It is fascinating to hear from farmers themselves about why they are interested in biodiversity. The farmer case studies are adapted form the CPRE/NFU publication Living Landscapes.
Thanks to Colin Lizius for the use of his photographs.
Case Study 1.
Steve farms around 138 hectares in Bedfordshire growing milling wheat, oilseed rape, pulses and barley.
Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme he has been paid for environmental improvements such as planting 20 hectares of new woodland and 2 kilometres of new hedgerow. The Entry Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme is funding farming practices he has always carried out, such as leaving over-wintered stubble in fields to provide cover and food for birds.
“My attitude to farming is to always look at the impact on the environment of any field operation. What is the least we can do to establish a crop? “
Hedges are only cut once every five years to provide cover and food for small mammals and birds, and the wildlife-friendly grass margins around fields are wider than required for payment under the stewardship schemes”
“We are always open to new ideas to encourage birds and farmland biodiversity, but we also have to try and make a profit. A lot of what we have done voluntarily in the past we are now getting money for and I am pleased farmers are getting some recognition and reward. Managing the countryside is a job in itself and it should be profitable.”
Case Study 2.
Tom farms 28 hectares in Worcestershire and a further 101 hectares in partnership with his parents. He produces sugar beet, salad onions, dwarf beans, barley and wheat.
His father began planting trees around his farm 50 years ago – sparking Tom’s interest in conservation issues.
“I keep careful records of rotation with minimum periods between crops, choose varieties with disease resistance and use thresholds for pest control. River meadows are alternatively grazed with sheep and cattle to prevent parasite build up.”
“Wildlife that can be found here includes a wide variety of birds with barn owls a recent addition. “
“I am now planning to create a reed bed system, which will restore an old pond and help reduce pollution and encourage more wildlife to the farm.”
Case Study 3.
John is a tenant farmer in Yorkshire. His 324-hectare farm is mainly arable, although he has increased the size of his flock of sheep over recent years to around 300.
“I believe that all farmers should put a little more back into their farms than they take out, it’s a good motto.”
“When drilling fields I often leave a bald patch as this encourages skylarks and if I am aware that curlew are nesting in a particular field I will allow time for nature to take its course.”
“I’ve also set parsley along some of the boundary strips and this has also encouraged a growth in the numbers of brown hare seen on the farm.”
“The maintenance of hedges on the farm can also make real demands on time. One hedge had been cut back so severely that it took 10 years of careful management for it to come back. I have planted more than one mile of new hedge, introducing between 2,000 and 3,000 new plants.”