The Spring brings a welcome warmth and sunshine to the farm, and with that come the visitors. Birds have been fledging young, flowers coming into bloom, and lots of species have been heard in full song across the farm. Because it is Hope Farm, the sound of people chattering about our conservation management has often been heard this spring too.
Thank you for the Turtle Doves!
To kick off visitor season, Hope Farm hosted a thank-you event for 30 farmers from Essex, Suffolk and Kent who are supporting Operation Turtle Dove. The event was in celebration of the time, effort and enthusiasm this group have contributed to provide the right breeding habitats in the remaining Turtle Dove Friendly Zones. The day was started with a presentation by Guy Anderson on the threats facing turtle doves worldwide and an update on the research including the radio-tagging activities of the famous Titan, the first tagged turtle dove. This was followed by Andrew Holland and the Ely Nature Friendly Farming Zone, explaining how their group worked together across the fens to achieve large scale nature friendly farming. Finally, Martin Lines, the UK Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, spoke passionately about how farmers can incorporate provision of habitats into their farming practices, working with the network. Large scale conservation is vital to an improved landscape for many farmland birds, and the turtle dove is no exception, and this can only be achieved by farmers communicating and working together.
Early in the month we hosted Jackie Stroud from Rothamsted Research. Jackie was very interested in our research projects at the farm and we had the opportunity to test her ‘Farmland earthworm assessment’ method which she has designed to allow farmers to benchmark their earthworm populations. Jackie has had great success so far engaging the farming community with this method and communicating the ecological importance to earthworms to healthy soils and it was great to be part of this years ‘World Worm Week’ sampling with her.
For more information go to: http://www.wormscience.org/
We were able to use the earthworm assessment method to demonstrate a biologically healthy soil when a group of students from Anglia Ruskin University then visited the farm. The students, studying Countryside Management, were able to see the various habitat management techniques we have employed for sustainable land management, and how these methods have affected our fauna, right from earthworms and springtails all the way up to birds and bees. Explaining all that we can do for these species sparked stimulating conservation on the seed trials we have in place, the research we are currently undertaking, and the practical realities of blending farming with conservation.
Rob Field, Sophie Mott and Georgie Bray with Jackie Stroud from Rothamsted Research
#MeetTheFarmers comes to Hope Farm
Ben Eagle from his blog, Thinking Country featured us in the Meet the Farmers Podcast after spending the day here with our farm manager Georgie and touring the farm. We were able to talk about what we’ve been able to change since we took ownership back in 2000. For instance, for crop production, we have changed from a simple winter wheat, oil-seed rape rotation, to having five crops across the farm this year and a much more diverse and flexible future cropping plan. We’ve also seen changes in land management, including changes in chemical use, use of cover crops, and compost and, the addition of our countryside stewardship measures to provide for wildlife. It was great to talk about the shift in perspective from farmers and conservationists that we’ve experienced from a difficult conversation to an open and enthusiastic one, and some of the things large, or small that a farmer can begin to enhance for wildlife on their farms. The dreaded Brexit word arose but it was interesting to hear how about this as a positive opportunity for future for stewardship schemes. To listen to the full story find it here; https://thinkingcountry.com/meet-the-farmers-podcast/
Defra at the farm
Speaking of policy changes we also hosted Jonathan Baker, head of Future Farming policy coordination in Defra and his team for an informal visit. We took the team to see the research projects and trials to develop our understanding into different land management techniques, as well as the actions we have implemented in terms of stewardship schemes, and voluntary measures in order to support the increases in wildlife we have been seen. It was a great opportunity to show the RSPB as a key stakeholder in agricultural policy, to share our ideas of future farming, and to talk through some of the current challenges we face that present opportunities to do better in future agri-environment schemes.
Farmers to Hope Farm
As well as ensuring we speak with the big wigs in politics, it is important for us at Hope Farm to be a valuable source of on the ground advice for farmers. Rachael and her brother have recently taken over their family farm and were keen to start adding some wildlife measures but were unsure where to begin. Terry, an RSPB volunteer has surveyed the site, taking account of the habitats already there and the wildlife he’s found. With Terry, we considered what steps could be taken to enhance some of the existing habitats, such as wet features, woodland, and hedgerows. On a tour of Hope Farm, we were also able to demonstrate how some of the added measures, such as wildflower and pollen and nectar margins would compliment these habitats and boost invertebrate abundance which are a hugely important food source for birds in the summer. Terry is going to continue monitoring the farm so that Rachael and her family will be able to see the difference our recommended habitat management will make to the nature of her farm.
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