farmer Tom lays on the grass with some children and closely inspects the life in the soil Tom looking at soil with a group of children farmer Tom lays on the grass with some children and closely inspects the life in the soil Tom looking at soil with a group of children

Plant Your Pants Inspiring Stories - Farmer Tom Fairfax

26 April 2023

You might be wondering how planting pants connects with farming and food? Well, soil provides around 95% of the food we eat, it’s vital that farmers look after this incredble resource to ensure they produce healthy crops and raise heathy livestock.

But how do farmers look after soil?

The way that farmers manage the land varies depending on how it is used, where it is located (it’s soil type and other environmental factors) and their individual farming methods.

Soil has been overlooked in environmental policy for decades but that’s changing. The government's 25-year Environment Plan stipulates that England’s soils must be managed sustainably by 2030, and action must be taken to restore our soils.

The Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) is introducing a new payment system, Environmental Land Management (ELM) that rewards farmers for improving environmental outcomes, and this includes healthy soils.

Some farmers are already working hard to ensure the soil on their land is healthy …


...Meet regenerative, organic farmer, Tom Fairfax (also one of The Country Trust’s brilliant hosts!)

Mindrum farm is located in North Northumberland and has been farmed using sustainable practices for over 70 years. Current custodian, Tom Fairfax - a passionate advocate for soil health - has been focussing on regenerative farming, and how to improve his soils as part of his everyday practice.


Regenerative Agriculture is quite simple: it is any form of farming that improves the environment. This primarily means regenerating the soil. It’s a direction of travel, not an absolute.


Tom, can you give us a little introduction to you and your work? 

We are mixed farmers. We have sheep, cattle and arable. Mindrum is in the Cheviot Hills so it's quite high, not real moorland ground but it's pretty wild.  We're an organic farm so we’re really interested in soil - the foundation that enables us to produce healthy food in the best way we can.


Can you remember the first time you began to become curious about soil? 

Yes. When I was really small my dad used to make me lie down in a field and look at the grass in front of me. So simple, yet it's an amazing thing to do because for about 10 seconds, all you can see is grass, and then suddenly you see everything that's in it.  Ever since that moment, I've been interested in what's in the soil and its relationship with the farm. 


"By seeking to regenerate our soil, we are seeking to re-engage an incredible system that has evolved over millennia but which we, in our wisdom sought to out-perform in a few short decades." ~ Tom Fairfax


So, what are your thoughts about Plant Your Pants?

Well, I think it's really cool. I spend a great deal of time digging holes and looking at soil, sniffing soil and looking at it under a microscope. The lovely thing about Plant Your Pants is that it’s a fun way to see whether the soil around you is active, full of life and healthy, or not.


"I am thrilled about the changes I am seeing at Mindrum from an ecosystem perspective since we started following an organic approach.  We are seeing increased numbers of wild birds (already pretty plentiful), also increases in insects and fungi (especially field mushrooms)." ~ Tom Fairfax


What would you like to see as a result of this campaign? 

Lots of people looking actually looking at their soil.  There's a huge number of people talking about healthy soil and about biodiversity and there are rather fewer people looking at it. The more people can look at it, especially the younger ones, the better. 


And what do you think the impact could be?

I think that we will be in a much better place. For the last 40 years, we've been in an environment where we've ignored the soil. I think that has had an impact on the environment, but also the health associated with the food we eat.

So, the more we think about the soil, the better food will be and the better we will all be.

Children are looking at soil and collecting samples
Farmer Tom asks a group of children a question and a few of them have their hand raised
Farmer Tom talks about his wormery
Children are looking at soil samples through a microscope
Farmer Tom breaks the ground with a spade in preparation to bury some pants
Children bury pants on Farmer Toms farm
Children and farmer tom are exploring his greenhouse