Our hill farmers have shaped some of the most beautiful parts of Britain for generations, acting as custodians of precious environmental amenities while providing a crucial part of our livestock industry.
The NFU Hill and Uplands Farming Forum is made up of members from the LFA areas in England, nominated and ratified by their regional board.
Find out about the forum members below...
Thomas Binns - chairman
Thomas farms in partnership with his wife Sheila on a tenanted upland farm of 750ha situated in the Bowland AONB in Lancashire. The iconic slopes of Pendle Hill are home to Swaledale sheep which form part of a 2500 breeding sheep enterprise consisting of Swaledales and Mules. Lambs are sold finished and for breeding and grazing cattle are also summered.
The farm currently participates in Environmental Stewardship and has been part of various agri-environment agreements for the last 25 years. Thomas chairs the NFU Uplands Forum and is co-opted onto the National Livestock Board.
Noting that Brexit has the potential to impact most severely on livestock farms, Thomas is very conscious that keeping food at the heart of new policy changes affecting upland farmers remains priority.
Richard Pedley - vice chairman
In partnership with his parents and family, Richard farms a 1200 acre hill sheep and beef farm which is situated on the Cumbria/Lancashire Border within the newly extended Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The farm runs a pedigree flock of Swaledales and breeds Swaledales and North of England Mules; pedigree Swaledale ewes are kept within the flock as replacements and males are sold either to Marks and Spencer or as shearlings for breeding. A closed herd of 40 beef cows made up of pedigree British Blues and commercial Limousin and Blue and Limousin crosses also keep Richard busy on the farm.
Richard is concerned about the viability of upland farming in future years without access to support payments and the necessity of graziers working together to save the commons.
Ross Wilson - North East representative
Ross Wilson is from the Northumberland area and farms in the Breamish valley 1400 hill ewes mostly blackfaced and cheviots, 100 suckler cows and 100 breeding hinds. They are an organic business, low inputs and have scheduled monuments on their hills. He currently chairs the Breamish farmer group and they are doing test and trials with the national park.
Ann Willcocks - South West representative
Ann, a proud Dartmoor hill farmer, farms over 200 acres plus common rights in partnership with her husband Will. She has a herd of 100 pedigree Belted Galloway and a flock of 500 ewes; the common rights are pivotal to her business as she grazes cattle sheep and ponies on two Dartmoor commons.
She is an administrator to several Commons Association HLS Agreements and a Quarterman for the Dartmoor Commoners Council, providing an opportunity to liaise with upland farmers and other interested parties.
She also has a HND in agriculture, a BSc (Hons) in Rural Business Management and a Research Masters: the subjects were associated with the uplands and environmental stewardship agreements.
Jane Bassett – Peak District representative
Jane lives and works on an all grassland family farm in the Peak District. They run suckler cows, chiefly Angus and Hereford alongside a Texel/Mule flock. She has been involved with the NFU at local/county level and regional level with a particular interest in upland issues, livestock, and agricultural politics.
In the Peak District uplands they face a number of challenges, whether it is the volatility of cattle/sheep prices, the low uptake of the present Countryside Stewardship scheme, encouraging young entrants into farming, and bovine TB to name a few.
Jane is keen to use her position on the Uplands Forum to voice these concerns and help secure the future of uplands farming.
Richard Betton - North East Representative
Richard farms in partnership with his wife Dodge in Teesdale, County Durham. A tenant of Raby Estate, the area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area and Special Area of Conservation. A flock of 280 registered Swaledale ewes and 24 pedigree Aberdeen Angus suckler cows are run on 726 acres of mainly moorland.
The very high-lying farm has an annual rainfall in excess of 70 inches which contributes to nutrient leaching and exacerbates a major heavy metal pollution problem from old mine workings.
Richard is also on the Council of the NFU, Northern Regional Director of FCN and represents upland farming on many other local and regional bodies.
Jim Beary - North East representative
Jim Beary is a mixed upland livestock tenant farmer in the Peak District. He producing lamb on contract for Tesco and store cattle for Waitrose alongside having 1000 B&B pigs.
Jim is a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and has also been an Oxford Farming Conference emerging leader 2019. He has also diversified his business by running a gritting service and occasionally writes for Farmers Guardian
Robin Milton - South West representative
Having farmed on Exmoor for several generations, Robin and his family are fortunate to own their Devon farm which consists of 400 acres of inland and 3000 common land.
Running a flock of 400 Lleyn breeding ewes, the farm also finishes 250 commercial cattle, predominantly purebred Aberdeen Angus, as stores and has remained TB free since 2001, a rarity for the West Country.
The farm has been in a range of agri-environment schemes over the years and the common land is currently in HLS, with 50 Exmoor ponies feeding into the scheme.
Since handing over the majority of the business to his son, Robin spends his spare time sitting on various boards to fight for the uplands and holds numerous positions within industry; he is chairman of the Exmoor National Parks Authority and the Commoners Association as well as Deputy Chair of the Uplands Alliance.
Graham Price - West Midlands representative
Graham and his family farm 380 acres with approx. 180 acres grass keep and various other lets in Shropshire. He has a flock of 600 ewes, mainly Texel X and Clun X Mules which he puts to Charolais rams to produce finished lambs and has recently started supplying local restaurants with lamb.
He also has a herd consisting of 800 cattle, predominantly Belgian Blues and Angus, all purchased as calves and sold as stores. The farm has a strong emphasis on maximising production from grass, with wintering outdoors on kale. A small part of the farm is in Countryside stewardship.
Graham is currently NFU Ludlow's Branch Chairman and Chairman of the local Parish Council. In his spare time, he enjoys a game of 5-a-side football.
Mat Cole – Appointee
Mat Cole is from the South West and runs a traditional hill farm of around 2000 acres in partnership with his brother. It is a mix of owned and tenanted land on which they run their 2000 traditional hill ewes with lambs that are sold for breeding or fat. They also have 250 suckler cows all with followers which are retained on farm for finishing or sold as breeding stock, as well as a small herd of Dartmoor ponies.
Mat actively grazes over 5 commons with hefted stock and therefore has considerable experience of agreements on commons as well as on the home farm. He is also a director of Dartmoor Farmers a marketing group that sells premium beef and lamb into select Morrisons stores as well as retailers and wholesales. This experience gives Mat a commercial mindset and in depth knowledge of commons which will be welcome to the forum.
Lewis Barraclough – Appointee
Lewis Barraclough farms in the North East on the North Yorkshire moors. He manages his family's 700ha sheep and beef farm that covers moorland, uplands and lowland ground. They have 1200 sheep and around 50 suckler cattle - mainly beef shorthorn with Blue Grays wintered out on the hill. They aim for low production costs but high output.
Lewis performance records his Swaledales with signet. They weigh the lambs at birth, eight weeks and 21 weeks, then backfat scan to get an estimated breeding value. Their focus is on improvements to the carcass and also milk production in the ewes.
As the youngest member of the forum Lewis is excited to be able to give the next generation view and help shape hill farming at such a crucial time.