchards, silvopasture, agroforestry and more there is so much potential to produce more, better, affordable food in a radical natural way.”

“We are delighted that what we are doing attracts people of Clare’s calibre,” says Mark Drewell, co-founder and CEO of New Foundation Farms. “Our team is growing and Clare’s hands-on expertise in directing our farming operations and her leadership skills to work with a growing network of people in our farming teams will be invaluable.”