Farm row Stu­dents start pe­ti­tion to block sale of univer­sity space

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Melissa JONES [email protected]­

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 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

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