Blog by Georgina Bray, Hope Farm
Hope Farm has been a showcase of current times in agriculture this March. Skylarks and yellowhammers are singing, and lapwings displaying a sure sign that spring is here. To accompany the reassuringly repetitive changes of the seasons, the important and long-lasting decisions are being made with regards to changing policy. As a consequence, we have hosted key political players from DEFRA, using Hope Farm as an exemplar discussion point for a new lowland agricultural policy.
With the publication of DEFRA’s command paper on the future of food, farming and the environment post-Brexit, Hope Farm has hosted two key teams from Defra: the Environmental Land Management team, led by Gavin Ross, and the Permanent Secretary, Claire Moriarty, and her team.
Farm Manager, Ian Dillon, explains how we manage our farm for wildlife with Claire Moriarty. Credit: Abi Bunker
Claire Moriarty and her team were keen to look at Hope Farm as a model for implementing policy that could replicate our kind of management across the country, to stop the decline in farmland birds and improve sustainable farming practices. As well as showing how we have achieved such a diversity and abundance birds on the farm, we were able to host a meeting between a representative group from the Nature Friendly Farmers Network and the permanent secretary. This meeting provided a unique opportunity to explain the issues that farmers have had, first-hand with current policy, and discuss new and better ideas for the future that will lead to a greater uptake of wildlife friendly and sustainable farming, long-term.
Claire Moriarty, Permanent Secretary of DEFRA, stands with representative farmers from the network, after a productive meeting to discuss future farming policy. Credit: Georgie Bray
During the Environmental Land Management team visit, we were able to provide advice on how future farming policy may be designed, and what considerations should be made to efficiently and effectively serve wildlife, farmers, and the public whom are paying for these services on agricultural land. We showed them around the farm and explained what careful considerations will need to be thought through to ensure that farmers provide public goods with good value for public money.
Having key governmental players visit the farm is fundamental whilst we prepare to leave the European Union. Brexit has provided both opportunity and risk, where policy can be rewritten for better or worse for both farmer and nature. In keeping a discussion going with the people putting pen to paper, between us and farmers, we can hope to ensure a good deal for everybody who will be affected by the future of farming.
Matterley is a 2400 acre mixed farm with 200 dairy cattle and 1100 acres of arable including wheat, barley and oilseed rape. The farm has been in Higher Level Stewardship since 2014, and forms part of the Winchester Downs Farm Cluster group. Recently a decision was made to create a butterfly scrape to establish a breeding area for native Lepidoptera on the farm, including the small blue butterfly and the striped lychnis moth.
Find out more about how the scrapes have been created, and how they will be managed, in this new case study on Farm Wildlife
Farm Wildlife has been developed to provide best practice guidance on how to help wildlife on farmland, provided by a partnership of some of the UK’s leading conservation organisations, including Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts.