Hall Farm, Rusland

This project is about increasing farm profits and enhancing the landscape, biodiversity and soil health. Adam Crowe, one of the farmers at Hall Farm, said:

“Hall Farm is a rented farm on an AHA (3-generation) tenancy. We farm cattle and sheep, having come out of dairy 3 years ago. My dad and I farm in partnership, and I am looking to take on the tenancy."

A new generation of farmers is looking to adapt farming practices

They want to switch to a rotational grazing, pasture-fed system. Using FiPL funding, they are re-instating field boundaries, planting new or managing existing hedges and fencing off water-courses. The aim is to increase farm profits and enhance landscape, biodiversity and soil health.

Farming with Nature

Adam continued: “Nature is in crisis. We hear the news about declining bird populations, impoverished soils, polluted rivers - and farmers are sometimes seen to be the problem. The modern farming methods developed in the second half of the 20th century have contributed, for sure - but at Hall Farm, as on many farms, we want our farming practice to be part of the solution to those problems.

“We’re blessed in Rusland to have more abundance and diversity of wildlife than in some other parts of the country, but we’d still like to see more, and to connect up fragmented habitats as best we can.

“The principle focus of our FiPL projects has been the restoration of boundaries, which in itself doesn’t sound all that exciting - but we hope the benefits will be multi-fold.

“We have restored derelict hedges by laying, coppicing and in some cases leaving old trees, and also through new planting of native hedgerow species. The restored hedges will be a dynamic mix of shelter and food with species such as guelder rose, hazel, alder buckthorn, crab apple, hawthorn and spindle, hedgerow trees and small amounts of deadwood.

“We have fenced around 2km of watercourses and hope to see some natural regeneration, and this year we are conducting tree surgery on an iconic fallen lime tree that we hope will regenerate once fenced around.

“In the fields, the newly intact boundaries are helping us begin rotational grazing, which has already allowed us to eliminate fertiliser and has also allowed herb species to express themselves by flowering and setting seed in places that I certainly didn’t expect. I’m really looking forwards to the coming summer to see what else reveals itself.

“Our aim through FiPL and beyond is to see a greater diversity of grassland species and more trees on the farm, to provide habitat and food- through nectar, seeds - and also to farm efficiently with what we have on-farm.”

Securing the longer term viability of the farm

“This is a big time of change in farming. Talking openly as a family about how that would affect all of us isn’t always easy, so we applied to FiPL for funding for a facilitated conversation on succession, which helped provide an action plan for us all to be working on.

“With BPS declining, then disappearing, we’re looking at ways that we can make the farm more profitable, and the way we’re choosing to do that is to shift the farming system.

“FiPL funding was used for grazing management advice, to look at the optimum ways of splitting up the farm for rotational grazing and suggestions as to how we might get water to each of the blocks.

“We have a small number of native breed cattle, predominantly Red Polls and will be increasing that herd; as they thrive on pasture and rough grazing on the low fells and do well wintering out-side. We are also moving to a closed sheep flock, breeding our own replacements and using performance recorded tups to try to get the right genetics which fit our system.

“We already sell a small number of meat boxes locally, and would like to explore diversifying the market for our produce.”

"FiPL is really straight-forward to apply for. Jasmine was always there to discuss any questions and ideas, or help with advice on what was eligible and what level of funding we might be looking at. Putting claims in is an easy process too."