August, 2013

Farming

Farming
Welcome to this group for all farmers and anyone with an interest in farming. Read our blog to see how we're working with farmers and to find out where you can meet us at events.

Farming

Find out more about how we're working with farmers and others to provide space for farmland nature in the landscape. Join in the discussion on farming issues and share tips for wildlife-friendly farming.
  • Nature of Farming Award - A fine crop of highly commended farms for the Northern England Region

    Guest blog by our Northern England Advisory team

    On our recent visits the Northern England Judging Team were very pleased to award High Commendations to three entrants:

    Southburn is just one of 11 farms owned/managed by JSR Farms Ltd. JSR Farms was founded in 1958 and are now one of the largest family owned farming companies in the UK, farming around 3,600 hectares. Keeping the environmental balance in credit features strongly within the JSR ethos.  Under the careful management of Philip Huxtable (one of the JSR directors), Mark Richardson (Conservation Manager) and advised by Alison Clayton (a freelance agronomist), JSR are committed to demonstrating their understanding of conservation and benefits for wildlife.  Mark is employed full time to deliver the conservation management programme on the farm.  Mark is enthusiastic and pro-active regarding seeking the best outcomes and increasing the amount of land in conservation management. A wide range of beneficial measures for wildlife have been created and are managed on the farm.  These include over-wintered stubbles; wild bird and pollen and nectar mixes; floristically enhanced field margins and corners; fallows and hedges and woodland coppice, glades and rides with areas of open scrub and un-grazed grassland.  This year Southburn has been a participant in RSPB’s Yorkshire Wolds & Coast conservation monitoring programme and results have shown the presence of nine (out of ten) target species, including Corn bunting.

    Left to right – Philip Huxtable, Alison Clayton, Mark Richardson

    Hunting Hall Farm is a 112 hectare mixed farm in North Northumberland owned by Tom and Karen Burn, who have been passionately and enthusiastically working on many conservation projects on the farm over the past 25 years.  William and James Douglas began a farm tenancy at Hunting Hall in 2001 and grow commercial combinable crops.  The Burns and Douglas’ work in partnership to manage the land both for wildlife and crop production and hope to show that it is possible to farm commercially whilst creating a haven for wildlife. 

    There are a wide range of habitats at Hunting Hall which are managed for maximum benefit to wildlife.  Measures undertaken on arable land include wild bird seed mix, pollen and nectar mixes, over-wintered stubble, grass margins and hedge management. Pasture is managed with restricted grazing and a no grazing policy in some areas has allowed them to become completely natural. Willow planting and replanting of mature trees is undertaken along the water course.  Woodlands and a community orchard have been created with a mix of native tree species and heritage fruit breeds.   A couple of ponds and a recent wader scrape have increased the wetland habitat on the farm. 

    A recent, extensive wildlife survey of the farm by volunteer, Roger Manning, revealed an impressive list of birds, plants, invertebrates and mammals.  One of the species to have benefited from the conservation work undertaken at Hunting Hall is Tree sparrow, which was once absent but now has a breeding population on the farm.

    Notably, HLS agreement has allowed the Burns to increase their extensive educational access programme with the conversion of a former barn into an impressive education centre – which benefits a host of local groups and schools.

    Karen and Tom Burn (left), with Christina Taylor one of the RSPB NOFA Judges

    Castletown Estate sits in a spectacular location overlooking the Cumbrian Coast between the rivers Esk and Eden.  1740 hectares in total of mixed farm, the estate includes over 1000 hectares of Rockcliffe Salt Marsh. The marsh is designated SSSI and is sympathetically managed to encourage migratory, breeding and overwintering birds (the marsh hosts a large number of over-wintering Barnacle geese) and saltmarsh plants.

    Under the management of Giles Mounsey-Heysham (Estate Owner) and James Marshall (Farm and Estate Manager) habitats created include areas of lowland heath, reed bed, new wetland and woodland grazing. Environmental options undertaken on the arable farmland include wild bird mix and over-wintered stubbles.  Giles and James have worked hard to create a new saline lagoon, complete with shingle islands, which will act as a transitional habitat between the estuary and inland farmland.  The lagoon has a very impressive predator proof fence to prevent mammalian predators accessing the breeding birds which include little ringed plover, redshank, lapwing and oystercatcher.

    James Marshall and Giles Mounsey- Heysham

    The above are just a fraction of the fantastic nature friendly farmers that we have in Northern England, all working hard to enhance the farmed habitat for the benefit of wildlife whilst running successful farming businesses.  We have been privileged to have been able to see this first hand.

    Don't forget - to read about our fabulous finalist Richard Bramley - and vote for him - see here

    Chris Tomson – Conservation Adviser (Yorkshire Wolds and Coast)

    Janet Fairclough - North East Farmland Bird Adviser

    Christina Taylor - Conservation Monitoring Officer

  • A secure future?

    If you saw the front page of the Telegraph yesterday, you will have seen an article about food security in Britain, due to 'failing self sufficiency'.  The article makes pretty scary reading.  

    But food security is not only about how much we produce.  The world as a whole currently produces enough food for everyone. Billions of people are nevertheless hungry because they cannot afford to buy food, or food supply chains fail to reach them. Increasing total food production is therefore not the immediate priority to improve the global food security situation: the issues to address are political, social and economic.

    In the UK it makes sense for us to have a broad supply base – sourcing our food from different places rather than relying solely on domestic production means we have a more resilient food supply.  And some things we’ll never be able to grow here – coffee, chocolate, bananas.  And for the things we do grow here, we need to make sure we are growing them sustainably – it’s no good maximising production now if that means exhausting the soils and destroying the environment so that our ability to grow food is reduced in future.

    So food security goes way beyond growing enough food (you can read more about the complex situation on this blog), but whilst I do not entirely agree with the article in the Telegraph, I do whole heartedly agree with two really really important points they made:

    1. We do need to get more from less.  Farmland is much more than a 'food factory'.  It plays an important role in protecting our precious water resources, storing carbon, adapting to climate change, and of course is a vital home for wildlife.  Earlier this year the landmark State of Nature report showed how much of our wildlife is declining, and needs more help.  So we need to get more wildlife ‘production’ out of our farmland, alongside effective food production.
    2. As consumers we should support our farmers through our shopping baskets.  A thriving rural economy is a pre-requisite for a healthy countryside.  So supporting UK farmers where we can is an important way to help that.  Ideally, we want to encourage consumers to make choices that support farmers doing the most for wildlife.  It is often hard to make a well-informed decision about that, but a good place to start is to look for marques such as Conservation Grade and Soil Association.

    Another easy way to show your support for wildlife-friendly farmers is to vote in the Nature of Farming Award, our annual celebration of all farmers who give nature a home on their land.  Voting is open until 31st August – so click here to vote today.

    Image courtesy of www.sxc.hu

  • Nature of Farming Award - Northern England Regional Winner, Richard Bramley – giving farm wildlife a home and growing beds!

    Guest blog by our Northern England Advisory team


    In order to determine who was to be the Northern England Regional winner, we spent a very enjoyable few days out judging the impressive shortlist of entrants for this year’s RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award, which seeks to find Britain’s most wildlife friendly farmers.  It was a very close decision but we were all agreed that our winner should be Richard Bramley. 

    Richard farms Manor Farm in Kelfield, Yorkshire which is a family-owned 200 hectare arable enterprise adjacent to the flood prone River Ouse. Richard has had a very challenging year, losing a lot of un-harvested crops to the two unprecedented flood events last year.  He also manages a 120 hectare unique “fibre farm” owned by Leeds bed manufacturer Harrison Spinks, which supplies beds for the John Lewis Partnership natural range. Sitting alongside the River Wharfe, the farm produces hemp, wool and cereals and is in a HLS agreement that was set up by Richard with arable options and wet grassland.

    Richard is a well-respected, influential farmer and passionate conservationist.  He gives the same attention to detail to his conservation work as he does to his commercial crops (which include potatoes destined for Walkers Crisps as well as cereals and sugar beet) and both benefit because of his informed and practical approach.  Through planting seed crops, wild flower seeds, nectar rich plants and enhancing the wetter areas of the land he farms, Richard’s conservation work has delivered an increased number of farmland birds (both in species diversity and abundance) in addition to boosting numbers of insects, wild flowers and a host of other wildlife.  RSPB surveys have shown the presence of a number of bird species of conservation concern (including Corn bunting) - many of them at high density.

    Of particular note is the presence of Tansy flower along the river banks at Manor Farm. This area used to be cut for silage but Richard now leaves it uncut to preserve this late-flowering plant. The Tansy beetle was once widespread but now restricted to approximately 30 km of the banks of the River Ouse. It feeds almost exclusively on tansy so maintaining these plants is therefore an essential element in conserving the Tansy beetle.

    Richard is extremely dedicated to promoting conservation to others through his chairing of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment in East Yorkshire, (he is also one of a number of Beacon farmers for the CFE) and as an office holder in the NFU.  He is also a member of LEAF and regularly invites students from York University to the farm.

    Richard says ‘fitting food production alongside environmental and habitat enhancement is something which I am convinced is an essential part of modern day farming’

    Richard has now entered the final round of competition in the Nature of Farming Award and you can vote for him by visiting www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote.

    Chris Tomson – Conservation Adviser (Yorkshire Wolds and Coast)

    Janet Fairclough - North East Farmland Bird Adviser

    Christina Taylor - Conservation Monitoring Officer