Simon Bland has always tried to farm in a way which helps the environment.

However, when he met his wife Professor Jane Barker, the pair founded a business which not only produces a sustainable product, but also restores some of the country’s most important wetlands.  
Simon is the fifth generation of his family to farm at Dalefoot, near Penrith. Jane - who grew up in the Eden Valley - was a lecturer in environmental science at the University of Bradford before she met Simon and the couple began to think of ways they could go into business together. 
"I met Simon and decided I really wanted to leave academia and come to farm in the Lake District," said Jane. "We had to come up with some alternative business plans to enable me to do that and we had to combine our thinking, our practical skills and our science." 
The result was a business with two sides; Dalefoot Composts - which produces peat-free composts - and Barker and Bland, an environmental contracting company focused on peatland restoration.  
“There’s a synergy between the work that we do restoring peat bogs and the processes and the recipes that we use for making a growing medium,” said Simon. 
A keen gardener, Jane recognised there would be a movement towards reducing the amount of peat in compost. As well as being a significant component for compost, peat also takes many thousands of years to form as part of bogs and wetlands. It is the Earth’s most valuable soil carbon store.  
Awareness of its value as a habitat and in absorbing carbon has led the UK government to ban the use of peat among amateur gardeners by 2024, as well as to pledge to restore 35,000 hectares of peatland by 2025. Jane and Simon were well ahead of this curve 25 years ago, when they began developing the idea of harvesting potassium rich bracken from the farm to turn it into compost.  
Since they started Dalefoot Composts, they have also begun producing compost made with comfrey, as well as compost containing sheep’s wool, which offers benefits such as the slow release of nitrogen and increased water retention. Barker and Bland works as a specialist contractor restoring peat bogs all over the UK, either tendering for government-funded initiatives or carrying out work for landowners. To date it has stopped the release of 4.3 million tonnes of carbon.