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Dales and Moors Farm Innovation Project

The importance of measures designed to ensure the survival of upland livestock farms has been recognised widely in national policy initiatives based on reports commissioned by successive Governments over the last 30 years. This has been manifested in three Rural Development Programmes, investment in industry-led organisations like the Farmer Network and initiatives by third sector organisations like the Princes Trust, the Farm Crisis (now Community) Network and the Addington Fund.

Upland livestock farming makes an especially significant contribution to maintenance of the environmental qualities of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and National Parks, which together comprise more than 45% of North Yorkshire. In 2013 Nidderdale AONB and the Yorkshire Dales Farmer Network met to agree priorities for investment in farm business development based on preparation of combined environmental and business plans. The partnership was expanded subsequently to include the Howardian Hills AONB and the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authorities, and in conjunction with the National Centre for the Uplands at Newton Rigg College in Penrith and farming organisations across all four protected landscapes, a successful bid for funding for a pilot project to facilitate 50 Whole Farm Plans was submitted to the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership in 2014.

The current project also contributes to and stems from the work done by the Protected Landscapes on the development of a Local Growth Plan for these areas. The project directly contributes to the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan and specifically to Objective 21 ‘Sustainable growth in the Dales, Moors and Wolds’ and Annex C which sets out a A Local Growth Plan for the Yorkshire Dales National Park; North York Moors National Park; Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; and Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which was developed by the four protected landscapes in partnership with LEP officers.

Partners

Askham Bryan College and Newton Rigg College 
The National Centre for the Uplands, part of Askham Bryan College, is the consortium’s lead partner. The College is an established training provider with a track-record of delivering Further and Higher Education courses to young people from across northern England. The College also specialises in Apprenticeships in a range of skills including agriculture, countryside management, animal care and forestry resulting in Work Based Diplomas at Level 2 and 3 together with functional skills qualifications and nationally-recognised certificates as appropriate. The College offers a broad curriculum to adult learners wishing to follow part-time courses practical skills and other training. The National Centre for the Uplands is already working with Carlisle College on ‘The Edge’ which is also Skills Support for the Workforce project, which is offering funded training to businesses and their employees so that they can secure the skills they need for business growth. Courses currently delivered by the Centre include Level 1 and 2 courses in dry stone walling, environmental management and Outdoor First Aid. 
                  


The Yorkshire Dales Farmer Network
The Farmer Network is a not for profit membership organisation run by farmers for farmers. The aims of the company are:
• To help maintain and develop a viable farming community.
• To maximise rural income via food production and other activity.
• To support, inform and educate.
• To raise the profile of farming in Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales.

The company has two separate branches: The Yorkshire Dales Farmer Network and The Cumbria Farmer Network. Our activities are driven by the needs identified by our members and currently include:
• Helping members save costs by buying inputs together e.g. fuel, electricity, insurance
• Helping young people in the industry e.g. with training grants, advice and low interest loans to start/grow farm enterprises
• Helping members access grants for their businesses and for groups and manage projects when needed
• Helping to improve the skills and knowledge of members e.g. farm trial work, local group meetings, local training
• Educating the public about farming e.g. school visits and farm walks
 

The North York Moors National Park Authority
The National Park was designated for its special qualities and it's the National Park Authority’s job to work with others in order to make sure that these qualities – its landscape, wildlife, and cultural heritage - are well cared for and will be here for everyone to continue to enjoy for years to come.
The National Park Authority works with a huge variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire.

We try to balance the needs of the National Park, its people, landscape, wildlife and culture, with the needs of visitors who come to enjoy the area.
It’s really important that people understand why the North York Moors is such a special place and what makes it so special, so that it's used and cared for in ways which will maintain it for future generations.

The North York Moors National Park Authority’s land management team work with land owners and managers to assist them in securing grants and we currently also provide some grants of our own for habitat connectivity, traditional boundary work and for woodland management and restoration following on from our iconic North York Moors Farm Scheme (1990 – 2014). We’re also keen to support farm business resilience, particularly where if helps keep the park’s landscapes in tip top condition. You can find further information about our work here.
 


Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority 
Following the establishment of the National Park in 1954, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority became an independent body, within the framework of local government, in 1997. We provide some services similar to those provided elsewhere by district and county councils. For example, we are the local planning authority. Most of the things we do, however, are particular to national park authorities.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's Farm Conservation Team provides help and assistance on the grants and schemes available to farmers and landowners in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We aim to:
• Enhance the environmental qualities of the Yorkshire Dales National Park by working with farmers, landowners and key partners to secure good conservation management.
• Work with key partners to advise on, and signpost farmers to, the full range of rural development funding.
• Provide support for local farm businesses.
Full details are found here.





Howardian Hills AONB
The Howardian Hills was recognised nationally as one of the finest landscapes in the country and designated as an AONB in 1987.

Initiatives within the AONB are co-ordinated by a Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) consisting of representatives from North Yorkshire County Council, Hambleton and Ryedale District and Parish Councils, Country Land and Business Association, Natural England, Forestry Commission, National Farmers Union and the Ramblers.

The main work of the Joint Advisory Committee consists of:
• Providing advice, practical support and grant aid to farmers, landowners, local businesses and communities to conserve and enhance landscape features, wildlife habitats, community facilities and local business activity.
• Encouraging landowners to play a positive role in enhancing the AONB through the take-up of national agri-environment schemes.
• Providing advice, practical support and grant aid to farmers, landowners, local businesses and communities to conserve and enhance landscape features, wildlife habitats, community facilities and local business activity.
• Encouraging landowners to play a positive role in enhancing the AONB through the take-up of national agri-environment schemes.


Nidderdale AONB
The Nidderdale AONB team works alongside a range of partner organisations, local people and volunteers to conserve and enhance the AONB’s landscape. A key task for the AONB team is delivering and advising on projects and initiatives, often in partnership with others. By creating positive change on the ground we can achieve our overarching aim of conserving and enhancing natural beauty.

The AONB has built strong relationships with farmers and land managers. This means that:
• We are able to support the farming community with advice on funding and land management, ranging from catchment sensitive farming to accessing rural development grants
• The AONB’s environment is conserved and enhanced through working with farmers and land managers to deliver high quality land management appropriate to the area’s natural heritage

This ensures that the environment of the AONB is protected and that the AONB continues to evolve in a sustainable way in the future.
 


Project Outcomes Reports

Executive summary
This report summarises the findings of detailed work carried out on 30 farms in the Yorkshire Dales and 20 in the North York Moors between February 2015 and June 2015. 

The aims of the project were to:
• Develop and deliver a training programme to the 50 farms, at Level 2
• Enable the participating farmers to produce integrated whole farm plans that focus on analysing their own farm businesses and which identify future needs and actions to improve the profitability of their businesses and the environment in which they operate
• Report the overall business investment and training needs of the sector, with skill gaps identified and training demand predicted
• Indicate how this should be offered and priority areas for diversification

In partnership with Newton Rigg College and the Yorkshire Dales Farmer Network, all four protected landscapes jointly submitted a successful bid to the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership for a grant to support development of 50 combined business and environmental plans as part of a pilot project in 2014. This directly contributed to the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan and specifically to Objective 21 ‘Sustainable growth in the Dales, Moors and Wolds’ and Annex C which sets out a Local Growth Plan for the Yorkshire Dales National Park; North York Moors National Park; Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty; and Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which was developed by the four protected landscapes in partnership with LEP officers.

Agriculture in the study area of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is of fundamental importance to the economy of the area, contributing around £328m to the local economy. 

The farms in the target area are responsible for the management of some of the most valuable environmental features in the country, many of which are of international importance.  Land on many of the target holdings makes a significant contribution to carbon storage and flood risk mitigation, as well as producing high quality food and drinking water for the region. 

The farmed landscape in the Dales and Moors contains a network of tourist attractions that are internationally renowned, attracting millions of visitors every year. These environmental attributes are of huge value to the rural economy and underline the importance of upland farming to the economy of York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding. 

Current hill farming in the target area is under severe financial pressure with average profits of less than £20,000 per year, despite receiving an average payment of over £47,000 per year from the public sector and this forecast is to reduce over the next 5+ years.

Farms need to become better businesses with more efficient agricultural enterprises and non-farming enterprises.   They need to be more resilient to market price volatility either through relying less on inputs by:
• Making better use of (and not just intensifying) their own farms
• Taking control of costs by collaborating better e.g. for items that are related to the farm enterprises such as feed and also for items that are fixed costs such as fuel and power.

Farm businesses need to change but there are many barriers to overcome to enable this to happen and a danger that if not helped through this process, the changes could have a severely detrimental impact on the economy, environment, and iconic landscapes that many other sectors depend on.  The most important barriers include:
• A lack of time by farmers to invest in making the changes needed
• The traditional farming systems and a reluctance to change
• A lack of the right skills, especially general business skills such as financial management, business monitoring and business planning, for both the farm and non-farming enterprises, but many do not see the benefits of this.  They do also need some advanced farming technical skills, which they are interested in
• Farmers in the target area need help but they do not trust, feel isolated and let down by “Government” and are wary of outside help
• Significant changes to the main agri-environment support packages which will reduce the amount of grant available leading to potential fundament shifts in farming philosophy and the resulting need to change and adapt.

Although a small proportion would respond to training offers in the areas needed, most would not.  A more subtle approach is needed to engage farmers using trusted intermediaries to train and support them to help them to become more open to change and provide the new skills they need, working with relevant experts when needed.

Some capital investment on farms would help to stimulate engagement in training/knowledge exchange activity.  This would not need to be for large amounts of money per farm but helping to pay for investments such as lime, small investments in equipment and perhaps an occasional building where it is seen as essential to maintaining that farm business in the community.

Final Report
Coming soon.


 

Downloads

Newton Rigg College,
Penrith,
Cumbria,
CA11 0AH
01768 893400
enquiries@newtonrigg.ac.uk