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Farms can be profitable and support biodiversity – Oxford Real Farming Conference

Farm manager Ian Dillon spoke about the wildlife on RSPB’s Hope Farm at Oxford Real Farming Conference


Alex   Black

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Alex   Black
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Farms can be profitable and support biodiversity #orfc17

Farms can be profitable and encourage biodiversity, according to Ian Dillon, farm manager at RSPB Hope Farm.

 

Hope Farm in Cambridgeshire was set up to show there can be lots of wildlife on an arable farm which is economically viable.


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Skylarks

Mr Dillon said since 2000 the farm has gone from 10 pairs of skylarks to about 44 pairs.

 

"We now have a farm with lot of wildlife.

 

"We are now in a position where so many birds are wintering our surveyors are struggling to count them. It is not just birds, butterflies have increased by 160 per cent."

 

However, he is still looking to produce reasonable yields as other farmers would not be convinced by an unprofitable farm.

 

He suggested the current environmental stewardship scheme encouraged 'picture frame farms' with farmers creating areas in the margins to receive payments.

 

But he described Hope Farm as a ‘gold plated picture frame with in field options’.

 

Photography

 

Ian Boyd, an arable farmer who has moved to a mixed farming system, said he had been encouraged to create a farm with ‘as much wildlife as possible’ by his passion for wildlife photography.

 

He now has a range of wildlife including voles, bumblebees and butterflies.

 

“We planted herb rich layers, built biodiversity into the land.

 

“Wildflower meadows have other strengths. We have a lot of people coming around for farm walks.

 

“It helps sell beef too.”

 

Profitable

 

Mr Boyd said selling direct into meat boxes meant the first two years had been ‘hell’ but said his wife and daughter had made the farm profitable.

 

“Lots of big businesses want to sell something different.

 

“It is not easy. Costs are high but sales are high.”

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