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Drive to increase sustainable farming

Steps being taken by landowner Bradford Estates to increase sustainable farming were showcased at an agricultural event staged in partnership with Farmers Weekly.

Approximately 100 visitors from a range of farming and agriculture organisations attended the Transition Farm Walk day at Woodlands Farm, Weston under Lizard, to receive updates on ways of cutting environmental impact.

Working with Farmers Weekly, the event was organised by Bradford Estates as part of its role on sustainable farming, giving visitors the chance to hear about a range of methods and projects being taken to enhance the environment.

Bradford Estates managing director Alexander Newport gave an overview of the sustainability drive undertaken by Bradford Farming - the agricultural arm of the landed estates business responsible for 12,000 acres on the Shropshire and Staffordshire borders.

Alexander outlined how the farming business is introducing a range of agri-environment programmes to protect the landscape, working with partner organisations and utilising grants to trial new initiatives around soil and water course protection.

He said: “We want to be the most sustainable farm in the West Midlands. Bradford Estates’ long-term land management principles allow us to take this approach into farm management to deliver on this objective.”

Wojtek Behnke, managing director of Aqualate Estate, and project partner Richard Maryniak explained the work of the Aqualate Mere Catchment Group - the local business and estates group which is exploring carbon credit opportunities with leading national brands.

For Farmers Weekly, the speakers included transition editor Johann Tasker and Anna Eccleston, commercial director and project leader.

Other speakers included: Pete Lambert (head of land and water at Shropshire Wildlife Trust, which works with Bradford Estates on its ecological projects); Nick Down, head of sustainability at farm management specialist Velcourt; and Charlie Bowyer, business development manager at the Agri-EPI Centre Midlands Agri-Tech Innovation Hub.

Guests had the chance to visit the Bradford Estates agroforestry project at Crackley Bank, Sherrifhales, which has seen the transformation of a 10-acre field into an apple orchard and sheep pasture.

The sloping land was traditionally used for arable farming but has been changed under this innovative agroforestry project with funding from Shropshire Council and the Network Rail National Community Tree Planting Programme, supported by national charity the Tree Council.

The visitors also had the chance to visit fields owned by Bradford Estates which are being restored to wetland under a nature partnership project, which is transforming an area near Brineton as part of a scheme delivered with Shropshire Wildlife Trust, drawing upon funding from the Environment Agency’s Water Environment Improvement Fund.

Alexander said: "It was a pleasure to see such a cross section of the farming industry join us for a positive day where we looked at potential solutions and best practice on the key sustainability issues we all face.

“As a long term landowner we are proud of our track record in meeting our commitment to implement responsible and sustainable farming practices, so it was great to work with a leading brand in Farmers Weekly to bring together partners to produce such an enjoyable and well-received networking event.”

The Transition Farm Walk event was the latest in a series run by Farmers Weekly to bring together farmers and other supply chain members to see how progress is being made towards a more sustainable future, all linked with their regular Transition publication.

Transition editor Johann Tasker said: "It was fantastic to see such an engaged audience attend such a positive and productive event which covered many of the big environmental issues facing farmers and landowners. We have been pleased to work with the team at Bradford Estates and look forward to building upon this partnership.”