The Cornwall AONB Partnership hosted its 2018 Conference, 'The Future of the Farmed Environment' on Saturday 14th April at the Royal Cornwall Showground Pavilion in Wadebridge. it was a very successful and busy day with over 190 attendees!
This year, in recognition of the UK’s intention to leave the European Union in 2019, the focus of the event was on discussing the future of agriculture after we 'Brexit', with a packed programme of speakers in the morning, followed by a series of case study visits to farms across North Cornwall in the afternoon.
Delegates were welcomed to the event by the Chairperson of the Cornwall AONB Partnership, Gill Pipkin, and the opening address came from Councillor Sue James, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Public Protection at Cornwall Council.
Gill Pipikin reflects-
“Our Annual Conference is one of our major opportunities to engage with a wide audience of our wider partners beyond the formal Partnership Board. I was thrilled that my first Conference as Chairperson saw us attract such a large amount of people and was proud to have hosted such an important contribution to how the future of farming in Cornwall will be shaped after Brexit”.
The keynote morning speakers began with George Eustice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who talked about the government’s 25 year Environment Plan and the future of farm payments that will move to a system of payments for farms contributing to public goods such as biodiversity, beauty, carbon storage and water management.
The Minister was followed by Victoria Vyvyan, Chair of the Environment Committee of the Country Land and Business Association, who talked about making Brexit work for farmers. Victoria described Brexit as a potentially bumpy ride which would need a typically british 4x4, a Landrover Defender, to navigate!
Lucy Jones of the Cornish Food Box Company then described their experience of building a successful business in a protected landscape, illustrating how environmental protection and business success can be achieved in harmony.
The Minister was kind enough to stay for half an hour at the end of the morning to answer questions on the governments proposals set out by Defra in the current consultation, Health and Harmony – The Future for Food, farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit
The event also showcased this year’s AONB Photography competition winners and their stunning photographs as they receive their prizes from Jane Davies, Cornwall AONB Development Officer.
Activity continued over lunch with Jim Wood, Cornwall AONB Planning Officer holding a Planning Surgery and Dr Grace Twiston-Davies our AONB Research Associate with the University of Exeter hosting a seminar on achieving pollinator friendly farming choiceswith Patrick Aubrey Fletcher from the National Farmer’s Union . There were also plenty of exhibits including the Cornwall Wildlife Trust display that featured a beaver all the way from Bavaria to illustrate their project to re-introduce beavers in to Cornwall. Note no beavers were harmed during this conference, this one having sadly died of old age.
Then on a glorious afternoon after such a long, drawn out winter our delegates (wellies at the ready) went off on their choice of eight different farm visits kindly hosted by Cornwall Wildlife Trust, The Gaia Trust, The RSPB, Natural England and FWAG and with lots of local farmers, all doing something great for environmental land management including Chris Jones from Woodland valley farm, Robert Sloman from Roscarrock farm, Charlie and Jane Watson-Smythe at Tregirls Farm.
Thankfully everyone came back in good time despite the beautiful weather for the plenary talk from Tom Tolputt of South West Farm Consultants, illustrating how sustainability and profitability can go hand in hand.
Feedback from all the delegates was excellent and attendees really appreciated the time taken by the Minister and all who participated in the conference to begin the vital disucssions on how we shape the future of farming once we leave the EU.