Young conservationists and farmers look to the future

Friday 8th December 2017

Young farmers and conservationists are looking at pioneering land management practices that promote benefits for wildlife and the wider environment.

The Allerton Project has been running since 1992, with one of its main objectives is to combine productive farming with wildlife conservation. Its most recent event examined how integrating farming, wildlife, woodland and game conservation can work together.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust attended the event developed between the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC), A Focus on Nature (AFON) and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) at The Award Winning Allerton Project Farm in Leicestershire. It brought young conservationists and farmers together in one room, to debate their views and look forward together, for wildlife.

A range of experts spoke throughout the day such as Quentin Clark, LEAF’s director of business collaboration; Ed Barker, Senior Policy Advisor for the National Pig Association (NPA), Jim Egan, GWCT’s Head of Training and Development for The Allerton Project and Emily Norton, Dairy Farmer and MEP Assistant.

The project has published over 250 peer reviewed papers since then, publishing research on innovative farming techniques which benefit and promote local wildlife.

Ben Eagle, Event Co-ordinator from A Focus on Nature said: “For me, the best way to move forwards with conservation on a landscape scale is for land managers of all kinds to come together and share ideas as to how to improve the state of nature in the countryside, whilst sustaining the rural economy and food production. If we can't talk together then we cannot hope to succeed as conservationists.

“This event brought together naturalists and young farmers at the start of their professional careers to build connections with each other and speak about wildlife together without fear of judgement. I want to thank everybody who came along for entering into the spirit of the day with such gusto, all of our speakers and Rob Yorke who was a superb facilitator. Hopefully this was the first of many future collaborations between AFON and the NFYFC.”

Rob Yorke, FRICS rural commentator and facilitator said: “The best thing for me on the day was everyone speaking personally, without labels for whom they worked, which allowed us to break down misconceptions, as farmers and naturalists are one and the same.

“It allowed us to explore tough issues such as government policy in the 70’s, and, rather than set out positions at the onset, frame the narrative on jointly agreed outcomes right from the start of the dialogue - we all want bees and birds.

“The positive way that everyone interacted, without fear of judgement, made me realise just how much more we can all work better together for wildlife on well managed productive farmland with healthy soils.”

Emma Ackerley, Marketing Officer at LWT said: “Although farming and wildlife conservation often from the outside seem to have conflicting objectives, bringing young people into one room facilitated the opportunity for innovative and forward thinking minds to delve into solving some of the issues we currently face.

“Everything from the future for environmental stewardships, to pro-wildlife farming methods, to welfare of domestic livestock were discussed.

“The event was overwhelmingly positive. Working together might be the only way to ensure all agricultural land provides a linked up habitat for wildlife to move around and adjust to climate change”.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust is supporting 20 Years Agricultural Story Editor for The Archers Graham Harvey, by providing a venue for his production ‘No Finer Life’ on the 28th Feb 2018 at Brockholes Nature Reserve.

The play reflects on the issues we are currently facing with the countryside and the importance to protect it. If you'd like to attend the play, as well as being involved in a post-play discussion and debate around sustainable farming, then please see HERE to find out further information.