Farm with nature

Whitehall Farm. Credit: The Woodland Trust
Too often, increasing agricultural production has been to the detriment of the environment in terms of biodiversity, soil health, air and water quality. Farmers are responsible for more than 70% of land across the UK, demonstrating the key role that farms play not only in our food production but also in reversing our wildlife declines and reducing carbon emissions.

While keeping a close eye on productivity and national competitiveness, nature-friendly farming is increasingly seen by the farming community as critical in building a secure, sustainable food system.
For example, low levels of fertiliser can produce high crop yields if supplemented by practices that support farmland ecosystems – such as growing a greater range of crops; growing plants such as beans or clover that enhance soil fertility; and adding organic matter in the form of manure, compost, or cuttings. Adopting some or all of these approaches could reduce fertiliser use, helping to buffer farmers against spiralling fertiliser costs and consumers against the resulting increase in food prices.

Whitehall Farm in Cambridgeshire practices ‘agroforestry’, a different nature-based farming approach, that involves deliberately planting productive trees in strips among arable crops. This practice delivers a multitude of benefits for both the farm and nature. Foremost, it enhances farm productivity. But it also improves soil health and water flow, supports more wildlife and contributes to climate change mitigation. Designed properly, agroforestry avoids the potential trade-offs in many modern farming systems between food production and ‘public goods’ such as clean air. But agroforestry has yet to realise its full potential with only 3% of UK farmed area currently taking this innovative land management approach.

From an economic point of view, there can also be benefits from managing field margins and corners for wildlife. Making use of less productive parts of a field by maintaining a network of grassland or wildflower margins provides an essential habitat for welcome pollinators and insects which feed on crop pests, as well as offering connectivity across the landscape for wildlife to move through it.

Are you a member of the farming community and keen to farm your land in the most sustainable and efficient way possible? You could become part of the solution and help nature-friendly farming become mainstream.
Cabbages growing with marigolds Cabbages growing with marigolds
Start something new…

Food and farming need to change on a large scale to support a sustainable future for us all. Join the Nature Friendly Farming Network – farmers from a range of backgrounds big and small, organic and conventional – to strengthen the growing movement for farming with nature.

Inspired? Check out more initiatives about land use, food & agriculture.

… or join an existing community project:

Obviously, due to the specialised nature of this business, it’s very difficult for the majority of us to get involved on a farm. The Nature Friendly Farming Network does welcome the public with its special membership category, which is free to join, and events. Volunteering on a community supported agriculture scheme near you is one way of getting involved directly. Find out more about local farming during the national Open Farm Sunday which takes place every June.  Or you could even holiday on an organic farm through the charity, WWOOF, and help the farmer with their daily tasks who’ll provide free board and lodgings in return.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert in farming or wildlife: a whole range of skills is needed to guarantee the success of projects like these and it’ll also be possible to learn as you go.

Other related community actions: Farm for change, Create a food partnership, Produce local food

What do we mean by community action?
23 community actions