Farming with Nature
Farming is intrinsic to Devon. Today, agriculture and food production accounts for 13% of the county’s economy, compared to 7.6% nationally. As well as providing us with food and drink, over the centuries farming has created diverse and beautiful landscapes and wildlife habitats.
Agricultural systems in Devon include lowland, upland, intensive, extensive and organic. High nature value farmland is a term increasingly used for areas which are farmed extensively, creating semi-natural habitats which are of particular value for wildlife. In Devon these include small rough meadows enclosed by Devon hedges, species rich coastal grasslands, the uplands of Dartmoor and Exmoor and weedy winter stubbles. These areas can also provide other benefits such as flood management, improved water quality, carbon storage, pollination, recreation and cultural heritage.
But farmers face a number of challenges and demands, particularly the need to produce more while protecting and enhancing the environment. This can be done, but only if we all work together in new ways. The concept of sustainable intensification – defined as increasing yields, without adverse environmental impact, and without the cultivation of more land – may be one way forward. The complex landscape of regulations, markets and policy needs to interact in a way that makes economic and environmental sense, and is deliverable.
All of this must be underpinned by the best available research and innovation, to ensure we do as much as we can with our finite land resource. Devon has some great examples of farmers taking action for nature (e.g. the recovery of the Cirl bunting population) and much more can be done to learn from this and celebrate progress.
A prosperous and productive farming economy which meets our production needs, supports communities and protects and enhances the environment.
Increase understanding of how sustainable intensification can benefit Devon.
Support and promote innovation, skills development and best practice where this will benefit businesses and the environment.
Celebrate and support high nature value farming to benefit farmers and the environment.
Influence priorities for the England New Environmental Land Management Scheme.
Support the re-connection of communities with farming and food.
- Board lead: Robin Milton
- Executive leads: Paul Cottington, National Farmers Union, and Roland Stonex, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West