Call to shape West Country’s rural future

You are currently viewing Call to shape West Country’s rural future

Farming and country stakeholders are joining forces to create a rural recovery plan for the South West of England, and are calling on interested parties to take part and help shape the region’s future.

Working with partners including Local Enterprise Partnerships, the NFU, and the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, the Rural Business School at Duchy College will host a week of webinars to try and reach a consensus on which to base future plans.

“By bringing together researchers, practical business owners and policy makers we hope to identify how to marry sustainable and regenerative agriculture with a productive and resilient sector,” explains Robin Jackson, director of the Rural Business School (RBS).

“Food and farming are core to our region’s economy and if we get it right there will be economic, environmental and social benefits.”

Initially, RBS had planned to host a one-day conference in Cornwall, but Covid-19 means the event is now being delivered online. Webinars will be held from 2-3.30 pm each day from 27-31 July and will assess current challenges and opportunities – including climate change, natural capital and the region’s food systems.

“We need to look at what we can and should focus on, and give people the confidence that positive change can happen,” says Mr Jackson.

Several organisations have already produced reports around the food and farming sector – including the NFU’s strategic framework, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission’s Devon Inquiry, the Devon Grass Roots Inquiry, and Tevi; Cornwall’s environment and climate change project.

“We want to try and pull all of these strands together to better form an action plan,” explains Mr Jackson.

“And we want landowners, farmers, rural communities, food producers and policy makers to join the conversation and help shape the direction of travel. If we can reach a consensus of what the future should look like, then we will arrange another webinar series to find the tools we need to get there.”

Sue Pritchard, chief executive at the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, will kick off the series on 27 July with her vision of the future agri-food sector, and will then help draw together an action plan in the closing session on 31 July.

“We are living in unprecedented times, in which the central importance of secure and sustainable food and farming has been shown up in sharp relief,” she says.

“As well as understanding and responding to the far-reaching global challenges and adapting for the climate and nature crises, it is now essential to understand and act on what this means for more resilient and responsive communities.

“The South West peninsula has so many opportunities to develop a truly vibrant, fair and sustainable food and farming system.”

Supporting local supply chains would help farmers get fair returns for producing healthy, nutritious food, mitigating climate change and restoring nature, explains Ms Pritchard.

“Bringing together this stellar selection of experts will really help shape the conversations we need to have. The benefits will be felt far beyond the agri-food sector, and in healthier, thriving and more resilient communities.”

Paul Cottington, South West NFU environment and land use adviser, will be exploring the concept of public money for public goods, and how to balance natural capital with sustainable food production.  

“If there’s one thing the coronavirus situation has shown us it’s that people really value the food farmers produce, the flowers and trees that they grow, the green space available, and the calming view of the farmed landscape,” he says.

“This has been demonstrated by more than a million people signing the NFU’s petition calling for UK food standards not to be undermined by imported food as trade deals are struck. This is a moment we can use to build a stronger, greener and more productive South West agricultural industry.”

To book onto the webinars please click here



Setting the Scene: Agriculture and food production in our region

Monday 27 July, 2.00 – 3.30 pm

Before we explore key aspects of agri-food production, we need to consider what an ideal future could be, where we are now, and the challenges and opportunities that we face.

Click here to register for this webinar


The Climate Challenge

Tuesday 28 July, 2.00 – 3.30 pm

Climate change is happening. It is affecting us now and, if we do not act, will do more so in the future.  So, what are the causes and implications for our region, what can we do to mitigate the effects, and what is the role for agriculture?

  • The facts and figures. Prof Iain Stewart, University of Plymouth
  • Cornwall’s role in the climate emergency. Peter Lefort, Cornwall Council
  • The climate challenge and the role of grazing livestock. Prof Michael Lee, Rothamsted Research


Examples of best practice

  • Bill Clarke, Trewithen Dairy, discusses soil health with Tom Tolputt, a farmer and agronomist helping Trewithen’s dairy supply chain
  • Becky Willson, Farm Carbon Toolkit, discusses carbon accounting tools and how they can help develop a carbon reduction strategy for the farm
  • Bennamann and a farm perspective on methane capture and consumption

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A Regenerative Approach: Balancing natural capital and sustainable farm production

Wednesday 29 July, 2.00 – 3.30 pm

Our landscape is an asset. In our region, over 70% of land is agricultural, with famers and landowners as the custodians.  Government policy will drive significant changes to the way this land is managed.  So how should we invest in, protect and enhance this asset?


Examples of best practice

  • Tim Williams, regenerative livestock farmer, discusses regenerative agriculture with Tremayne Carew Pole of the Antony Estate.
  • Catchment friendly farming – bringing water to life. Westcountry Rivers Trust

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Our Food Systems

Thursday 30 July, 2.00 – 3.30 pm

Recent events have changed the way we think about food.  Like so many things that are essential for life, we often taken it for granted, focusing on convenience.  Should we be reconsidering the value we place upon food, its provenance, how we source it and the benefits it provides?


Examples of best practice

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Pulling it Together: A consensus and towards an action plan

Friday 31 July, 2.00 – 3.30 pm

We all have an interest in agriculture and food.  Hear from local enterprise partnerships about their future aspirations, those that represent the farming sector, and those leading the debate across the United Kingdom and our role in it.


  • Sue Pritchard, FFCC
  • Jon Perry, Cornwall NFU Chairman
  • The LEPs: Clare Parnell, Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP
  • The LEPs: Luke Rake, Chair of Rural Enterprise, Dorset LEP

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