New report shows nature-friendly farmers boost recovery

Guy Tucker field margin ©Matthew Roberts

Local farm wildlife plans help Jordans cereal growers devote 30% of land to nature

A group of over 40 cereal farmers are proving that it is possible to help nature recover and make a profit.

A new report from The Wildlife Trusts shows how locally tailor-made farm wildlife plans devised by Wildlife Trust advisors with each farmer, are helping wildlife recover

In 2018, Jordans oat growers farmed over 15,500 hectares, providing almost 4,600 hectares for wildlife. Each farmer agrees to a minimum area equal to 10% of farmed land to be managed for wildlife. Birds such as linnets, butterflies like the silver-washed fritillary, and brown hares are returning to farms in the Jordans Farm Partnership; nature is thriving in their hedgerows, field margins and ponds, creating vital corridors to enable wild animals to spread out and move through the landscape.  

I am a happier person as I see wildlife increasing on the farm.  My father ploughed up hedges, but I’m planting them
Guy Tucker
Jordans farmer

Stephanie Hilborne, CEO, The Wildlife Trusts says:  

“We are hugely impressed with the commitment of these cereal farmers to support wildlife and the environment, which will benefit generations to come. They are playing an important role in nature’s recovery. We hope other farmers will take inspiration from them and follow their lead; it shows that farming that works with nature makes sense. The Jordans Farm Partnership demonstrates we don’t have to choose between wildlife and profitable food production.”

Stephanie Hilborne continues:

“Our new report comes at a critical time for agriculture.  We live in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and as over 70% of our land is farmed, The Wildlife Trusts want to see farmers properly rewarded for creating and restoring habitats. Successful farms need thriving wildlife because crops depend on pollination, natural pest control and healthy soils – all these underpin our ability to grow food into the future.”

Barn owl © Danny Green, 2020VISION

Barn owl ©Danny Green, 2020Vision

Each of the 42 farms in the Jordans partnership works with an expert advisor from their local Wildlife Trust and has a bespoke plan to support wildlife, focussing on key species and habitats which are important to the farm’s local landscape.

Farm advisors like Sian Williams from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, support Jordans farmers and value their important contribution to conservation.

Sian Williams says:

“Farms are an essential part of our landscape and provide great opportunities to create habitat for wildlife as well as producing food for people. The Jordans Farm Partnership helps to create bigger, better and more joined up spaces for wildlife to thrive.”

Cover crops are sown to provide winter food for farmland birds, winter stubble is also left in fields for corn bunting, linnet and tree sparrow. Long grass has been allowed to grow around field edges, encouraging voles to thrive and provide good hunting grounds for barn owls. Grass margins also supports insects which feed on crop pests. Insect larva are food for partridge, lapwing and yellowhammer chicks.

Ten years ago, we rarely saw a barn owl, we’ve now had breeding pairs
Stephen Honeywood
Jordans farmer

The partnership is not only proving beneficial for wildlife but the farmers themselves. Guy Tucker farms at Greenhall Farm, Hertfordshire.  A third-generation farmer, he wanted to give back to the landscape that’s given his family a livelihood for decades.  He started supporting wildlife on his land back in 2003, so it was a natural step to join the Jordans Farm Partnership. 

Guy Tucker says:

“I am a happier person as I see wildlife increasing on the farm.  My father ploughed up hedges, but I’m planting them. Through the JFP conservation scheme, the input of Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust ecologist, Matt Dodds, has been invaluable, targeting improvements for species that are relevant to this area, in a practical and achievable way.”

Guy has planted wildflower areas for crucial pollinators like bees and other insects. Following a farmland bird survey, he was delighted to discover earlier this year that his farm boasted the largest flock of linnets, and bramblings recorded in Hertfordshire. This is particularly impressive given that linnets are on the ‘red list’ and in severe decline in England.

Guy Tucker, Jordans Grower - Matthew Roberts

Guy Tucker, Jordans Grower ©Matthew Roberts

At Halls Farm in Suffolk, Stephen Honeywood doesn’t worry about being over-tidy – he lets hedges thicken to create perfect nesting spaces and produce berries for an autumn wildlife feast. He sows large areas of the farm with cover crops for wild birds and puts up barn owl boxes.   On an adjacent farm which he also manages, Stephen is ensuring silver-washed fritillary butterflies, a species of conservation concern, flourish in the woodland; they’re now spreading to Halls Farm next door. 

Stephen Honeywood explains: 

“The countryside means everything to me – not just growing crops but enhancing the environment for future generations. By creating diverse habitat, we see increased pollinators, increased insect life, increased pond life, and increased bird life. Ten years ago, we rarely saw a barn owl, we’ve now had breeding pairs. We’ve been farming here for over 100 years, and effectively I’m passing through for the next generation.”

Paul Murphy, CEO, Jordans Dorset Ryvita Company said:

“The Jordans brand has a long-standing commitment to nature and our work supporting conservation in the British countryside dates back over 30 years. We are immensely proud of the Jordans Farm Partnership and the positive impact it is having on much loved farm species such as owls, hares and bats. It is endlessly gratifying to see the passion and devotion our growers have shown to developing habitats and species on their farms and this report is a testament to what they have achieved.”

Stephen Honeywood pond sampling with Wildlife Trusts farm advisor

Stephen Honeywood pond sampling with Wildlife Trusts farm advisor ©Jordans

Water as well as land is part of the farm plans. Waterways are protected by six metre buffer strips to help prevent fertilizer and pesticides from entering channels and keep freshwater habitats clean. This is good for wildlife and for people too - it means our drinking water needs less treatment.

The new Jordans Farm Partnership / The Wildlife Trusts’ impact report shows how Jordans farmers are working for wildlife throughout the UK across a diverse range of habitats: 768 km of hedgerow, 485 ha of field margins, 954 ha of woodland, 131 km of waterways and 94 ponds. 

All JFP farms are also members of LEAF Marque, a farm assurance system which promotes food grown sustainably with care for the environment. Farmers also work towards conserving and creating healthy soil.