Having contributed when Hope Farm was set up, I've paid attention to progress over the years. I'm very pleased that Hope Farm has been profitable while supporting wildlife, (in some years it looks like it would even have been profitable without subsidies!). Given that it is so successful, are there any plans to expand the Hope Farm project? Other types of farm in different parts of the country would be valuable as examples for different farming environments. Also in the long term, the more land that is managed for wildlife the better. Over a period of decades and centuries, it could even be as important for wildlife as RSPB reserves, and if profitable, an important source of income for the RSPB.
Another long term consideration is that subsidies from the CAP may fade away over time. If politicians do not prioritise wildlife on our farms because of austerity, at least farmland managed by the RSPB would be safer.
Martin, thank you so much for being a Hope Farm hero - the farm has been absolutely invaluable in developing a deeper understanding of the day to day practicalities, and also in our relationship with other farmers. Currently we do not have any plans to expand the project per se - it is of interest, and will continue to get reviewed at intervals, but there are always choices to be made, particularly with such a significant investment.
That does not mean that we aren't working across other farming systems though. We use farming methods on many of our reserves as part of our conservation management, and we work with thousands of farmers across the UK. Farmland is absolutely vital, and encouraging/helping more farmers to do more for wildlife is key to the future health of our countryside.
We also need everyone to help us fight to protect the bits of CAP that deliver for wildlife. Farmers don't get rewarded by the market for protecting wildlife, and there are costs involved. We've heard a lot just this year about the cost of producing some food outweighing what a farmer might get paid (e.g. milk) - these farmers won't be able to support wildlife without getting funded. The next big decision time about CAP will be sometime next year - February at the earliest, though the timetable might slip. Watch out for news on this from us - in these tough economic times, we need everyone's help, more than ever.