Guest blog by Katherine Williams, Exmoor Hill Farming Network Officer
The Exmoor Hill Farming Network has welcomed an award of £49,997 funding from The Prince’s Countryside Fund to help it support the Exmoor farming community. This will enable the Network, which is farmer-led, to continue and develop its work for the next three years (February 2018- February 2021). This follows the success of two previous grants from the Fund, bringing the total awarded to date from the charity to £149,981.
Since the Network’s formation in 2014, 300 farming businesses on Exmoor now benefit from the knowledge exchange, training and news updates it provides. Our priority for the future is to strengthen and professionalise our range of services, developing the Network as the ‘Go-To Hub’ for knowledge, learning and peer-support through our office, our four peer-support groups (Forward Farming, Women in Farming, Micro-farming and Next Generation) and close working with specialist organisations.
The financial assistance from the Fund will enable the Network to focus on the impacts of Brexit, helping Exmoor farmers adapt and be resilient to the changes this will bring. We are taking a proactive approach, involving the next generation of Exmoor farmers in a costed proposal to Government. Our plan, called ‘Exmoor’s Ambition’, is to develop new ways of delivering high-quality landscapes, delicious food, abundant wildlife and other public benefits from prosperous farms on Exmoor.
This award from the Fund contributes nearly half of the required for the forthcoming network activities over the next three years. The Network is currently exploring the funding gap with the Exmoor National Park Authority and will be identifying ways of becoming more self-sufficient.
We have been delighted to have welcomed Natwest, Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctioneers, Masons Kings and the NFU on board as key sponsors over the past two years and we will continue to offer sponsorship packages for local businesses and partners during our next phase. If you would be interested in hearing more about our sponsorship opportunities please contact the office.
Dave Knight, EHFN Chairman, said: “We at the EHFN are over the moon to have secured this help from the Fund for the next three years, this extraordinary support will hopefully allow us to push forward with our aims of growing the network now that we are well established.
“The Fund has supported us right from the beginning, it’s no under statement to say that without their backing, both financially and in terms of their support, the Network would not be where it is today. They have promoted us at every turn and opened doors for us, for which we are immensely grateful.”
Claire Saunders, Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said: “Since our first grant to the Network we have been proud to see them develop and grow. This type of support is needed now more than ever before, and I am delighted that we can continue to give funding to assist the farming families of Exmoor build stronger, more resilient businesses. The Network is an inspiring organisation and always willing to share with others how they support their members, and the benefit they have provided to the local farming community.”
The EHFN will continue to bring very competitively priced training which is delivered locally and farmer-led events. The 2018 programme of events, training, workshops and peer group visits are led by your needs. Please let us know if there are specific topics you would like addressed.
The Network is an information and support ‘hub’ for Exmoor’s hill farmers, bringing information, demonstrations, training, grants and opportunities to farmers. The Network started four years ago and is funded by the Exmoor National Park Authority and The Prince’s Countryside Fund and well supported by Exmoor’s farming community.
For further information please contact Katherine Williams Network Officer on 01643 841455 or KWilliams@northdevonplus.co.uk