Fferm Ifan is a collaborative project led by 11 farmers on the Ysbyty Ifan estate in Conwy, all of whom have grazing rights to the Migneint – one of the largest areas of blanket bog in Wales. It is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation and Special Protection Area.
Initially, our farmers came together in 2008 with a shared desire to protect the future of farming in the region for their children and their children’s children.
They wanted to create a viable and sustainable farming community that would improve and manage natural resources in a more sustainable and efficient way through new ways of farming that could benefit both nature and the local community.
In 2017, Fferm Ifan received its first funding from Welsh Government’s Sustainable Management Scheme (SMS). The funding has enabled us to take landscape scale action on land management to improve ecosystem resilience and the services our farmers provide.
To date, our work has included:
• The planting of more farmland trees and hedgerows along streams to help protect riverside habitats, reduce soil erosion and alleviate flood risk downstream;
• The creation of stream-side corridors for wildlife;
• The creation of marsh bridges and install culverts to prevent water pollution;
• The creation of feeding pads for livestock to reduce soil erosion;
• The introduction of cattle grazing on the Migneint – for the first time in living memory - to increase biodiversity on the peatland;
• Ditch blocking on the Migneint to help raise the water table, store carbon, and reduce flood risk in the Conwy Valley. Some of this work will be done by the end of March 2022 and the rest will be completed by March 2023.
As well as helping the farmers directly, the project has succeeded in creating a lot of work for local contractors to do maintenance work, such as fencing, planting trees and hedgerows, hedge-laying, installing culverts, and creating feeding pads.
Think about the health and well-being of the farming community. While the context is the environment and the focus is on sustainability, what we have also come to realise is that Fferm Ifan has been a really good way of bringing people together.
Farming can be a solitary experience, but Fferm Ifan has shown us that we can be a community working together. It’s been a good thing for the farmers as well as for the land, and if you’re planning something similar, it really is worth bearing that in mind.
You need ‘drivers’ – by that I mean people who are prepared to take the lead. We have always had a few drivers in our group, and they keep things moving even when times are challenging.
It is important to reach out to interact with people who you may not have worked with before. We’ve found that people really do want to help. There’s so much expertise available from other organisations. They help you create new possibilities that you hadn’t even considered.
Not many of us enjoy the paperwork, but it’s a means to an end, and it shouldn’t put you off. Don’t let it get in the way of the bigger picture - it will be worth it in the end.
Keep in touch – communication is key. We’ve been introduced to so many different organisations because we’ve kept the lines of communication open. That in itself has opened other doors for us.
Lastly, plan! Don’t underestimate the time it takes to plan. The process can seem tedious when you just want to get on with things, but it has to be done. Whether it’s having discussions with partner organisations, arranging public consultations, or managing the administration, it has to be done. Allow for it in terms of your timings and your staffing, it’s very possible that you’ll need more resources than you think.
ADAS is also working with individual farmers to assess the reduction in their carbon emissions.
Carrying out two rounds of Nutrient Management Plans, one at the beginning of the scheme and another at the end will enable us to see whether interventions following the first plan has improved soil health.