June 5, 2013
New visitor attraction showcases farming’s conservation commitment
Between eighty and a hundred thousand people from across the country will see for themselves the vital contribution British farmers are making to nature conservation every year thanks to an exciting new environmental education initiative at Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park.
Opening its gates this month in the run-up to Open Farm Sunday, the conservation area that forms the hub of the Farm Park’s latest initiative has been developed with sponsorship from Agrii and DLF Trifolium to showcase what British farmers are doing to protect, enhance and improve the environment. At the same time, it highlights a host of things everyone can do for nature in their own homes and gardens.
The new attraction is strategically located on the access route to the main rare breed animal contact area to ensure as many visitors as possible. Divided into five zones around a central wildlife pond, it takes visitors on a carefully constructed journey from open woodland through conservation headlands to the heart of the agricultural soil.
The bug, bird, bee, field margin and wormery zones all highlight the intimate connections between the environment, farming and food production. They do so in an attractive, well-illustrated and interactive way designed to engage, educate and excite.
Hot foot from hosting the latest of the farm park’s 7000 annual school visitors and wielding an over-flowing education pack, display manager Alastair Blant, whose baby the conservation area is, stressed: “Children, in particular, get so involved in bug hunting and pond dipping and so fascinated by our cut-away bee hive and soil-based wormery that they often don’t want to leave.
“This is the sort of involvement that really makes them – and their parents and teachers – appreciate the way farming both depends on and works to promote nature.
It’s no quick fix. But it’s definitely the best way of educating people about the environmental benefits farming provides.”
As a Farm Park based firmly on hands-on farming, the whole focus of the new initiative is on creating real interest and engagement.
“That way people leave with an understanding of what conservation field margins actually do as well as the fact that we already have 100,000 ha of them in England alone,” pointed out Agrii project co-ordinator, David Neale.
“They also come to appreciate the extent to which thriving bee populations are vital for our food production. They see how fundamentally we depend on healthy soils. And they learn about the help earthworms and birds give in cultivations and pest control. All of which underlines why a truly sustainable environment is so crucial to British farming.”
As farmers, Adam Henson firmly believes we’ve been missing a major opportunity in this respect. He sees a far wider appreciation of how much our food production depends on the natural environment in all its wonder as essential to a much greater general public empathy for what we do based on an understanding of present day farming techniques.
“This will do far more to change public perceptions than merely telling people we too like birds, bees, hedges and trees,” he explained.
“Like all our crops the development of the conservation area has been hit by this year’s cold, late season. The full range of DLF tussocky grass, wildflower, pollen and nectar, annual bird seed and classic Cotswold seed mixes we’ve sown across the site are only just beginning to establish. But the new pond is teeming with life and we’re already attracting considerable bird and bug life as well as great visitor enthusiasm.
“We’re very much looking forward to the new area becoming an increasingly important addition to the farm experience we offer to people of all ages. And in so doing helping mainstream farming get firmly on the front foot for its green credentials.”