Askham Bryan College has a unique partnership with Hazel Brow Farm, Low Row, Swaledale, writes Kevin Kendall, assistant director food and farming, Askham Bryan College.
Whereas the farms near to the college are high-tech lowland units on the fringes of the urban conurbations of York and Leeds, Hazel Brow is a 90ha (222 acre) organic upland farm 15 miles up the Swale valley from the town of Richmond.
Hazel Brow farm is owned by the Calvert family and the college employs Sarah Kalkowski, who acts as a link person in co-ordinating school visits and training programmes. The partnership is partly funded through the Sustainable Development fund and is a joint project involving the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
The farm has been in the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) Scheme and has been involved with the direct marketing of produce for many years. It also has a visitor centre and small café which attracts up to 10,000 visitors and 40 school visits per year.
The project is aimed at maintaining and developing contact with schools, both primary and secondary and also to link with other educational institutions and to inform the public about the agricultural industry and the farming environment of the Yorkshire Dales.
It also extends the learning opportunities for students already on courses at the college and develops community links within the dale to the college which can often seem remote.
Teaching includes techniques in organic farming and comparisons between hill, upland and lowland farming as well as practical skills such as dry stone walling.
By diversifying into organic farming and opening the visitor centre, Hazel Brow itself is a working example of how farming is adjusting to meet the needs of the changing market place and a good example to our students.