If the general media was anything to go by, farming seems to be neatly divided into two polar opposite camps: Organic and Industrial or Factory Farming. However, there’s lots of farming practices, not certified with the UK Soil Association (so not rubber-stamped Organic) but also very much not Industrial. Our farm, like many, falls outside of the two ‘good v’s bad’ systems and we often talk about how to name what the farm does that can be understood to be a positive way of farming. There is a lot of thinking that resonates with what we do on the farm, so, we will use the blog for such purposes, and will begin by looking at High Nature Value (HNV) farming. Not a term the general public is too familiar with, unfortunately, but one that applies to a sizeable proportion of farmers in the UK, and in particular upland farmers. Much of this is to do with Conservation grants from Natural England, but much of it was already being done, it was just work that wasn’t being quantified and measured and rewarded.
HNV farmland comprises semi-natural pastures, upland heath, wood pasture, meadows and orchards, as well as species-rich arable land. HNV farming is not a new method of farming, but it is a way of highlighting and recognising good farm practices that play an important role in maintaining valuable habitats and landscape across Europe. The contribution of farming to nature conservation is an important one and one that the public should be made more aware of as the general perception of farming is not a positive one despite so-called factory farming actually being a minority in land based terms. There is currently no accreditation system to show a farm’s environmental credentials. We think this is something that should change. Currently, buying meat from the supermarket, the package might say Organic, have the Red Tractor logo or Freedom Foods sticker, but there’s nothing to say the animal played an important role in conservation. You can read about some of the benefits of HNV farming here. And in the meantime, we’ll be thinking about how we, as farmers, can raise the voice of High Nature Value farming.