Within six weeks of its
launch Norfolks pilot land
NALMI, had attracted great
interest from local farmers. Amanda Dunn reports
KEY to the enthusiasm building behind the Norfolk Land Management Initiative is its whole farm philosophy, looking at the wider implications of environmental works to help make them more attractive to farmers.
"Previous projects havent got to the core of an arable business. With NALMI were looking at something more radical," maintains co-ordinator Gilly Hall of the Countryside Agency.
NALMI aims to work directly with farmers, agreeing environmental objectives that are both financially and practically viable, then helping implement those plans by providing support and training. "We want to see economic growth as well as environmental benefit," highlights Mrs Hall.
NALMI partners are the Countryside Agency, Environ-ment Agency and Morley Research Centre. The pilot project includes 13 parishes, representing 4500ha (11,115 acres) and 150 farms in central Norfolk.
"Weve already visited 11 farms and received keen interest from 30-40," says project officer John Terry. Areas of common interest are emerging.
"Norfolk has the lowest level of organic matter in its soils in the country, less than 1%. Farmers are interested in managing the soil to reduce compaction and erosion.
"There is also interest in poultry muck, storing it over winter and then applying it in the spring," explains Mrs Hall. A series of training seminars and workshops looking at these and other issues is planned for the winter.
"The seminars arent just educational, they give opportunity for farmers to network, for us to introduce neighbouring farmers with similar interests, for the exchange of ideas," explains Mr Terry.
NALMI will also assess the needs of rural communities and economies and see whether changes in farm and environmental management overlap.
There is evidence of fuel poverty in rural communities, for example, so elderly people cant afford to keep warm. At the same time there are many small woodlands that have not been properly managed since the war. "We could use unemployed labour to improve the woodlands and subsequently provide heating for fuel poverty areas," suggests Mrs Hall.
"We have a vision of a more integrated countryside developed through environmental, economic and social change, where people live, work and get more of the money available from the sale of food back into the countryside," highlights Mr Terry.
"Other projects have sometimes been restrictive through their prescriptive nature," says Mrs Hall. By talking and listening to farmers NALMI will offer a more flexible, whole farm approach.