Farm row Students start petition to block sale of university space
STUDENTS at the Royal Agricultural University have started a petition to try and halt the imminent sale of its 622 acre farm.
The Harnhill site, an integrated livestock and cropping system, looks set to go following a review of the institution’s farming operations.
Part of the land is managed organically and is associated with a 120-sow outdoor organic pig herd.
This is managed as a joint venture with a local business partner.
Students fear the decision will deprive them of first hand experience, but the university says it has several other farms that are used.
One person said on the petition page: “This is vital for students to learn and progress their farming careers, as well as keeping farming going to make our country have a sustainable source of food.”
While another believes it is a ‘grave mistake.’ A third added: “I am not convinced about the sale.is this really a sensible thing to do?”
A Lleynewe breeding flock is kept under a conventional farming system together with a calf rearing enterprise, the university’s website says.
Arable cropping is rotated with forage crops, grown to support the livestock and to facilitate an effective rotation to underpin the management of a mixed farming system.
The university has also taken over the tenancy of a vineyard, producing
white wine to be bottled and marketed commercially.
The farm is set to be sold towards the end of the month and it is understood there will be no redundancies resulting from it.
The small number of are to be redeployed to the other farms and related activities across the university.
Professor Mike Gooding, head of school for agriculture, food and the environment, said: “As part of its commitment to continuously enhance the learning experience for RAU students, the University has reviewed the role of its farming operations in the delivery of teaching, research and knowledge exchange.
“We have decided to focus our onsite teaching activities at Coates Farm, next to the university. In addition, we continue to develop strategic partnerships with local and regional farming enterprises, providing our students with an enhanced range of up to date best practice farming operations offsite.
“Only a small proportion of land at Harnhill is currently used for teaching and research - and the farm is not easily accessible from the main University campus.
“As a result, we are now in the process of offering this site for sale, whilst retaining the Rural Innovation Centre and Farm491 Agri-tech Hub located at Harnhill.
“This approach, fully supported by the University’s Governing Council, underpins the opportunities which will become available as the RAU develops its academic strategy, aimed at satisfying the current and future needs of the food and farming industry.”
Only a small proportion of land at Harnhill is currently used for teaching and research and the farm is not easily accessible
Professor Mike Gooding
The Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester