National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

09 November 2017

Long-term investment in conservation agriculture will benefit associated industries and the wider public, concluded leading experts, young farmers and conservationists at a Future Wildlife, Future Farming event at The Game and Wildlife Trust’s Allerton Project in November.

The event, organised by NFYFC and A Focus on Nature and supported by Defra, was aimed at bringing young farmers and young conservationists together to share good practice and talk about future sustainability and productivity. Discussions will help to feed into next year’s consultation on a future agriculture policy.

Young farmers and conservationists travelled from far and wide to talk, walk and learn, exchange ideas and bring misconceptions and hot topics to the fore.

Delegates to the free event got to see how integrated farming, wildlife, woodland, and game conservation can work and heard from leading experts Jim Egan from the Game and Wildlife Trust and policy adviser and farmer Ed Barker.

Ed debated the issue of large scale farms being easier to administer; from quantifying production results, efficiency and buying power to government schemes’ administration, and asked the question, “should society accept that big is better just because of convenience?” 

Other notable questions that were raised included: ‘Do farmers do enough to explain their part in maintaining the environment whilst producing food’ and ‘Can farm cluster groups help to change a long overdue business and environmental culture?’

A farm visit provided an opportunity to discuss different land management practices and start the conversation for what happens in the future. 

Young farmers Emily Norton and David Goodwin talked about developing and expanding farm businesses and their aim to integrate good practice messages to retailers and consumers –  a remit championed by LEAF and highlighted during the annual Open Farm Sunday events. 

One of the key issues for Emily was how the integrated systems that support the environment and food production on small mixed UK farms can be recreated on intensive, single enterprise units.

Emily said: “Broader farm-scale and landscape scale projects allow environmental resilience and year-round dependability. There are multiple reasons why mixed farming is a good management option, from building soil organic matter to diversifying risk, and its environmental contribution could be recognised more.

“It was fascinating discussing these issues with young conservationists, because they can be highly wedded to the idea of public money for the work that they are doing - even more so than some farmers! Challenging them to think of alternative ways of financing their work in a CAP-free future is a necessary and useful resilience-building exercise. Their expertise is crucial and vital to challenge the status quo and champion the needs of the overlooked.”

The event prompted ongoing discussion on social media about the farmed environment and the opportunities it can provide for a variety of associated industries. Members can continue the conversation using #farmenviro30 on social media and future collaborative work is being planned.

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