Mark Means

2022 Sustainable Farmer of the Year

J S Means (Terrington) Ltd
The Laurels, Norfolk

LOOKING after and improving the soil was the main priority for arable and vegetable grower Mark Means. Running a commercial family farm, Mark has integrated environmental management into his crop production despite the challenges of mixing sustainability and vegetable production. “If I improve the soil and the environment, the farm will give back,” he says. “This asset is our income provider. Looking after this is my main priority with all my decisions.”

Incorporating more sustainable practices has helped boost soil health and profitability, meaning the practices were compatible with a commercial enterprise. Efficiency was another key focus, with Mark highlighting the more efficient they could be, the more they could reduce their carbon output. He adds this also meant more could be produced sustainably, here in the UK. “I hate the UK to export our environmental terrorism. Let us do it right here and look more seasonal. Keep food affordable but not importing out of season produce.”

Mark is an investigator and always looking for new ideas to continue improving the farm but was careful not to jump on bandwagons, researching opportunities forensically before moving forward. He is currently trialling cover crops for potatoes with their biggest concern wireworm and slugs in the potato crop. However, he was taking a cautious approach to reduce risk by trialling it on small areas. “I would rather have the science there,” he says. Mark was an early adopter of Leaf Marque and the farm has been certified since 2002, carbon auditing the business using the Cool Farm model for the past 10 or so years. “I want to see our efforts increase biodiversity. Tree sparrows, bumblebees and marsh harriers are all targets for our farm to encourage more.”

Alongside the farming operation, the farm has invested in energy generation and battery storage, which has paid dividends in the current climate of escalating energy prices. And looking forward, Mark wants to work even more collaboratively with other farms, with the ambition of having a vending machine selling local produce next to the A17.

What the judges said:

“The judges were impressed by Mark’s passion for the farm and dedication to sustainability. Sustainability was clearly embedded throughout the business and he was using sustainability metrics to drive the business forward. The judges also liked Mark’s willingness to engage with the industry and share knowledge.”

On winning, Mark said: 

“All the work we do, I didn’t think would merit this award. It’s an award for everyone who works for me and is a passion for the soil and crops. “