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A farm in Nidderdale is to feature on Channel 5’s Springtime on the Farm this week, looking at the plight of hill farmers.
Farm Conservation Advisor at Nidderdale AONB, Marian Wilby said: “It’s important the struggle hill farmers’ face is being highlighted. In the past year, the AONB has hosted a series of events – Farming for the Future – in association with the Princes Countryside Fund, advising farmers to look at their business model post-Brexit.”
Farmers currently receive subsidies under the EU, which will end in 2024.
Caroline and Chris Prince run Toft Gate Farm and Toft Gate Barn Café after Chris took over the farm from his dad.
Upland hill farmers work under very difficult terrain and climate conditions. Recently Caroline and Chris had to sell 100 of their 220 sheep in order to pay for the animals’ food bills. Six years ago they diversified the business with Toft Gate Barn Café. While the business sees a lot of footfall in the summer, it significantly reduces during autumn and winter months.
Chris Clark, an Upper Wharfedale farmer and business management adviser, visited over 25 farms in and around Nidderdale as part of his research for Farming for the Future.
Chris Clark said: “I believe what is happening in hill farming and agriculture shares similarities to what happened in the coalmines in the North of England. The need for coal changed, but for coal miners, their work was a part of their DNA and identity, ingrained in their community. It was hard to adapt. Hill farmers share that same sense of purpose; it’s their livelihood. But I believe their purpose is going to fundamentally change in the next five to ten years. Research points to the very real scenario that their purpose will change from food production to include different public and environmental benefits.”
There are 800 farmers in Nidderdale. The average income of farmers without subsidies is £22,000; in Nidderdale this can be as low as £7,000-£8,000.
Marian Wilby added: “Farming is vitally important in Nidderdale, and it’s helped create the special landscape qualities that underpin our status as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We want to ensure the existing farm holdings survive. As well as upland livestock farming making a vital contribution to landscape, it’s integral to our rural economy and our communities.”
Toft Gate Farm will feature on the show this Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (9, 10, 11 April).