Sunday, 29 September 2013

Listen up everyone - farmers ARE doing their bit for wildlife!

Hertfordshire farmer Barbara Sapsed in her "wildlife crop!"

Suffolk farmer, Steve Honeywood - doing so much for wildlife
Last week I was working in the Eastern counties – in Suffolk and Hertfordshire to be precise – doing farm based assessments for ConservationGrade (CG). Farmers who grow crops for CG have to have a minimum of 10% of the farm in wildlife habitats, such as flower rich areas which provide pollen and nectar or wildlife seed mixes which produce lots of different seeds for over-wintering birds to feed on. I check that they are indeed meeting the CG requirements and also give advice, were necessary, on how to improve what they are doing.
When I give talks to the general public – in other words not a farmer based audience – I often ask them “what percentage of farmers do you think are in a voluntary Government Stewardship scheme, which funds them to manage and provide habitats for wildlife?” The usual answers I get range from around 10 – 20%. The actual answer is over 70%.  
What is more, on the farms that have decided not to go into one of these Stewardship schemes, (often because they want to do things their own way – without Government rules and regulations) it certainly does not mean that they are devoid of wildlife habitats. There is often plenty to see such as grass buffer strips along water courses, over-wintering stubbles and game cover crops.

OK, Conservation Grade farmers tend to be amongst the very best in the country at growing crops, not only for us to eat, but for a wide range of wildlife too. But we really have to begin to shout more loudly about the vast majority of farmers out there who are playing their part in managing the countryside for much more than just food production.  Sure, there is still more to be done to really turn around the fortunes of certain farmland species with are still declining, but the public perception that very little is happening on farms, is way off the mark.

PS. Steve also has a thriving horse feed business which is accredited by Conservation Grade! Use this link to also see his on the farm page as it will give you some idea just how much he is doing!             

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