Warwickshire farmers boost nature’s recovery
Local farm wildlife plans help cereal growers devote 30% of land to nature, Ann Evans reports.
A group of farmers in Warwickshire are leading the way, proving that it is possible to help nature recover and make a profit. A new report from The Wildlife Trusts shows how locally tailor-made farm wildlife plans devised by Wildlife Trust advisors with each farmer, are helping wildlife recover.
In 2018, farmers that grew oats for Jordans cereals farmed over 2,183 hectares, providing over 650 hectares for wildlife across Warwickshire. Birds such as linnets, butterflies like the silver-washed fritillary, and brown hares are returning to farms in the Jordans Farm Partnership; nature is thriving in their hedgerows, field margins and ponds, creating vital corridors to enable wild animals to spread out and move through the landscape.
Water as well as land is part of the farm plans. Waterways are protected by six metre buffer strips to help prevent fertilizer and pesticides from entering channels and keep freshwater habitats clean. This is good for wildlife and for people too – it means our drinking water needs less treatment.
Ian Jelley, Director of Living Landscapes at Warwickshire Wildlife Trusts says: “The Jordans Farm Partnership is one of a number of examples of how the Wildlife Trust is working with farmers to make space for nature on their land. We respect the fact that farmers need to earn a living and have been able to demonstrate through this project and our wider work that there is an alternative approach to intensive agriculture.”
He continues: “The Wildlife Trusts have worked together nationally to compile a new report which comes at a critical time for agriculture. Over the last few decades farmers have been following Government policy to maximise the production of food to feed our growing population. Intensification of agriculture is one of the factors which have contributed to the decline of our native wildlife, and we now stand at a crossroads, with an opportunity to reverse that wildlife decline if the right decisions are made.
Ian Jelley adds, “70% of Warwickshire is agricultural land and therefore we must work in partnership with the farming community to give wildlife a chance of survival and allow it to exist everywhere. The Wildlife Trusts want to see farmers properly rewarded for creating and restoring wildlife habitats. Successful farms need thriving wildlife because crops depend on pollination, natural pest control and healthy soils – all these underpin our ability to grow food into the future. If Government agricultural policy evolves to reflect a more sustainable farming future, which makes space for wildlife, whilst maintaining high quality food production then the farming community will embrace that as custodians of the countryside and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is here to support them.”
The three farms in Warwickshire are part of a wider network of Jordans cereals suppliers totalling 42 farms nationally. The Jordans Farm Partnership works with an expert advisor from their local Wildlife Trust and has a bespoke plan to support wildlife, focussing on key species and habitats which are important to the farm’s local landscape. Together the partnership is enabling bigger, better, more joined up areas for wildlife, which provide a life line to threatened native species such as the barn owl.
All Jordans Farm Partnership farms are also members of LEAF Marque, a farm assurance system which promotes food grown sustainably with care for the environment. Farms also work towards conserving and creating healthy soil.
Paul Murphy, CEO Jordans Dorset Ryvita Company says: “The Jordans brand has a long-standing commitment to nature and our work supporting conservation in the British countryside dates back over 30 years. We are immensely proud of the Jordans Farm Partnership and the positive impact it is having on much loved farm species such as owls, hares and bats. It is endlessly gratifying to see the passion and devotion our growers have shown to developing habitats and species on their farms and this report is a testament to what they have achieved.”