Prince Charles helps unite farmers
Prince Charles is giving the opening address by video at a conference to discuss an innovative scheme to get farmers working together to improve the environment.
Organised by the GWCT, the first Farmer Cluster conference is being held on 12 October at the Royal Geographical Society.
Speakers from Natural England, GWCT, the Wildlife Trusts and RSPB will be addressing delegates. Farmers from Hampshire and Suffolk will be giving first-hand accounts of the benefits of setting up a cluster.
The concept was devised in response to
Sir John Lawton’s 2011 report Making Even More Space for Nature, which called for conservation to be bigger and more joined up.
Developed jointly by Natural England and the GWCT, the idea was piloted in 2013 mainly through farmers in the GWCT’S grey partridge count scheme. A survey of the farmers in the pilot showed all of them felt the “Cluster format” should become
“an important way forward in the future delivery of the conservation of soil, water and biodiversity”.
There are now 49 farmer cluster groups set up involving 981 farmers. These cover a staggering 210,404 hectares (519,697 acres). In addition, there are 12 flood alleviation farmer groups set up mainly in the north of England. In Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage has said it is considering supporting farmer clusters there, too.
Most groups, as recommended by the GWCT, have someone to oversee activities. This is funded by the Government’s Countryside Stewardship Facilitation Fund worth £7.2m, but there are a few groups who prefer to be self-funded.
For tickets to the conference (priced £45) contact Lynn Field on 01425 651025 or visit www.gwct.org.uk.