The Exmoor Hill Farming Network has established itself as a Community Interest Company (CIC) and has been running as an independent, 100% farmer-led organisation since 1 February this year. The move means greater independence for the Network, which already works with around 318 farming businesses, with opportunities to reinvest assets in the community and attract new sources of funding.
The newly appointed board consists of 11 directors and 4 advisory board members, led by Dave Knight, who has been Chair of the Network since its establishment 5 years ago.
Until now, the Network has been hosted and supported by North Devon +, an economic delivery agency for North Devon and Torridge, which runs a number of rural development programmes in the area.
Dave Knight said, “We are immensely proud of the progress the Network has made under the auspices of North Devon + so that it is trusted by farmers and other land-manging businesses in the Greater Exmoor areas as a source of valuable advice, training and support in these uncertain times. North Devon + has played a key role in this success and we hope to continue a close working relationship going forward.’’
The Network was established in early 2014 to improve the viability and sustainability of Exmoor farming businesses. It does this through knowledge transfer, peer-group support, training, and co-operation to safeguard upland farming, rural employment and landscape management. It has become one of the most sought-after initiatives on Exmoor, providing the ‘go-to hub’ of information and contacts for land-based businesses, overseen by its highly regarded Network Officer, Katherine Williams.
The majority of the costs of running the Network are met by funding from The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Exmoor National Park Authority and North Devon Council, due to run until 31 January 2021. Other key partners and sponsors include Masons Kings, NFU, Dunster Show Society, Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctions, Baldwins and Towergate Insurance. During the past 18 months, the Network steering group has undertaken a Governance Review set out by the Exmoor National Park Authority. The Group took advice from other organisations such as Farm Cornwall and The Cumbria Farmer Network, who operate a similar structure, to build confidence that a fully-fledged independent route was in the best interest of Exmoor’s farming communities.
Sarah Bryan, Chief Executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said, “It’s been a pleasure to see the Exmoor Hill Farming Network grow from strength to strength and we’re pleased to see them complete their independence through this next step. Having a strong voice for the farming community on Exmoor is vital to sustaining the traditional farming practices and ways of life that make our landscapes special. We look forward to continuing to support them in this next venture.”
Ken Miles and Jenny Wallace, Joint CEO’s, North Devon +, said, “The Exmoor Hill Farming Network has been a wonderful and truly innovative project that North Devon + has been involved with from the start. It provides vital resources and support for the farming community and is a model for community involvement that others have followed. We at North Devon + are really pleased to see it now flourishing and becoming independent and are proud of our role in the Network’s development. We look forward to seeing how the Network develops further and to working with the Network in the future.”
The Network hub will remain at Cutcombe Market by kind permission of Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctioneers and will continue to aid farmers with its flagship Exmoor’s Ambition project feeding into DEFRA’s Test and Trials of its new Environmental Land Management Scheme.
PHOTO: Representatives of EHFN CIC Board