Jake Freestone

Overbury Enterprises,
Overbury Farms,

Sponsored by: Oxbury

Designing a regenerative agriculture system and integrating livestock with the arable enterprise across a wider area of the farm is Jake Freestone’s main innovation. The move has reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cut costs of production, maintained yields with fewer inputs and improved the amount and variation of wildlife on-farm. Water infiltration has increased and soil erosion from the fields has stopped.

The farm extends to 1,600 hectares of in-hand arable and grassland. Combinable crops account for 950ha, including milling wheat, oilseed rape (OSR), beans, peas, linseed, quinoa and winter and spring malting barley. The farm has more than 300ha of permanent grassland and 27ha of herbal leys, which carry 1,050 outdoor lambing ewes with progeny sold as stores or fattened.

The system change to regenerative agriculture has evolved around no-till, cover crops, a longer and a more diverse rotation and the inclusion of sheep grazing in the arable system. Jake uses a no-till drill which has reduced establishment costs from £169/ha (including depreciation, interest, fuel, repairs and labour) down to £46/ha.

The benefits are not just financial. With higher water infiltration rates and an increase in organic matter levels, Jake says the system is becoming more able to withstand the challenges of a changing climate. The move to no-till means horsepower requirement on the arable unit has dropped from 735hp to 485hp, through losing a 280hp cultivation and drilling tractor. This switch has freed up labour and machinery to take on a further 250ha of contract farming for a neighbouring estate.

Nitrogen fertiliser reductions of 20% in wheat and OSR and 40% in spring barley have reduced costs and carbon footprint but not compromised yields. Jake puts this down to better timing of applications and more organic nitrogen in the system which does not leach like applied nitrogen.

What the judges said: 

Jake demonstrated that he had a very clear direction for the business with aligned ideas that balance biodiversity with profitable food production. He takes a whole system focus and is very active in not just exploring new innovations but showing how they work in practice. He is very articulate and engages widely with both the farming industry and the general public in a way that is easy to understand. Exemplary across a multitude of areas.

On winning, Jake said: 

“It feels like the crown on what has been an great time for the farm and this is for the whole team and family so have worked such long hours and put up with the hassle.

“We have always been innovation and aiming to push the boundaries to grow sustainable food in a regenerative system.

“The atmosphere at the awards is amazing and Vernon Kay is a great host.”