Guest blog by Shelley Abbott, Fair to Nature facilitator and Kevin Rylands, Fair to Nature Advisory Development Officer

Fair to Nature is about to grow and we (the Fair to Nature team) want to tell you more about it!

Gold standard

Fair to Nature is the only UK farm scheme to deliver the scale of land management wildlife requires to thrive. Set up by Bill Jordan, of Jordans Cereals fame, in 1989, and now operated by the RSPB, it is the gold standard for nature-friendly farming.

The scheme helps farmers to create and manage diverse and successful wildlife habitats on their land. We then do our best to link up those farmers up with like-minded businesses. Brands which support Fair to Nature farms can show their customers how they are supporting wildlife and create Fair to Nature certified products.

Wild bird food habitat at Allerton Trust. Image: Shelley Abbott RSPB

There are currently c14,000 hectares of Fair to Nature certified farmland in the UK and Bulgaria, delivering grain, bird seed, and other products such as lavender, rapeseed oil and horse feed. Fair to Nature began as an arable initiative and by working closely with the Nature Friendly Farming Network and others, the Fair to Nature Standard can now be used across the UK farming sector.

What are the key features of Fair to Nature?

Fair to Nature is designed to deliver the highest level of biodiversity through targeted farm habitat management. The 6 key elements advocated by the Fam Wildlife Partnership have heavily influenced the update of the Fair to Nature Standard. Our farmer members dedicate at least 10% of their farmed land (including areas difficult to farm productively) to carefully managed habitats which have been scientifically proven to reverse wildlife declines. In addition, our Fair to Nature advisers help ensure that their management is tailored to benefit priority species found on or near the farm. These habitats include:

  • All existing semi-natural habitats
  • At least4% as flower-rich habitats
  • At least 2% as seed-rich habitats
  • At least 1% as wildlife-rich boundaries & margins
  • At least one wet feature (c25m2) per 100ha
  • Other in-field habitats, such as beetle banks, skylark plots

Creating turtle dove habitat at Hope Farm. Image: Shelley Abbott RSPB

Fair to Nature can now be implemented across all farm types - livestock, dairy, cereals, mixed cropping and horticultural, both conventional and organic systems, and is designed to fit with UK agri-environment schemes. As well as providing vital space for wildlife, the updated scheme also supports regenerative agriculture practices through the inclusion of progressive farm management plans focusing on; reducing carbon emissions and increasing sequestration, water protection and efficient use, building and maintaining healthy soils, managing the type and amount of nutrient inputs, aspects of livestock husbandry and sustainable feed, and the adoption of Integrated Pest Management to minimise pesticide use.

Every element of the Fair to Nature Standard aims to enhance the farmer’s ability to work with nature, developing a sustainable environment in which to produce food and other products.

Fair to Nature in practice

Recent converts to the Fair to Nature way of farming are the lovely people at The Consumer Brand. The Consumer Brand have a unique product development model. They ask the consumer what qualities they are looking for in a product, then they set about fulfilling that wish list. The concept has proved successful in France, where The Consumer Brand’s counterpart, C’est qui le Patron, has over 16 million customers and more than 30 different products through supermarkets and retailers.

The consumer Brand - Fair to Nature plain flour

Fair to Nature and the Nature Friendly Farming Network are working with The Consumer Brand on a Fair to Nature plain flour. It’s their first foray into the UK food market and over 2000 consumers helped to develop this flour product. Respondents to their questionnaire voted for a flour that was grown on British farms with Fair to Nature standards, containing no genetically modified material, packed in FSC certified packaging, and paying a fair price to the farmers. A proportion from each sale will also be donated to the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), to support the NFFN’s work.

The Fair to Nature farmers who supply wheat to The Consumer Brand get a fair price for their crop and the security of a three-year contract.

Keen to know more?

If you want to find out more about Fair to Nature, or are interested in signing up as a farmer member, please get in touch via our contact form at www.fairtonature.org.

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