Post by Georgie Bray, Hope Farm manager

For the last two decades, one mission for Hope Farm has been to develop a hub of knowledge sharing on wildlife-friendly farming. As we were unable to celebrate our 20 year milestone in the traditional way, we launched a series of webinars to do just that.

Over the last few months, we have looked at the following topics and the key ways that they might be achieved:

  • habitat management inside and outside of the cropped area on farmland
  • management of soils
  • cover crops
  • pollinator services
  • removal (or at least reduction) of insecticides

Skylark plots at Hope Farm. Image: Andy Hay (RSPB-images.com)

Sharing expertise

None of these are lessons learnt exclusively at Hope Farm. To the contrary, we have reached out to some of the experts we have learnt from at Hope Farm, and asked them to share their expertise through these webinars.

Throughout the series we have welcomed audiences ranging in numbers from the high 80s to over 200 people, with positive feedback, and buzzing Q&A sessions too. Recordings of each session will be available here, and written summaries of each webinar will be posted on the blog.

Thank you

A huge thanks for this webinar series goes to the departments across the RSPB, and other organisations who have worked with us over the last 20 years at Hope Farm. It is only with their assistance that these webinars have been as successful as we could have hoped. Staff from Butterfly Conservation, Oakbank Seeds, Agrii, UK CEH, NFFN, Ely Nature Friendly Farmer Zone Farmers, National Trust, Fair to Nature, RSPB Con Sci, Policy and RSPB agricultural and conservation advisors, all made the webinar series a fantastic thing to be a part of.

With this success, we are already working on plans for a new, shorter series to keep the ball rolling on sharing lessons learnt at Hope Farm and further afield.

Image: Fabian Harrison (rspb-images.com)

Catch up on the webinars

If you would like to catch up on the webinar series, here are a few links to get you going:

Webinar 1: A Plan for Wildlife Friendly Farming in High Productivity Farmland?

This webinar featured talks that helped to explain how pockets of farmland may be improved to work for wildlife, butterfly species, and how this may be marketed via Fair to Nature. Talks came from the Richard Winspear, Head of Agricultural Advice at the RSPB, Chris Corrigan, Policy Co-ordinator for Butterfly Conservation and Shelley Abbot, Facilitator for the Fair to Nature scheme. Martin Lines, UK Nature Friendly Farming Network Chair and Hope Farm contractor, joined for the Q&A session.

Webinar recording

Blog

Webinar 2: Soils, Cover Crops, and Biodiversity

This webinar explored the topic of soil health and cover crops, and how improving soil health and growing these crops may not just improve the business sustainability, but the farmland habitat for wildlife too. This evening featured some captivating talks from the Rob Field, Senior Conservation Scientist at RSPB, Steve Corbett, East of England trials manager from Agrii, and Ian Gould, Director of Oakbank Game and Conservation.

Webinar recording

Blog

Webinar 3: Ecological Intensification

This webinar explored some key ways that nature may be harnessed, not only to enrich our countryside, but to help us grow crops as well. At Hope Farm, we are participating in the ASSIST program’s on farm trial, that looks at how the focus on soil health and provision of pollinator services may help to restore diversity and grow crops. Ben Woodcock, one of the lead scientists on the program from UK CEH provided a summary of how different species may interact in this system. Hope Farm Manager, Georgie Bray, then provided a practical farm-based account of how this stacks up with farm finances. The webinar was chaired by Richard Winspear, who also participated in the Q&A.

Webinar recording

Webinar 4: Insecticide-free Farming

Farmer Martin Lines and Callum Weir, Farm Manager at the National Trust's organic farm at Wimpole shared lessons learnt on their farms with regards to insecticide-free and organic farming in East Anglia. Martin and Callum were later joined by Steph Morren, Policy Officer at the RSPB with a focus on pesticides, and Tom Clarke, a fenland farmer exploring ways to grow sugar beet without neonicotinoids

Webinar recording

Webinar 5: Future Funding for Wildlife-friendly Farming

For this webinar, Alice Groom, Senior Policy Officer at the RSPB; Martin Lines NFFN Chair and Hope Farm Contractor, and Chris Price, CEO of the Rare breeds Survival Trust, joined Georgie Bray for the final webinar in the series. Together, the aims of the evening were to provide both an overview on directions of agriculture policy, and an on-ground perspective on what this means too both with arable and livestock farming systems, with respect to running a sustainable business in years to come.

Webinar recording

Anonymous