Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes was shown first-hand how diverse modern farms are during a visit to a family-run business in her constituency.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) invited Ms Nokes to tour Fullerton Farms in Cottonworth, home to the Liddell family, to see the wide range of activities carried out and to discuss issues affecting rural life and business.
The Liddells, who are members of the CLA, have farmed at Fullerton for four generations. Brothers Tom and Hugh farm 1,000 acres of organic arable land including 30 acres of vineyards, producing the award-winning Cottonworth Sparkling Wine, while Tom’s wife Lucy runs the weddings, festivals and events side of the business.
Topics covered included rural crime, access, planning and housing, and diversification, with the group’s tour taking in sights such as the vineyard and luxury tree houses, with the latter proving popular with staycationers this summer.
Ms Nokes has also backed the CLA’s Rural Powerhouse campaign, which aims to highlight how important the rural economy is in terms of food production, employment and environmental stewardship, and how with the right support it has the potential to grow further.
Ms Nokes said: “It was great to have the opportunity to catch up with the CLA and talk about issues impacting rural enterprises at the current time.
“The visit to Fullerton Farms was a chance to hear about how fully organic farms are improving biodiversity but also about the challenges of rural crime, including poaching.”
Michael Valenzia, Regional Director of CLA South East which represents farmers, landowners and rural businesses across Hampshire and beyond, said: “It was a pleasure to meet Caroline for a farm tour and discussion of a range of rural issues. She was both knowledgeable about, and hugely committed to, the rural community and we look forward to building a close relationship as farming is such an important sector in the Romsey constituency.
“We covered a wide range of topics, and the tour illustrated how modern farms have had to adapt and diversify as times have changed.
“This is a crucial time for agriculture. The CLA recognises the need for evolution in the sector, but farmers must be heard. Getting the transition away from EU payments right is crucial, so that we can have an industry that can thrive and continue to help care for the environment for future generations.”
Tom Liddell, who hosted the tour, said: “It was lovely for us as local farmers to have the opportunity to show Caroline how we farm organically and for us to explain how we have diversified across the estate in order to sustain a healthy business.
“The visit allowed us to discuss the varied components of our enterprise which include fly fishing, commercial units for local businesses, dog walking and training, equine interests, wedding and events and the recently built treehouses by Wild Escapes.
“Working with local authorities and the CLA to build the future of British farming is imperative and something we feel immensely strongly about.”
The rural economy is 16% less productive than the national average. By closing this productivity gap, we could add £43bn to the national GDP.
The CLA's Rural Powerhouse Campaign seeks to unleash the potential of the rural economy, creating skilled jobs and stronger communities in the process.