Supporting sustainable farming

A number of rural organisations are working together to improve the health of the Wye River catchment through sustainable farming
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One of the CLA’s priorities has been forming relationships with other likeminded organisations so that members’ interests can be best represented. Over the years, relationships have been established across all regions in England and Wales.

Attending rural crime and council liaison meetings, as well as sitting on panels, are just a few ways in which the CLA represents members. Partnership working can have major benefits, including providing learning opportunities and sharing knowledge and perspectives.

The pooling of resources is key in improving access to information and funding streams. Farm Herefordshire is one such partnership. A collaboration between 11 organisations, its purpose is to improve the health of the Wye catchment by promoting sustainable farming.

Collective support

Those involved include the CLA, the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), the Environment Agency, Herefordshire Council, Herefordshire Meadows, Herefordshire Rural Hub, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, the NFU, Catchment Sensitive Farming, the Wye and Usk Foundation, and the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It was exciting to be involved with a forward-thinking collective of organisations that were looking to promote best practice that would result in beneficial outcomes for the farming community and environment

Former CLA Midlands Regional Director Mark Riches has been involved in the partnership from the beginning

The River Wye, which runs through the heart of Herefordshire and is a European Special Area of Conservation, provides a vital habitat for fish and wildlife.

Like many counties, Herefordshire faces challenges concerning river pollution levels. All sectors, including farming, need to reduce their impact to protect the quality of our watercourses.

There is also the cross-border issue of pollution, and Farm Herefordshire works closely with colleagues in Wales to try and combat this.

Cathy Meredith from Herefordshire Rural Hub is one of the founding members of Farm Herefordshire; she was involved with the original initiative, then called Green Futures, back in 2005.

Farm Herefordshire has always been a good hub for pulling people together to share knowledge and promote good practice

Cathy Meredith, Herefordshire Rural Hub

Farm Herefordshire provides support and advice to landowners and farmers in the Wye catchment, including via one-to-one advice and discussion groups, events to promote good practice and consistency, and standards to steer future farming and environmental policy, regulations and schemes.

The partnership works to drive relevant research and findings, capturing, quantifying and communicating what Herefordshire farmers are achieving. Engaging and collaborating with farmers, policymakers, regulators, supply chains and wider partnerships is key.

Promoting regenerative agriculture

Steve Klenk is an elected joint chair of the partnership. He has worked as a farm manager for a CLA member owned estate of 5,500 acres in North Herefordshire, of which approximately 3,000 acres was farmed.

Joint chair Martin Williams, another CLA member, farms 600ha of arable crops on the River Wye. Both are passionate about finding solutions to reduce the agricultural contributions to the Wye catchment’s phosphate issue.

Farm Herefordshire has proved to be very forward-thinking, as the river seems to be attracting more regular media attention – especially with regards to agriculture’s share of the problem. I got involved as a farm manager who was trying to practice what is now known as regenerative agriculture. At the time, I didn’t really know that this was going to hit so many headlines or be taken on by an increasing number of people. It seemed like a really good idea not to send a proportion of our biggest asset, soil, down the ditch and into the river. I got increasingly interested in soil health and teamed up with other like-minded farmers to form a ‘soils group’. I then got asked to be involved in a series of videos promoting soil health, hosted numerous farm visits, gave a couple of presentations, without realising that most were for Farm Herefordshire. I retired from active farming last year and was asked if I would like be the cochair for Farm Herefordshire.

Steve Klenk explains

In the last 10 years Steve has observed big changes across Herefordshire, and he believes the county is ahead of the game regarding regenerative agriculture.

There is significantly less bare ground over winter, many more acres of cover crops, more buffer strips, more direct drilling and minimal soil movement to establish crops. This has partly come from people engaging with events organised by Farm Herefordshire and also from neighbours looking over the hedge and seeing these ideas can work.

Martin Williams, previously an AHDB monitor for Herefordshire, has helped to develop a strong knowledge transfer network between arable farms.

He has delivered several Farm Herefordshire events that have focused on the challenges in the county and hosted a ministerial visit for Rebecca Pow, placing the issues further up the national agenda.

Farming and nature work together as a partnership. The beauty of Farm Herefordshire is that it recognises the benefits for all through the collaborative nature of the group, with all sides working together and using common goals to achieve long-term benefits and outcomes

Martin Williams, Joint Chair of Farm Herefordshire

The CLA’s current representative, Midlands Rural Adviser Helen Dale, regularly attends meetings with Farm Herefordshire and is gaining an understanding of the complex issues of phosphates and what the key issues are for landowners and farmers.

The CLA is pleased to be involved in this partnership and will continue to move forward with supporting our members’ views and interests in the Wye catchment.

Find out more about Farm Herefordshire here.