Countryside life

PUBLISHED: 10:25 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:34 20 February 2013

Countryside life

Countryside life

Farming has shaped the Kentish landscape we know today and it is our farmers who are best placed to help promote conservation

Protecting Kents wildlife

Farming has shaped the Kentish landscape we know today and it is our farmers who are best placed to help promote conservation

Kents countryside is largely man-made, or to be more precise, farmer-made. Greater forces than agriculture may have shaped formations such as the North Downs and the Weald, but it is tilling, sowing and active land-management in all its forms that has clothed these landscapes and given us an environment to enjoy.

Farmings legacy to Kent is of fine produce and a beautiful backdrop to rural life. But what of the future? Farming may have modernised, and some crops ceased to be viable, but the environment created by farmland is as important as ever, and this is the motivation behind the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, an initiative which I hope will reassure those who care about the countryside.

The Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) is designed to build on the environmental benefits of compulsory set-aside (where land is left uncultivated for wildlife to flourish) with a voluntary scheme that demonstrates the environmental benefits which agricultural businesses are ideally placed to nurture.

Farmers are in the best position to encourage our diverse and precious wildlife

Farmers are in the best position to encourage our diverse and precious wildlife, and facilitate access to the countryside, while at the same time ensuring that rural Kent provides not just aesthetic benefits, but local jobs, local food and other valuable products.

CFE in Kent brings together the countys representatives from Britains leading rural organisations, under the chairmanship of Doug Wanstall, who farms in Aldington near Ashford. This Local Liaison Group has already met and set plans in motion to unite Kents farmers behind CFE for the benefit of the environment.

There is already a tremendous amount of work being undertaken by farmers to conserve and increase natural habitats, but CFE aims to set best-practice as the example for all to follow to raise the benchmark, if you like. One way of achieving this will be to establish beacon farms, which exemplify the harmonious co-existence of farming and conservation.

The fact that the CFE is voluntary is not shorthand for it wont happen, because if the CFE does not deliver, then compulsory measures will follow. Most farmers do all they can to promote conservation while running a viable business, and any compulsory measures would involve costly red tape, which we all end up paying for in the end.

The acceptance of CFE as a means of delivering environmental benefits shows a welcome degree of faith in farmers and landowners to deliver the management of land which is out-of-production in ways that will promote farmland birds and wildlife habitats, and protect soil and water.

CFE has provided every farmer and land manager with a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate to Government and the general public that environmental management can be achieved without the need for costly and burdensome regulation.

It has put farmers and land managers, the people who know best how to get the balance right between productive farming and sound environmental management, in the driving seat.

CFE encourages farmers to go a step beyond their existing commitment to wildlife, so this is very much about enhancing the environment, rather than just maintaining the status quo.

There is a real buzz of enthusiasm among all the partners to ensure CFE makes a difference. If it also serves to remind us of the work which farmers and landowners do to make rural Kent a wonderful place to live and visit.

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