To safeguard a viable future for land based and land dependent industries and the people in those industries in the CVLLP area. To ensure the continuation of sustainable land management, and to promote forestry and farming, tourism, recreation and heritage, in order that they are able to maintain a viable economy to help protect, enhance, restore and connect the habitats of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership area and the species that depend on them.
It is not yet clear how the Single Farm Payment Scheme will impact on farmers’ business planning over the medium term. It may lead to more change and variability in farming practices. It could also concentrate land into larger holdings, reflecting the current age profile of farmers and the profitability of some forms of farming. Continuing CAP reform is placing less emphasis on the production of primary food commodities and is releasing land for alternative uses, including energy crops. More opportunities are opening up for rural land-based businesses to exploit rural renewable energy sources. Tourism is a growth sector in rural areas. It has several distinctive features that influence innovation: the tourism experience itself; the challenge of seasonality; the role of the voluntary sector; the prevalence of micro-enterprises; and the prominence of farm tourism.
Farming in the Churnet Valley remains important in terms of land use and land management, producing the landscape in which other economic activity in the countryside takes place and which attracts visitors and new residents. It is likely to be impacted by all of the above. It is important to maintain the special features of the CVLLP, for they are a selling point for the area and an income generator. The importance of the environmental economy to their businesses will be a key message to land managers.
We wish to safeguard a viable future for land based and land dependent industries and the people in those industries in the CVLLP area.
We need also to ensure the continuation of sustainable land management, and to promote forestry and farming, tourism, recreation and heritage, in order that they are able to maintain a viable economy to help protect, enhance, restore and connect the habitats of the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership area and the species that depend upon them. The officer will provide support to FAPs and entry into HLS, working alongside the environmental officer.
Staffordshire Rural Hub’s Training Needs Analysis (Appendix 2.12) uncovered a range of ‘business skills’ that farmers and land managers felt they required in order to maintain the viability of their businesses.
The Land Based Advisor will specifically focus on adding value through environmental management; ‘farming the view’ and harnessing the unique features of CVLLP will add value to the enterprise, thus forming an understanding that farms need to be profitable in order to allow investment in environmentally sensitive schemes.
General financial support and start-up and growth advice, are now infrequently available for rural businesses (demise of Business Link etc), this includes those that are land-based. We will signpost specialist support through private partnerships, and focus support services on a number of key but interdependent areas (such as the diversification of agricultural businesses, the formation of primary producer groups, the creation of local supply chains, and rural tourism).
Fit to existing strategies and objectives
The Local Economic Assessment for Staffordshire provides the evidence base to show an impact from inward migration of commuters to the Staffordshire Moorlands. There is a risk that land management will continue to fragment and horticulture will replace the important land management patterns. The area is included in the RDPE Leader programme as economically deprived.
Rural Innovation: Innovation in Small Rural Businesses: DEFRA SQW Limited (2006) ‘Developing Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Rural Areas in West Yorkshire.’
.The study found that business networks and the sharing of knowledge by ‘mentors’ was considered particularly important by small and medium-sized rural enterprises (SMEs). A pool of people with entrepreneurial skills and experience is considered as important to providing the appropriate conditions as to drive economic development and innovation.
‘England’s rural areas: steps to release their economic potential’. Report Rural Advocate 2007-8, and government response: The government welcomed the Rural Advocate’s challenge to recognise the potential of rural areas and for focusing on the opportunities they offer.
Our proposal concurs with the CRC report (June 2010) ‘Securing a positive future for England’s upland communities’ and would offer a practical response.
It accords with the Regional Strategy for Sustainable Food & Farming and with DEFRA Environmental Land Management Guidance.
The region’s ‘Developing the Rural Environmental Economy of the WM’: ie the challenge for the West Midlands is to optimise the benefits from the rural environmental economy for the region.
Staffordshire Rural Hub’s Green Futures partnership approach has been adopted nationally by DEFRA since 2009.
Additionally it will link with existing county food and tourism initiatives such as the county-wide Think Local and Taste of Staffordshire initiatives; and also local Staffordshire Moorlands schemes.
Natural England has targeted the Churnet valley as a priority area for the Higher Level Stewardship scheme on grounds of the amount biodiversity, historic and access opportunities it represents.
English Heritage - National Character Area - Potteries and Churnet Valley recognises a high level of survival of historical footprint of the landscape.
Comprehensive description of the project
The Land Advisor offers us the strongest opportunity to promote the tried and tested ‘Green Futures’ environmental partnership approach within CVLLP. It will be the mantra for the Farm Advisor. The goal will be to help the farmer look at the farm in a new way: to think about the land, the buildings on the farm, the products in use, etc from a new point of view, by thinking about efficiency and productivity in the context of environmental land management. The approach concentrates on the things that could affect the environment - air, soil, wildlife and water sources - around a farm. And it asks the farmer to consider new ways of working that will decrease the risks to our natural resources, including water, energy and soil efficiency; grassland and nutrient management
The Land Advisor will specifically:
- support farmers to improve their viability and increase food production whilst benefitting the environment
- support small and micro on and off farm businesses to overcome weak business networks and geographic barriers
- support home workers to grow their businesses and foster employment growth
- support businesses and individuals to gain the right skills to increase competitiveness
- support businesses to capture opportunities created through the development of green economy and resilience to climate change. The adoption of renewable energy technologies will be an area of business signposting
- support businesses to explore the potential for working collaboratively. Support primary producer groups, local supply chains
- work in partnership to improve service provision through innovative approaches
- supply basic information (guiding businesses to more specialist support where necessary) and sharing best practice
- link with rural public services and provide a conduit for other partners to engage with the farming community. Open doors to farming community for other NGOs and agencies
The courses will provide a platform for ongoing dialogue with farmers and small landowners. The adviser will identify applicants who will benefit from the course programme, FAPs and options analysis offer. Courses will be supported by the officer, but run from the Hub office. Topics will be drawn from the TNA but will emphasise on shared learning around addressing problems and constraints to growth; and also entrepreneurship and innovation.
Traditional land-based activities continue to decline in size. Land-based industries now represent only a very small proportion of the national economy, although in the project area they do remain a notable component of economic activity. Their diminishing contribution to the national economy risks rendering the sector politically less important, reducing its profile amongst policymakers concerned with innovation. Farming incomes are generally poor and have become increasingly volatile over the past two decades. Agriculture will also remain susceptible to food and farming scares, such as Foot and Mouth Disease, Bovine TB, Bluetongue and Avian Flu, particularly in a livestock area as important as the Churnet Valley.
Farm tourism will be a focus: tourists spend money on transport, accommodation, food, etc. They come to a place because of the environment – landscape, culture, wildlife, etc. created by farmers. Farmers do not always know how to see their environmental assets from the point of view of a visitor. The project will:
- enable farms tourism business to exploit their natural assets
- enable access
- generate enthusiasm
- change outlooks
- bring some new money for training which will spread the experience to other farms of the valley
- help a range of landowners to become involved in working in collaboration
The Land Advisor will work amongst and within the farming and landowning community in the Churnet Valley Living Landscape.
The project will work with the farming community to connect with the CVLLP projects, particularly the Farm Apprenticeship Scheme (CVLLP 21), Sustainable Woodland Project (CVLLP 1), Grassland Conservation (CVLLP 2) and Boundary Projects (CVLLP 4), through:
- support to meet the needs of the individual business
- identifying, supporting and strengthening local leadership
- helping producers to recognise changing consumer preferences, and to understand and engage with new markets, as these will drive innovation in farming activities, such as meeting new demands for high quality, safe, ethical, locally produced and traceable food. This will achieve environmental sustainability, thereby addressing climate change. These changing preferences offer new market opportunities and act as important drivers of innovation
- identifying and supporting diversification and innovation in traditional Land-Based Industries
- promoting to partners and outside players of the strength of the land-based sector in the increasing support and value placed on agriculture for its non-food producing functions, including the promotion of valued and distinctive local environments, landscape and cultural heritage
- promoting broadband on farms and in local communities; and increasing opportunities provided by ICT, which have transformed business management. Eg opportunities for a farm shop to sell locally distinctive food or craft products to a global market through a dedicated website. New opportunities to let locations for businesses, who will come because of the attractive landscape maintained by farmers and other land-based workers
- promoting an increased recognition of the value of, and support for, non-food land-based products
- providing contacts and an evidence base for CVLLP partners
- recognising that through conservation, that farmers have a key role in underpinning the attraction of the countryside for a range of other activities, including leisure pursuits, day visits and tourism, and helping them promote their land as an attractive location for businesses and in-migrants
- marketing, to a niche audience, i.e. farm tourism businesses who manage their farm well for wildlife
Outputs and outcomes
- options Analysis for 20 farm families
- support 3 YFC meetings
- support 5 farmer discussion and networking groups
- support 8 course in business skills and 8 practical courses
- 2 pony and paddock owner events for 20 pony and paddock owners
- 6 direct compliance and regulation knowledge exchange events for 100 farmers
140 landowner / managers in the Churnet Valley with a better understanding of Ecosystem Services and how they can develop a more economically sustainable business.
Risks and constraints
Risk: Key staff retention, technical skills and relationships with land managers need to be built up over time, staff recruitment and retention is therefore important.
Contingency planning: The project is over a reasonable timescale compared to many other projects of 12 to 18 months; this should attract committed staff. Project figures allow for modest salary increases over the time period.
Risk: long term staff absence, for example maternity leave or illness, could affect the success of the project because it has ambitious targets for the project timescale. Contingency planning: Contingency budget to pay for cover for staff if necessary.
Risk: Lack of take up on the courses and activities through apathy or suspicion amongst the farming community.
Contingency planning: This project has been conceived with the Staffordshire Rural Hub specifically as they have the ‘ear’ of the agricultural community; however, it can still be difficult to engage people. The programme of events can, if necessary, be re-scheduled or re-designed to better fit the needs of the farming community.
Post Project Failure Risks
Risk: abandonment of initiatives once CVLLP support and assistance has been removed, is a very real issue, and one that we are targeting through the emphasis upon creating a economic return from the ecosystems services we are developing. Staffordshire Rural Hub will continue to support farmer groups, promote training and actively encourage environmental economy amongst local landowners. During this project, we will explore further:
- development of new area specific projects – wool project, CVLLP labelled beef etc
- extensions of the local food initiative and extend our Food Club
- opportunities to develop a local grassland marketing project around the land management and stock rearing.
We will work with the landowner community to help them to adjust to issues relating to climate change and help them to better understand how good management can help buffer the wildlife important sites on their land from the results of climate change.
Our Officer will work with the Participation Team to involve as many people as possible in the Himalayan balsam pulling project.
Our Officer will maintain high levels of biosecurity within their site work, particularly with reference of Phytothfera contagion between woodland parcels. He/she will also work with others to raise the awareness of biosecurity issues within the valley.
Reduce travel: The Land Officer will be based within the area to reduce travel as far as practicable.
Innovate within the project: We will be looking to maximise local markets for farm products.
Green Procurement: Our project is to identify and 'economise' the biodiversity resources of the Churnet Valley by purchasing/using local products to deliver other elements of the project. For the appointment of contractors and external contractors we will make use of the EU Green Procurement Toolkit to maximise environmental benefit.
Follow Environmental Policy: Our Officer will be expected to adhere to the SRH Environmental Policy