NFU Environment Forum member Richard Bramley explains how being a ‘custodian of the countryside’ means integrating the right measures to encourage birds onto his land.
As a farmer I believe I have a responsibility to be a 'custodian of the countryside'. What I have to do in a sustainable way is make sure I continue to deliver on our food needs but also deliver conservation needs as well. Here on my farm, between York and Selby in North Yorkshire, I work hard to integrate conservation management with food production.
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There is a vast array of farmland birds around the farm and I often get asked, how do you manage to attract so many different species? Really, every farmer is different and there is no special magic formula.
You’ve basically just got to understand what you have and know how to utilise it to provide those habitats that farmlands birds thrive in. It’s also about careful management of crops and being mindful of how to use plant protection products. Over the years I’ve planted around 10,000 mixed hedgerow plants and 2,000 mixed trees as well as using overwintered stubbles as a management tool, keeping wind erosion to a minimum by ploughing and pressing in the spring.
I am a big supporter of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment which has played a major role in helping to increase public awareness of the role and value farming has in the countryside and also been tremendously successful at raising awareness across the farming industry of the importance of a farmed environment alongside producing high quality food and running a profitable and viable business.
Part of the process is changing the approach of how we, as farmers, manage our farms.
There has been huge farmer engagement and recognition of the CFE and I think farmers are now much more aware that what we do affects so many things at so many levels, and we must not be surprised as to why people are interested in what we do and how we do it.
But we need to show leadership ourselves, so that as time progresses and challenges alter and new ones arise, the ‘farmer’ is considered a key partner in finding solutions. Part of the process is changing the approach of how we, as farmers, manage our farms. But this is a long-term process and improvements are needed. It’s about changing mind-sets. There is still an awful lot of work to do but the CFE has given us a focal point for that journey.