National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

26 May 2022

The final NFYFC Building Skills project visit to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s (GWCT) Allerton Project farm offered an additional opportunity of a second, dedicated discussion between young farmers and Baroness Rock, chair of the independent Tenancy Working Group.

A tenant farmer herself, Baroness Rock is working to ensure that solutions to issues faced by current and future tenant farmers should be explored and shared with policy makers. The overarching aims of the tenancy working group are to make sure the new environmental land management schemes work within agricultural tenancies and to ensure a thriving future for the agricultural tenanted sector.

Young farmers suggested solutions to help new entrant and next generation farmers as they begin or progress with their farming future. YFC AGRI regional representatives had previously met for an online discussion with Baroness Rock who joined Leicestershire and Norfolk young farmers and local tenant farmers at the Allerton Project farm to discuss challenges and opportunities for the tenanted sector as it navigates business viability and accessibility to the emerging Environmental Land Management (ELM) schemes.

GWCT’s Head of Training and Partnerships, Joe Stanley said: “The Building Skills project has helped determine skills and information needed for future farming and demonstrated practical application at the Allerton Project farm. Young farmers have been able to see first-hand the results of applied research and the beneficial effects of environmentally-friendly farming methods for wildlife, improved organic matter, efficiency and ultimately profitability. It goes without saying that new policies and agri-environment schemes must be fit for purpose for all farmers and land managers.”

“In today’s economic climate the reduction of inputs on the 320-hectare demonstration farm has helped to highlight ways to adapt to emerging policies and plan to manage environmental and business viability. The online Fit for Future Business guide is available to help next generation farmers understand the aim and ongoing results of work at the Allerton Project farm and help with their career and business planning during an uncertain period of agricultural transition.”

The day’s farm walk highlighted current on farm-practice, combining arable and conservation farming and the many environmental and productivity gains achieved. Joe explained that, as part of a five-year Conservation Agriculture trial conducted with Syngenta, average yields across the rotation had decreased by around 10% when comparing a continuously ploughed versus a direct-drilled system, the use of less inputs and time had meant that profitably per hectare had increased by nearly 20%, proving the old adage of ‘less is more’ really is true. Allerton Project farm trials have also proved that soil organic matter gains built up from 10 years of minimum tillage could be lost in only three years by continuous ploughing, losing the benefits of soil fertility, water retention and optimum earth worm levels.

As well as the various environmental good practice examples including beetle banks, bio beds and integrated bird seed strips, Joe discussed the range of ‘stacking’ enterprise opportunities for future ELM schemes. He encouraged the group to think about the uses for unproductive land and demonstrated the silvo pasture trial for grazing sheep which offered a range of benefits included enhanced animal welfare and carbon capture. Public money for public goods also meant thinking about rewards for helping with flood mitigation, environmental off-setting for industry, carbon and biodiversity credits as well as agri-tourism and public wellbeing opportunities. Carbon recording would stand young farmers in good stead for future retail and finance audit requirements.

Leicestershire & Rutland FYFC Chair Greg Parkes said: “We appreciated a second opportunity to discuss our experience, concerns and suggestions for future farming with Baroness Rock. The chance to offer first-hand experience and constructive suggestions to policy makers is welcomed and the Allerton Project farm walk stimulated useful, forward-thinking discussion.”

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