As the crops in the fields are ripened and harvested, it’s a good time to think about how important our local farmers, food and drink producers are to our local environment, economy, community and wellbeing.
It may surprise you that Cornwall Council’s Farm Estate is made up of more than 10,800 acres, or approximately 1.5% of Cornwall’s land area, and lets 91 farm units to tenant farmers, employing around 11,000 people.
Last year the Council launched a review and inquiry into the future of the estate taking evidence from 39 witnesses and made recommendations for a new Council Farms Strategy. Cllr Martyn Alvey did a great job. Residents, farmers and businesses have recently been asked their views on the plans through a public consultation.
The draft Cornwall Council Farms Strategy 2019 – 2039: Farming with Cornwall’s Nature has been developed around four key ambitions to: increase business opportunities for tenant farmers, contribute to environmental growth, provide more countryside opportunities and support people’s health and wellbeing while creating a more sustainable estate.
The strategy outlines the ways in which the Farms Estate will provide more opportunities for new entrants to farming to start their careers and support them to build their businesses.
It pledges to encourage tenant farmers using diversification methods by helping them develop their farm products to be more competitive.
To boost environmental growth the Estate plans to give greater support to tenants in expanding wildlife habitats, protecting heritage assets, managing regenerated soils, improving water quality, planting more trees and increasing sustainable energy.
It also wants to increase job and business opportunities in the countryside, encourage more people to get out into the natural world and provide supported agriculture schemes for residents and community groups to develop growing opportunities.
To help businesses’ financial and environmental sustainability, the Estate will introduce the Whole Farm Plan to set out agreements between landlord and tenant on the expected performance of farms.
We know that farming practices which benefit nature can also be highly productive for food production and support local ecosystems in our unique Cornish landscape.
I am delighted that Cornwall Council has undertaken this important work and that the strategy recognised that their Farms Estate can act as a catalyst for positive change within the farming sector to produce food for the nation and to play a part in the transition to low carbon agriculture which is critical if we are to tackle climate change.
I am pleased that the strategy recognises the importance of enabling more people and communities to get involved with growing food and enhancing and developing new ecosystems.
In addition to allotments and gardening clubs, there are many great examples of community groups such as Chyan Community Field in Penryn and the newly established Community Garden at All Saints Church in Mylor Bridge. Each provide opportunities for people to learn from each other about how to grow plants and enjoy the fruits of their labours. Each provide a beautiful haven for wildlife and humans to enjoy together. Spending time with nature is good for our health and wellbeing.
While there is funding to develop existing parks and green spaces, as well as creating new ones such as the Pocket Parks Scheme and Plastic Bag Levy, it is vital that Cornwall Council helps more groups with their expertise too.
Planting more trees is a great way to improve our natural environment, improve air quality and reduce carbon dioxide. The Woodland Trust makes free trees available to a wide range of organisations from schools and colleges, from nurseries to universities. Also, to community groups such as sports clubs, parish councils, the guides and scouts. Packs of trees are available for a range of purposes from creating a copse to planting a hedge. There is a great deal of information on their website and now is the time to think about what you might do. Trees can be ordered now for delivering and planting in November.
As a result of our historical industries of mining, wooden ship building and farming, we have fewer trees than most parts of England so a great opportunity exists for planting and restoring a canopy of trees over Cornwall.
We can all play out part in supporting our gorgeous natural environment and it is good to see this strategy and others providing opportunities for one and all.
The draft Cornwall Council’s Farms Strategy 2019 – 2039 and Cornwall Council’s Farms Strategy – Consultation Summary along with the actual survey can be found by visiting: http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/farmstrategy
First published in the Falmouth Wave August edition