SINCE THORNEY Abbey was launched as a LEAF demonstration farm last June, we have welcomed several groups and individuals. Both our MP and MEP have visited and, with an election near, we are pleased to find they are championing some of the topics we discussed.
Patrick Mercer is our MP and he has taken up the cause for a sustainable milk price for producers in his constituency. When he visited us in February he was impressed with the range of wildlife and realised the importance grass farms have in a predominantly arable landscape. Without dairy farms there would be much less grassland in Notts.
The farm walk season is just getting into gear now spring is here. We have seven groups booked to visit us between now and autumn, although we anticipate some late bookings, too. The first group of producers came last week, sponsored by the Environment Agency, which is keen to show its friendly side.
We show the farm warts and all, so they saw our fantastic buffer strip, which has turned into a great habitat for small mammals and insects. We also walked them through the winter wheat, some of which was decimated by slugs last autumn.
By the time this is printed, our contractor will have redrilled the worst patches with spring wheat.
Most visitors this year will be non-farmers, which pleases us. One of the reasons we agreed to become a demonstration farm is to try to get a message across to the public that farming is good for the countryside.
The most satisfying parties are schoolchildren. They are so excited about what they find, from mini-beasts and dung beetles to wild flowers and calves. The other thing which makes them good from our point of view is they earn us money through the educational access option in our Countryside Stewardship agreement. It is always nice to get paid for doing something you enjoy.