May and June is our busiest time of year in terms of visitors and events that Hope Farm. We are yet to take a visitor on a walk since May without the sun beating down upon us, which could be both a positive and a negative. As a positive, in true British style, anybody coming along is pleased to make the most of any warmth outside as you never know if another 3 months of rain is hiding around the corner, but as a negative the visitors’ attention is perhaps harder to maintain with warm weather lending itself to a siesta rather than brain-engaging conversation. Despite this we have had a fantastic few months, sharing what we do and importantly learning from what many people have tried on their land as well.
In May we had a Fair to Nature training day, with 35 NSF auditors and farmers coming to top up their training as part of their membership, and to see what we do for wildlife on the farm. Fair to Nature is an accreditation scheme that rigorously ensures any farmer with this label on their produce puts land aside to look after nature on their farm. It was great to meet likeminded farmers, share a lot of knowledge from both sides, but also speak about the difficulties we have experienced during this late, wet spring and very dry summer, like every other farmer.
Fair to Nature Auditors and Farmer members in a turtle dove plot, hearing about our work to provide summer breeding habitats
Following the Fair to Nature training, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust came to look at how we manage the farm for wildlife with the company of Nicholas Watts. This proved to be another fruitful event for knowledge exchange and building up important relationships across organisations, and it is always to speak with people who came and saw the farm a few years ago, who have noticed the progress Hope Farm has made since their previous visit. Finally, we welcomed a group of farmers from across East Anglia to the farm. This was a diverse group from those of varying soil types, stages in their career, and aspirations for what species they wanted to conserve on their farm. A walk around to discuss our integrated pest management system, showing them the insects on the farm that we try to promote to help control aphid and other insect pest densities in our crop, followed by a well earnt lunch served as the perfect platform for engaging discussions about sustainably farming for wildlife.
Farmers from across East Anglia discussing the benefits of wildflower corridors through fields as part of an Integrated Pest Management system.
Aside from our LEAF Open Farm Sunday event on the second Sunday of June, we have been making the most of the sun with yet more visitors having a look at what we do for wildlife in agriculture. SEO Birdlife are working to conserve farmland birds, and in the Aragon region of Spain a 1000 hectare farm is demonstrating wildlife friendly farming to encourage others to do the same. It was very useful for both us and our visitors to compare notes of achieving similar goals in very different landscapes and cultures. More recently, the National Trust also joined us to see investigate higher nature status farming, and what it means to us.
Having visitors to the farm is a big part of our work as a demonstration of wildlife friendly farming. By opening the doors to anybody interested in our work and looking to see how they can use some of our methods to improve wildlife on their own land, we can fulfil one of main aims – to help create many more wildlife friendly farms in the wider landscape.