The future of farming on Dartmoor will be in the spotlight when the NFU Uplands Group visits the area this week.
Launched in 2011, the Dartmoor Farming Futures initiative is currently being trialled on 26 farms in two different areas. The farms involved are already showing promising results, particularly in terms of co-operation between the groups involved that include Natural England, Dartmoor Commonersâ€™ Council and Dartmoor National Park Authority. Defra, the Ministry of Defence and the Duchy of Cornwall also play a part in steering and funding the project.
Over the past few years, Natural England, who are managing the scheme, has been looking at different ways to help farmers maintain Dartmoorâ€™s unique environment to conserve nature and archaeology, to protect water supplies and increase carbon capture. This scheme differs from others as it intends to maintain and improve the ecosystem through an outcome based plan rather than through prescriptive measures, allowing greater flexibility and adaptation of guidelines to more difficult areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and scheduled monuments.
The NFU Uplands Group is keen to see the direct involvement of farmers in designing and monitoring a new agri-environmental scheme on two Dartmoor commons. Chairman Robin Milton believes the Dartmoor Farming Futures initiative is a great opportunity for to illustrate how farmers play an active role in managing landscapes and wildlife and being rewarded for that role.
He said: â€œThis initiative allows local farmers, who best understand how to manage their environment, to use skills and knowledge to achieve environmental goals briefed by Natural England, the Dartmoor Commonersâ€™ Council and Dartmoor National Park Authority. We hope that this approach will both protect the environment and allow traditional farming practises to survive. It should also noticeably increase the potential of such schemes to deliver real environmental change alongside operating productive and profitable farming businesses.â€
In visiting some of the areas involved the NFU Uplands group aims to see how successful such schemes are and how they may benefit other Upland areas.