Maximising your Environmental Opportunities

On February 13th, the Llandovery group of The Prince’s Farm Resilience Programme had Sam Walker, a tenant of Clinton Devon Estates, speak to them about how to maximise the environmental assets available on their farms.

Sam has a 15 year farm business tenancy, for a 266 acre organic arable and beef farm on the Jurassic Coast of East Devon. He and his wife farm about 60 commercial cross bred suckler cows, with the aim of selling progeny at weaning, with the opportunity to keep a few back for herd replacements and local beef boxes. On their arable farm they grow crops including red clover, festulolium (a hybrid ryegrass), Lucerne, lupins, spring beans, spring barley, and spring and winter oats, alongside taking part in a herbal ley trial for Reading University.

Sam spoke about his top tips for maximising the environmental opportunities available for farmers. “Basically, if you’ve got anything special - and we've got a lot of quite special stuff here - there will be local experts or volunteers who are a great resource. You can monitor bird and wildlife populations, learn about local history and all the rest of it, and if you keep them onside and accommodate them where possible you're halfway there and the opportunities will be obvious.

“Only yesterday I was told that reed buntings are foraging in a stubble field I was planning to plough this week. It’s no hassle for me to leave it for two or three weeks, and not only the buntings but the birds potters appreciate it too!

“This afternoon the local metal detectorist dropped by and gave me some old coins, various farming bits and pieces and a badge from the Otterton Volunteers - a 19th century militia from the village. All these things he dug up where we were ploughing - if you let these people share a little bit of their passion with you then it be very worthwhile. Obviously, there is a balance - I am running a farming business not a theme park!

“Another top tip if you want to cash in on all the environmental benefits is to make contact with local advisers and charities - these people are not trying to catch you out, though many farmers are suspicious of inviting people in any sort of authority on to their farm. Examples here include the RSPB wardens, the South West Water Catchment Sensitive Farming Advisers, the Devon Wildlife Trust, the Westcountry Rivers Trust, the local AONB manager and probably several others I've forgotten. These people cannot only give free advice, they are also really good at getting you grants if you can get along with them!”

You can see more about how Sam farms on YouTube here.

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