Guest post from Georgie Bray

The RSPB has seen four different farm managers since purchasing Hope Farm back in the Autumn of 1999. Each manager has brought something new to the role, and the most recent, Ian Dillon, has worked hard here for 6 years. Last month came the time for him to leave for pastures new, and a time to recall the changes he has overseen here. It also means a time for me to introduce myself as the new farm manager.

Under Ian’s management, he has seen some significant changes in farming, both here and in the wider landscape. Spring cropping was viewed as an impossible task on these heavy soils only a few years ago, but has since become a necessity to deal with ever-increasing aggressive weed issues at Hope Farm and in the rest of East Anglia – consequently skylarks are probably having a hoot. A change in approach to how we work the soil has also led to changes in machinery, disturbing that underground ecosystem less and less to preserve soil structure and resilience for harvests to come. This also means more worms in our soils and on other farms taking a similar approach - that makes more food for insectivorous birds.

Many other changes have happened at Hope Farm, including the development of the research work we are doing here.

One change in the last two years was the addition of an assistant farm manager – myself. Coming into the role, Ian showed me the ropes in how this place runs which has not only vastly increased how much I know about wildlife-friendly farming, but been quite an inspiration to me. Now, I have stepped into his big farm management shoes. My role will be to continue the day to day running of the farm, liaising with our contractors about the cropping and operations here. I’ll also manage the hosting of visits to the farm, external communications, research, advocacy work, and generally looking after the place.

Ian passing on the manager's trophy. Credit: Rosemary Setchfield

I suppose it might seem interesting for some that a female Zoology master’s graduate of 2 years has managed to attain quite such a special role in the RSPB. It is worth knowing, though, that my farming career did not start when I arrived at Hope Farm. I grew up on a small 300 acre, family run farm in North Essex. That is where my love of working with the land began. It’s at Hope Farm though that I have really realised the potential to work with nature for a more biodiverse and sustainable business, but I hope that being a farmer-bred but conservation-educated person will bring something new again to the farm.

I still have a lot to learn, but given how much I have learnt both from the farmers that I get to meet whilst working here, and the staff within RSPB, I look forward to contributing more and more in my time here at Hope Farm.

If you would like to come over to the farm, or find out a bit more about this place, it would be great to hear from you. Just drop me an email at georgina.bray@rspb.org.uk .

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