Farming Project

The Shropshire Hills Farming Project ran from April 2011 to July 2013, with joint funding from The Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund and Shropshire Hills LEADER (Rural Development Programme for England) to support and promote hill farming in the Less Favoured Areas of the Shropshire Hills AONB.

The project employed a dedicated Farming Officer to visit farms and have one-to-one discussions with farmers and their families about a wide range of issues from the farming business, environmental stewardship schemes, grants, renewable energy and concerns over succession to health concerns and stress. Together with organising a range of local, bespoke farmer events and workshops on topical agricultural issues.

A Farming Community Officer also worked with schools and community groups to raise awareness of hill farming and organised a host of farm tours, talks and events.

The Farming Project operated in the Less Favoured Areas of the Shropshire Hills AONB; the Stiperstones and Stretton Hills, Clee Hills and Clun Forest (Disadvantaged and Severely Disadvantaged Areas shown in map below).

The following outcomes were achieved by the project:

  • – One to one conversation with 203 farmers;
  • – 12 local farmer events were organised, including a farming seminar and commons event;
  • – 7 farming workshops were held including computer training for farmers;
  • – The farming community officer worked with 17 local primary schools;
  • – 18 school farm visits have taken place, involving a total of 699 children and 103 adults;
  • – 13 community talks/demonstrations have been carried out. A total of 1,103 children and adults have participated in an activity or interacted with the Farming Project in some way;
  • – 3 Farming Advocates have been identified and will continue to support the aims of the farming project after its completion.

Furthermore a children’s book on modern upland farming in the Shropshire Hills was commissioned in March 2012, which will be a lasting legacy of the project and can be used by schools and families for many years to come.

The book has been gifted to every child in the 18 schools the Farming Community Officer has worked with, plus the children of an additional 11 Primary Schools in and around the AONB. The book has also been distributed to local libraries and rural venues and is distributed at local events that the AONB attends.

Overall the project received extremely positive feedback and evaluation of the project is included within the Final Report (see Useful Links below). Due to the success of the Farming Project it is hoped that the Farming Project will be able to continue in some form in the future.

We are currently looking to obtain additional funding to enable the project to restart in 2014, focusing on the one-to-one advice provided by the Farming Officer. The educational side of the project will be dealt with separately and it is hoped that a separate educational project will be designed in the near future.

Our Final Report highlights the need and success of this type of approach to supporting hill farmers. It is felt that the one-to-one approach and the “round the kitchen table” discussions with farmers is the best way to build up relationships and trust and are what make a real difference to farmer’s well-being.

If you have any queries following the end of the project, please contact Cath Landles on 01588 674084 or email cath.landles@shropshire.gov.uk

USEFUL LINKS:

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

In 2008-9 and 2009-10 with funding from Natural England and Business Link, the AONB Partnership ran two pilot projects with 55 one-to-one visits with upland farmers, led by a local consultant with a strong farming background. A key principle on the visits was to let the farmer lead the discussion.

Understanding of their current situation and concerns led on to future plans and what help might be required. The pilot projects showed that conservation and business advice schemes are not always reaching those who need them most, and highlighted the need for independent, practical and local advice. An outreach approach to establish contact and dialogue and signpost to other sources of help, works well and is cost-effective. The results of these projects can be found below: