When you’re rushing to pick up shopping from the supermarket or digging into your dinner after a busy day, it’s understandable if you’re not thinking about how your food was produced.

But it’s important for us all to understand the connection between farming and the food that ends up on our table, and importantly the role that nature plays in that process.

Intensive farming lays waste to life on its lands and the surrounding areas. It destroys the species that underpin food production, causing the extinction of pollinators and natural pest controllers and devastating soil health.

We are often being told that we must rethink the way we eat food, with new diets being recommended each day, but have you ever thought about what impact we can make if we rethink the way we farm?

By developing new forms of farming that invite nature into the process we can make space for many different habitats and allow farms to be ‘nature reserves’ in their own right.

Small changes can allow nature to flourish, including:

  • Varying cultivation systems - having various systems gives greater opportunities for more diversity of wildlife, also, different cultivation systems allow different weeds to grow. This is not always a good thing, it may give opportunities for rare arable weeds to reappear or if we have them already to flourish.
  • Changing the way harvesting is done – harvesting in the day gives young chicks a chance of escaping whereas if it’s at night, they will just be either killed by the combine or die of cold being detached from their mother. Another option is harvesting from the middle out, this pushes wildlife to the edge of the field where they will seek sanctuary in hedges etc, rather than pushing them into the middle of the field where there is no habitat and no safety
  • Create a mosaic of crops and cultivation systems – for example having varied crops, but we also try and not block crop. This basically means we try and not have two similar crops in adjacent fields. If a bird chooses to nest in a field that does not provide the necessary food for its chicks it will never have far to go to find a better food source in the neighbouring fields.
  • Create wildlife corridors across farms - by leaving strips of fields uncultivated, they create the aforementioned corridors. Birds can fly from one side of the farm to the other but smaller rodents like voles and mice will never venture across cultivated land but will happily live and move around in these stubbles and hedgerows.

Read more tips from CRT Tenant Farmer and Trustee Tim Scott in his blog here.

At the CRT we understand that we must live cohesively with nature. That is why we work with our tenant farmers to make space for nature to thrive alongside food production. Through protection, promotion and regeneration on our sites across England we are seeing the results first hand.

An example of this is the increase of dunnock populations on Lark Rise Farm in Cambridgeshire. The dunnock is a relatively quiet little bird that shuffles through the undergrowth, found across the UK in woodland, farmland and some urban areas with plenty of vegetation. Though they are fairly common in the UK, they are an amber list species as their numbers have fallen by almost a third since the 1970s, primarily due to loss and damage of woodland and hedgerows.

In 2021, the number of dunnocks on Lark Rise Farm increased by more than 17 per cent. Looking at the long-term data, there has been a steady rise from 21 territories in 2008 to 44 in 2021, so the increase this past year was not a random fluctuation.

The increase in numbers on Lark Rise Farm shows that dunnocks are benefiting from the extra hedgerows, scruffy margins and plentiful seed supplies available on the farm. A prime example of why nature friendly farming is important for a wide range of species.

The CRT supports and empowers our tenant farmers, you can help us in our mission to protect, promote and regenerate our land and all life on it, by donating today.