Blog by Georgina Bray, Hope Farm

Hope Farm has been a showcase of current times in agriculture this March. Skylarks and yellowhammers are singing, and lapwings displaying a sure sign that spring is here. To accompany the reassuringly repetitive changes of the seasons, the important and long-lasting decisions are being made with regards to changing policy. As a consequence, we have hosted key political players from DEFRA, using Hope Farm as an exemplar discussion point for a new lowland agricultural policy.

With the publication of DEFRA’s command paper on the future of food, farming and the environment post-Brexit, Hope Farm has hosted two key teams from Defra: the Environmental Land Management team, led by Gavin Ross, and the Permanent Secretary, Claire Moriarty, and her team.

Farm Manager, Ian Dillon, explains how we manage our farm for wildlife with Claire Moriarty. Credit: Abi Bunker

Claire Moriarty and her team were keen to look at Hope Farm as a model for implementing policy that could replicate our kind of management across the country, to stop the decline in farmland birds and improve sustainable farming practices. As well as showing how we have achieved such a diversity and abundance birds on the farm, we were able to host a meeting between a representative group from the Nature Friendly Farmers Network and the permanent secretary. This meeting provided a unique opportunity to explain the issues that farmers have had, first-hand with current policy, and discuss new and better ideas for the future that will lead to a greater uptake of wildlife friendly and sustainable farming, long-term.

Claire Moriarty, Permanent Secretary of DEFRA, stands with representative farmers from the network, after a productive meeting to discuss future farming policy. Credit: Georgie Bray

During the Environmental Land Management team visit, we were able to provide advice on how future farming policy may be designed, and what considerations should be made to efficiently and effectively serve wildlife, farmers, and the public whom are paying for these services on agricultural land. We showed them around the farm and explained what careful considerations will need to be thought through to ensure that farmers provide public goods with good value for public money.

Having key governmental players visit the farm is fundamental whilst we prepare to leave the European Union. Brexit has provided both opportunity and risk, where policy can be rewritten for better or worse for both farmer and nature. In keeping a discussion going with the people putting pen to paper, between us and farmers, we can hope to ensure a good deal for everybody who will be affected by the future of farming.