Farming

The project aims to demonstrate that productive agriculture, the natural environment and a will to counter climate change can co-exist. Farmers manage 75% of our inhabited land. Only by working alongside farmers, and utilising their knowledge of the land they farm, can we realise the potential for the public to view farms and food production as part of the solution to biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately climate change. Over the generational time-frame, the project aims to work towards both economic and environmental resilience within the participating farms.

Land management has changed dramatically in the Axe catchment over recent decades, with the catchment suffering from pronounced soil compaction in part due to its high clay content. With compaction comes an inability for rainfall to percolate through the soil and generates an increase in surface water run-off. Specific to Southwest England is the visible increased surface run-off associated with the degraded soils of farmland. Also pertinent to the Southwest is the tripling of the area used to grow maize since the early 1990s. Within farming communities there is now a real will to adopt farming practices which will improve both the soil organic matter and its functionality.

We are expecting farmers to perform quite the juggling act – produce sufficient, affordable food to feed the nation, whilst simultaneously restoring wildlife, cut their own carbon emissions (the NFU has committed its members to reach Net Zero by 2040), plant trees, manage flood plains and return some land to the wild. Pertinent to this ambitious project, we also need agriculture to reduce its diffuse pollution contribution to waterways. Beyond economic necessity, is also individual farmers’ own will to become more environmentally resilient and farm in a manner they deem to be more ‘sustainable’ in the future.  

We are taking a collaborative approach to allow for a truly landscape-scale solution. Returning the river channel and the immediate floodplain to its natural wild geomorphic condition is our over-riding priority. Across a wider secondary area (a further 1,500 hectares) we are aiming for bespoke farm management plans which will focus upon the future economic and environmental resilience of each holding, incorporating improved biodiversity and carbon sequestration and a reduction in soil runoff and diffuse river pollution.

See Future Farming in the Axe Catchment for a video previously produced by the Environment Agency (working downstream of our project)

The project will look to play a role in addressing the societal disconnect between farming, food production and the local community as well as between the local community, the local river and it’s surrounding nature. It will offer opportunity for ‘ground-up’ farmer to farmer idea and knowledge exchange as is already present with the nearby Marshwood Vale Farm Cluster Group

We will :

  • Work with farmers within the upper catchment to simultaneously improve the resilience of both businesses and the natural environment
  • Prove productive agriculture and environmental enrichment go hand in hand

Regenerative agriculture — the practices involved and its position within modern agricultural systems – Abstract

Regenerative Agriculture Livestock Magazine Peer Reviewed Article

The Rich Wigram New Zealand Farming Scholarship (RWNZFS) was set up in 2012 to enable young people over 18yrs to experience dairy farming in New Zealand through a one year work placement. Our aim is to send out 2 candidates per year in June or early July.

With close links to the Wigram family and an existing partnership in arranging fundraising and running events (www.eastdevonround.com) for the Scholarship, the Upper Axe Landscape Project would like to promote the potential for young people within the catchment to utilise this opportunity.

The purpose of the charity as stated in the constitution is ’to further the education, knowledge and experience of farming students through a travel scholarship and work placement in the dairy industry in New Zealand, with a particular focus on industry best practice and environmental management.’