Exmoor Hill Farming Network

The Network was set up to build on the success of the Exmoor Hill Farm Project, part of the SW Uplands Livestock Initiative which also covered Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, funded by the Rural Development Programme for England. This funding source was due to end in December 2013 so local farmers were challenged to consider whether they wanted support to continue.

 

The EHFN was established in 2014 to improve the viability and sustainability of Exmoor farming businesses through knowledge-transfer, peer-group support, training, and co-operation to safeguard upland farming, rural employment and landscape management. Our mission is "to enable effective agricultural management across Exmoor for sustainable livelihoods and landscapes. Responding to the low profitability of upland livestock farming and the isolation experienced by many of the people who work on the land, the Network provides opportunities to farmers and others involved in agriculture and rural land management on Exmoor to learn, share and collaborate through a mix of discussion groups, on-farm learning, visits, and specialist knowledge/training.

 

The Network has received funding since 2014 from the Prince’s Countryside Fund and the Exmoor National Park Authority. The Prince’s Countryside Fund is supporting the Network to address low farming incomes and rural isolation through its networking and training activities. Exmoor National Park Authority is supporting sustainable land management activities including farm visits, training, demonstrations and the peer support. We are a farmer led group, chaired by Exmoor farmer Dave Knight, who decided to work with local partners to source funding to continue, resulting in a bid to the Prince’s Countryside Fund and subsequent confirmation of additional RDPE transition funding. The group agreed on a Network model and recruited a new Officer to coordinate their activities. Network Officer Katherine Williams was appointed in April 2014, with management and hosting services provided through economic development agency, North Devon+. The Network’s steering group is composed of 10 farmers, 2 community and 3 agency representatives who meet every two months. events".

 

A particular approach to learning is through ‘peer support groups’. Three groups are active at present: the Exmoor Forward Farming Group, the Women in Farming Group and the Micro Farming Group. Each group has a tailored range of meetings, presentations and practical visits supported by the Network Officer, responding to issues and opportunities raised by the members groups.. Key partners working with the project are Exmoor National Park Authority, North Devon and West Somerset Councils, North Devon+, local training agencies, agri-businesses, farmer groups and the Dartmoor Hill Farm Project.

 

Key Facts

  • Farmer led and independent
  • Supporting circa: 300 farming businesses on Exmoor
  • Members database of 430 contacts

 

Since January 2016, the Network has:

  • Organised 68 events attended by over 1,000 people
  • Directly assisted 80 farm businesses in their development
  • Engaged with 89 young members
  • Provided work experience for 4 young people (one already gained employment locally)
  • Organised a major consultation 'The Exmoor Ask' on issues facing farming post-Brexit
  • Supported the production of the report 'Beyond 2020’ and jointly prepared the subsequent ‘Exmoor Ambition’ proposal to Defra on post-Brexit farm and environment support, now being discussed in detail with Defra
  • Hosted an on-farm meeting with Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove
  • Facilitated a successful application on Exmoor to the PCF Farm Resilience Programme
  • Co-ordinated extensive media coverage (local, national and international) on the challenges facing hill farming on Exmoor

 

Objectives for 2018-2020

  1. The Go-To Hub for farmers on Exmoor
  2. Brexit – Risks and Opportunities
  3. The Next Generation
  4. Securing the Network’s future

 

Since its formation, the majority of the costs of running the Network have been met by grant funding from The Princes Countryside Fund and the Exmoor National Park Authority and by in-kind support from North Devon+ as hosting organization. In recent years, locally-derived income (from member attendance and training fees, sponsorship and local fundraising) has become increasingly important as a source of funding.