Mark Varney, Head of Fair to Nature on the importance of restoring nature as part of a productive farming system, and the benefits of joining Fair to Nature.

As a nation, over recent years, we’ve seen policy-driven changes in agriculture cause the disappearance of half our native farmland wildlife and witnessed the ecosystems we all depend on come under threat. Now we have the opportunity to reverse that trend.

Nature-friendly farming is a small, but growing niche and it has never been more urgent for an evidence-based Standard to restore biodiversity on farmland. Please join the groundswell of nature-friendly farmers.

The loss of nature in Britain is visible and worrying. In our lifetimes, almost half our farmland birds, mammals, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates have disappeared, along with 97% of our wildflower meadows and half a million ponds. The consequences of this wildlife decline go beyond simply the loss of nature.

The UK Government’s Food Security Report 2021 highlighted that biodiversity is crucial to food production and that we must find ways to reverse declines. In his National Food Strategy recommendations, Henry Dimbleby highlighted both the threats to and the importance of nature and wildlife to our food system and urged the government to set a legally binding target to halt biodiversity loss in England by 2030. It really is the case that without nature there is no food. In England the Government is now consulting on targets to reverse species declines. 

Species rich pasture on a Fair to Nature farm in Norfolk. Image (c) Brin Hughes

Reversing the decline

Many farmers work incredibly hard to grow food and run profitable businesses while at the same time caring about the environment. But there is a growing understanding that we need to change how we farm over the next few years if we are to reverse these declines in wildlife, and in doing so protect the very infrastructure on which growing our food is reliant. The Fair to Nature scheme is a tool which can help farmers deliver these changes.

Run by the UK’s largest wildlife and conservation charity, Fair to Nature is the only UK certification scheme with a focus on biodiversity and a proven approach to restoring the balance of nature alongside productive farming.

The Fair to Nature Standard is designed to deliver the highest level of biodiversity. Fair to Nature farmers dedicate at least 10% of their farmed land, including areas difficult to farm productively, to a range of high-quality habitats, which, in combination, have been scientifically proven to reverse wildlife declines, whilst managing their soils and inputs in more sustainable ways that are supportive of nature.

Working with the Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN), our partners at Farm Wildlife and with farmers like you, the Fair to Nature Standard has recently been updated and extended. Fair to Nature began as an arable initiative and can now be used across the wider UK farming sector. It now covers conventional and organic systems and can be applied on all farm types: livestock, dairy, cereals, mixed cropping, horticultural and many more.

By supporting nature and increasing biodiversity on your farm, you can reap the benefits of the scheme, with increased pollinator numbers, reduced need for chemicals and improvements in the quality of your soil. Several recent initiatives have shown that nature friendly farming can be beneficial for your business as well as for wildlife.

Small Skipper butterfly on ripe wheat ear. Image (c) S Abbott (RSPB)

How can Fair to Nature support farmers in their work?

Every farm joining Fair to Nature receives a visit by and advice from an expert advisor on how to best implement the Fair to Nature standard on their farm. Each farm is provided with a bespoke Farm Plan, to help members deliver the optimum habitats for wildlife. Conservation advice for our farmer members is ongoing, through newsletters, training events, farm visits, and contact with the Fair to Nature team.

Fair to Nature is currently in discussions with several food businesses about launching more certified products and we plan to recruit many more over coming months and years. Over the next few years it is our ambition that the Fair to Nature logo becomes a recognised and trusted symbol showing that the farmers within a certified product’s supply chain are helping nature to thrive.

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can support wildlife on your farm whilst strengthening the resilience of your farm environment, then please do contact us at fairtonature@rspb.org.uk or on 07525 805219.

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