This month’s news from the farm is a little different. We have invited natural history producer and Community Farm board member, Sarah Pitt, to talk about a very exciting project that is blossoming on our land…“I've spent most of my working life making TV and radio programmes about farming, wildlife and the countryside. Over the years I have witnessed the decline in the abundance of many species of farmland wildlife. I've been saddened to see hedgerows cut and trimmed at the wrong time of year so they lose their rich larder of nuts and berries for birds, insects and small mammals. Even field margins are lost on most industrialised farms, no longer providing a safe haven for many creatures to feed, breed and shelter in the long grasses and vegetation.
“In the recent State of Nature report, published in September by over fifty wildlife and conservation organisations, it was shown that farmland wildlife is particularly at risk. Ten of the 19 farmland breeding bird species are red listed as birds of conservation concern in the UK, including lapwing, linnet, yellow wagtail, starling and turtle dove. The message is clear: if we are serious about wildlife then farming must be seen as part of the solution.
“At The Community Farm we would like to play our part in arresting some of these wildlife declines. We believe we can do this by viewing our farm as not just a farm but also as a nature reserve, in effect creating a 'farm reserve' through nature friendly farming.
“Building on our organic principles we want to manage the farm as a whole biological entity, including both the productive and the marginal areas such as field edges and hedgerows. In this way we can improve biodiversity, particularly for pollinators like bees and butterflies, which will aid our crops and so deliver health benefits not just for our customers but also for the land. It will ensure that wildlife – birds, beetles, mammals and amphibians – can find the right habitat in which to live their lives, alongside ours. We aim to be able to bring barn owls back to the farm.
“An urgent need is to enlarge the pond in the Learning and Recreation Area and provide a platform for children to go pond dipping. We would like to keep margins of long grasses around our fields. On some of these we will plant wildflowers to help bees. We plan to build an open barn as a meeting space for people which will also provide a swallow nesting site. We would like to plant a Heritage Orchard and bring animals back to the farm. Sheep are good at grazing orchards. Who knows, we may even be able to fund a bird hide so everyone could enjoy a close encounter with the birds that visit the farm.
“At its heart, nature friendly farming is about making the farm accessible to people and wildlife. We hope it will lead to job creation too. We will need to fund-raise for many of the initiatives but I am sure it is a challenge we can meet! We'll be laying out some exciting plans at the AGM in November so come along and help us make it a reality.”