We are trying to do our bit for the environment and have teamed up with Harper Adams & Ashton Universities as well as The Field Studies Council for a five year project to enhance the natural environment and biodiversity on the farm. In simple terms we are reducing our reliance on traditional bagged fertiliser and will now be using, amongst other things, the waste collected from your green wheelie bins (suitably composted) for growing our main crops (wheat, maize and potatoes). Scientific projects will monitor the benefits to the soil nutrient levels, general health and include aspects such as the worm populations (there are 27 different species here in the UK).
Here is a little more information to give you an overall view of what we do.
The Isle ‘Enhanced Ecological Management Project’ and ‘Social Programs’ have gradually evolved over the last ten years. In simple terms we are attempting to reduce our reliance on bagged fertiliser, improve soil health and benefit the natural environment whilst helping local and visiting communities enjoy the health, recreational and educational benefits of a rural setting. Currently all our activities are self-funded with no external fiscal contribution.
Description of holding.
Situated approximately three miles to the North West of Shrewsbury ‘The Isle’ consists of approximately 860 acres of agricultural land, water, woodland and dwellings, with the majority of the farm surrounded by The River Severn (4.5 miles).
“To sustainably farm for the future”. (Sustainability incorporates continual evolution and dissemination of financial, environmental and social practices). On a personal note, Edward's aim is to return the land to a level of health and biodiversity not seen since his birth (1966).
Categories of operation in brief.
Agriculture. Arable in rotation: 150 acres milling wheat, 100 acres fodder maize, 50 acres potatoes, seasonal grazing for 600 sheep and woodland. A comprehensive soil heath program is being undertaken with particular attention given to biodiversity, carbon catchment and organic matter content. Through the ‘utilisation of by-product’ (compost derived from urban residential waste), cover crops, technology and academic monitoring we are endeavouring to enhance the natural and farmed environments. The implementation team currently includes two agronomists (one a former farmer of the year the other a Rothamstead farm manager), a specialist consultant in soil management, the MD of a one of the largest organic recycling operations in the midlands, academic input and fieldwork by The Field Studies Council and the Agri Project which is centred on Harper Adams and Aston universities.
Plants and Wildlife. To encourage native plant and insect populations B-Lines have been created and habitat biodiversity improved by means of arable reversion, variable stocking, nectar & pollen mixes, native species tree planting, current environmental schemes and a program of ‘untidy farming’. The British Trust for Ornithology, Shropshire Wildlife and Shropshire Botanical Society have access and give some feedback.
Clean Water. Flood plain arable reversion, smart siting of wildlife zones, implementation of current legislation, use of cover crops and intelligent cultivation constitute our major water protection measures. Both the Environment Agency and Severn Trent Water have biodiversity and quality sampling points situated on the farm. Additional input is provided by national angling organisations.
Social access and benefit. Attention is currently concentrated on health, education and recreation. We have working partnerships with a range of professional and volunteer organisations including the fields of health, homelessness, educational, outdoor activity companies, a crime reduction project and an angling society. Promotion of guided and non-guided access to the land is used to broadcast opportunities and evolve new partnerships.
Diversification. This includes residential property, start-up business unit, affordable accommodation (not for profit), equine activities, solar, biomass, angling, bed and breakfast. These are generally net contributors to the farm income stream.
The above categories all function within a relatively small, self-contained holding which now benefits from access to a variety of professional and voluntary expertise. In the future metrics and management are set to play an increasing role and we are keen to offer our time, experience and resources to help with the formation, implementation and promotion of the Natural Environment Strategy which is set to have direct implications for the future of British agriculture and land tenure.