I thought New Year would be a great time to take stock of the progress made by the Rother Valley Farmers Group (RVFG) since its launch in 2018. I’ve certainly found it two incredibly rewarding years working closely with farmers on critical environmental issues and we’ve achieved a great deal.
The Land App Trial
Before looking back, let me give you the ‘News Flash’ which is that RVFG farms are just now trialling The Land App (TLA), a smartphone mapping technology with the potential to deliver major conservation benefits at the touch of a button.
This trial was set up by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) as part of the Government’s ‘Test & Trials’ programme. This, in turn, will influence the development of the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMs), the UK’s likely replacement for the EU Common Agricultural Policy.
RVFG membership has ballooned since 2018; now standing at nearly 50 farms working over 10,900hectares(2,700 acres) in the Rother catchment area (see map).
In its short life, under the auspices of the Arun & Rother Rivers Trust (ARRT),the RVFG has forged vital links between local farmers and host of important organizations such as the water industry, district and parish councils, wildlife and community groups, central Government and more.
Farmers have also had instruction on farmland birds and rare arable plants. As a result, I’m delighted to say, members agreed to establish wildlife targets for lapwing, barn owls, yellowhammers, river invertebrates/fly-life and key arable plants such as corn marigold and cornflower.
This is just the start but it’s a great foundation for the future. Talking of which, it is widely expected that the farmer led landscape approach will be rewarded through future agri-environmental schemes. There is also growing interest in private funding to pay land managers for measures to mitigate climate change and deliver benefits for wildlife.
Our RVFG goal this year is simply put – 60/60. That’s 60 members representing 60% of the RVFG area. Having that level of participation will be great for the future of local farms, for our National Park and indeed for the whole regional environment.
Ses Wright (ARRT’s Farm Cluster Co-ordinator)