Potato giant McCains commits to regenerative agriculture deadline supported by its network of Yorkshire farmers

Potato farmers in Yorkshire are working with global company McCain to bring in regenerative agricultural practices which will improve soil health, climate change and the environment.

James is bringing regenerative practices to the family farm in Filey
James is bringing regenerative practices to the family farm in Filey

As part of its Global Sustainability report Together, Towards Planet-Friendly Food, McCain, which has its UK headquarters in Scarborough, has pledged to implement the practices across 100 per cent of its potato acreage – representing 370,000 acres worldwide – by 2030.

The company works alongside a network of farmers across North Yorkshire and third generation McCains potato farmer, James Pick said regenerative farming will also help future proof the family business.

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James works alongside his father and grandfather on the farm in Filey which has 200 hectares of potatoes and around 250 hectares of arable land.

The 22-year-old said he had been implementing regenerative techniques since he returned to the farm to work around four years ago.

“I feel a really strong connection with nature and the area we look after through the farm. I think regenerative practices and regenerative agriculture are the best way we can take care of it for the future.” James said his family has been very supportive and open to trying new ideas.

They now use cover crops and organic manure to help with soil health and carbon capture which, James said has led to a reduction in cultivation.

“The impact on the environment is reduced which is something we have to be really conscious of and this year using the poultry manure has made a big difference to the amount of fertiliser we are buying in.”

James said he was excited by the potential of regenerative practices.

“I think we have been reasonably brave in some of the things we have done this year but there is so much scope to go further and that is the exciting thing.

“With the McCain pledge and more farmers implementing regenerative practices I think we will all be learning quickly how to put these new methods into practice.

James said the commitment to regenerative farming that McCain are making would help him protect the land in the long term and ensure he can pass a sustainable business on to future generations.

Max Koeune, CEO of McCain said there was as real need to “transform” the way we grow food.

“The pandemic has put a spotlight squarely on the precarious nature of our global food system,” he said.

“But the largest challenges we face are related to climate change. It is estimated that a quarter of man-made carbon emissions come from the production of food, and if we have to grow more food to feed more people, that will only intensify. If we don’t transform the way we grow food, the whole system is at risk of suffering irreparable damage.”

Howard Snape, Regional President at McCain GB & Ireland, said the impacts of climate change are “all too real”. “Our farmers have been hit immensely hard in

recent years having faced a major drought and the wettest harvest on record.”

Mr Snape said McCains is “committed to helping and protecting” British potato growers to ensure the long-term sustainability of the potato crop.

“This announcement will be critical in helping us reduce our collective carbon footprint, whilst building a resilient supply chain in which everyone can thrive,” he said.