There is only so much that an individual, acting in isolation, can achieve on their own. By working together, helped by an advisor/facilitator, farmers and land managers can deliver greater benefits for soil, water, wildlife and the business at landscape scale.
There are lots of different approaches to landscape scale conservation, but an active and successful farmer cluster group can prove very fruitful. There are great examples across the UK of farmer clusters sharing knowledge, data and ideas; co-ordinating and oversee environmental works; bidding for funds and organising agri-environment scheme delivery. As we move to a new system of payments for public goods and shorter supply chains local collaboration and wider community engagement will become increasingly important.
Through the summer of 2020 a small number of farmers and landowners in the local area of Shipton/Kingham/Charlbury met informally. The group started to map their farm habitats, meet for farm walks and engage in on-farm demonstration. They discussed pollinators, wetland creation, soil management, food marketing, regenerative agriculture and ELMS.
The core group felt that the time was right to take this a step further and wider, and that they should seek to build an inclusive cluster network from the bottom up, that delivers useful support and knowledge through the challenges ahead.
In September 2020, we gathered at FarmED, and the North East Cotswolds Farmer Cluster Group was born, led by co-chair Jonty Brunyee and a volunteer steering committee.Last week the cluster group met online to refine aims and objectives, and to discuss governance, funding options and facilitation needs. Jonty gave a quick ELMS update and fellow Nuffield Scholar, Vicky Robinson, gave an insightful and stimulating talk on ‘Farmer to Farmer Knowledge Exchange: Relevance and Challenges During Change.’
What next? More online and face to face events are now being pencilled in, a membership offer will be launched and key communication channels (website, newsletter, social media) will open. A part- time facilitator will be appointed if funds allow.
Would you like to be involved? Are you a farmer, grower, forester, land manager, adviser in the North East Cotswolds? All welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.