Rural Hub News
Rural businesses show great resilience
in reacting to the challenges presented by Covid-19
Forward-thinking rural businesses are showing their innovative expertise and exploring new markets during the coronavirus outbreak, a new in-depth survey has revealed. The data was collected by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub via the Warwickshire Rural Hub. The results were included in the latest CWLEP Growth Hub SmartRegion report (June 9-22) which also gathered information from the CWLEP’s business engagements and survey data, Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Farmers Union.
Of the people who responded to the Warwickshire Rural Hub survey 53% of responders were sole traders, 37% were micro businesses and10% were small or medium businesses
95% of respondents said that their business had been adversely impacted by Covid-19 with 53% seeing their business temporarily cease trading. To cope with the impact of Covid-19 businesses had:
- furloughed staff
- temporarily changed their products
- sought new supply chains
- changed staff working patterns
But there is positive news too, which shows the resilience of our rural business community:
69% of businesses were undertaking innovation
37% of respondents were investing in their business
53% of businesses were looking to diversify
42% were exploring new markets
And a fast Broadband connection was felt to be the single most important issue for rural business development. The Rural Hub is now working with the CW Growth Hub to analyse the results and pass on intelligence to contacts in local government to influence future support for the rural sector.
Reducing farm carbon emissions
with the Farm Carbon Toolkit
Our second Zoom event with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network took place on 30 June when we watched a demonstration of the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit by Becky Willson of the Soil Carbon Project. Becky firstly explained that the aim of the toolkit was to encourage and support farmers and growers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, increase their farm energy resilience and in doing so improve their farm business in the future. Identifying the C footprint of a business is the first vital step in being able to quantify the contribution that the farm is making to climate change and the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit was developed by farmers, for farmers, and is free to use. After reviewing where emissions come from on arable and livestock farms Becky then talked about key actions for reducing them and carbon sequestration options. One of the take home messages is that the time to act is NOW! Becky can be contacted at email@example.com
Using ground beetles
for pest control
Following the restrictions on social interaction all Rural Hub events for 2020 were cancelled in mid-March. But on 17 June we joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Network to hold our first virtual Zoom event. Twenty three participants logged on to hear from PhD student Kelly Jowett from Rothamsted who is investigating how to improve farm habitat management towards boosting the populations of carabid beetles – which in turn will improve natural enemy pest control in crops and pastures. A vital part of Kelly’s research is gathering information and opinions of farmers to feed into making applicable research outputs. Kelly played us her YouTube video which shows why and how carabid beetles should be encouraged to farms and also showed us how to set up pitfall trapping and carabid monitoring on farms. We also learned that most beetles forage within 5m of field margins but establishing a beetle bank will encourage them to visit the centre of the crop. But unlike other beneficial insects, it is not possible to buy carabids online and introduce them to your crop as it is very difficult to breed them under laboratory conditions.
Feedback on this first Zoom event was very positive so we would like to thank the Arden Farm Wildlife Network for setting up the presentation and Kelly Jowett for sparing the time to speak to us. If you would like to complete Kelly’s survey on carabids on farm to assist her research this can be accessed on this page.
and plant health
Rural Hub members joined up with the Arden Farm Wildlife Project on Tuesday 25 February 2020 at a event about soil health and plant biology. The first speaker was Mike Harrington of Edaphos, who spoke about creating the solutions necessary to facilitate the best of farm systems, from organic agriculture and biodynamics to agroecology. His philosophy is to improve soil and plant health, whilst harnessing the soils stored resources to their full potential to achieve a healthy, well balanced system. Dr Felicity Crotty, a lecturer in soil science and ecology at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester who specialises in healthy soils and soil biology in both grassland and arable systems was the second speaker. One fascinating fact from the event was that the weight of creatures living in healthy soil is heavier than the livestock in the field. That’s a lot of worms! Thank you to Zoe Bell for organising the event and Squab Hall for acting as host.
Massage therapist helps to reduce tension
during second health and wellbeing event
We held our second Health and Wellbeing event at Rugby Farmers’ Market café on Monday 17 February 2020. The room was buzzing with farmers who had come to buy and sell livestock and we used the occasion to offer them a free stress-busting massage with Maya, our massage therapist. Maya had a steady stream of visitors who gave great feedback on the benefits of her massage, which can include reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, reduction of stress hormones and increase in joint mobility and flexibility. Farming Community Network distributed free copies of their publication “Fit for Farming” and had several meaningful conversations with visitors to their stand. We will be back again on Monday 6 April – this time with the addition of two senior nurses.
Cover crops and green manures
with Kings Crops
Over thirty farmers and members of the Rural Hub and Arden Farm Wildlife Project visited Pleasance Farm in Kenilworth on 28 January 2020 to hear all about cover crops for wildlife and green manures. Richard Barnes from Kings Crops explained how winter cover crops can be tailored to provide habitat for wildlife, as well as improving soils. He also gave us some ideas of which crops can be used as summer cover/green manures for fields which are left unplanted in the spring.
Thanks must go to Henry Lucas for acting as host and Zoe Bell of the Arden Farm Wildlife Project for organising the event.
Workshop on RDPE Growth Programme funding
for small businesses in rural Warwickshire
In previous rounds, businesses in rural Warwickshire have been allocated £2.6 million in financial support. Farm diversification and food & drink are two of the priorities for the business development grants in 2020 (as well as there being separate grants for food processing and rural tourism). To find out more about the grant programme please visit this page.
Helping hedgehogs to thrive on farmland
with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust
Achieve your goals with less stress
with Focussed Farmers
Using social media to promote your business
with NFU and Sunflower VA
How to use social media to promote farming and rural businesses was the topic discussed at our event on 24 October 2019.
Hosted by NFU our first speaker was their social media lead, Charlotte Coates. Charlotte explained how NFU used Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote a positive message for farming and to raise the profiles of their campaigns. The growing importance of using short videos was highlighted and we all learned how to take a good selfie! Sharing beautiful shots of our countryside, tagging key influencers, following industry hashtags and showing pride in our industry were Charlotte’s top tips. We also learned how to deal with any negativity. Our second speaker was Amanda Morris from Sunflower VA who gave some case studies of local businesses who had successfully raised their profile through social media, some statistics on why every business needed to get social and tips on the best times of day to post stories and tweets. There was plenty of questions from the floor as many members of the audience used their iPads and ‘phones to get online.
We would like to thank Charlotte and Amanda for delivering their wisdom and George Bostock, NFU Warwickshire Assistant Adviser, for his help in organising the room.
Making the most of your rural property assets
with Rural Hub Business Supporters
Diversification via development of rural property assets was the theme of the Rural Hub event on 24 September 2019 at Deer Park Hall, Eckington near Pershore. Rural Hub Business supporters sponsored the event and provided the speakers. Firstly, Dan Jackson from Sheldon Bosley Knight explained the rules behind Class Q permitted development rights of agricultural buildings. Then Daniel O’Donnell of Rosconn Strategic Land gave an overview of Promotion Agreements. The letting of agricultural buildings was covered by Tony Rowland of Sheldon Bosley Knight and the seminar concluded with a presentation by Douglas Godwin of Parkinson Wright on the legal perspectives to consider. Breakfast bacon rolls gave the delegates plenty of time to network. The Rural Hub would like to thank its business supporters for their sponsorship of this event.
What is it?
Biodiversity offsets are conservation activities in one location that compensate for losses in another (e.g. following housing developments). Landowners are ideal candidates to create new habitats – such as ponds, woodlands and hedgerows – to replace those that have been lost and Warwickshire County Council is looking for landowners who would like to enter long-term funding agreements. that can cover 100% of the costs. At our event on 10 September 2019 delegates heard from David Lowe of WCC who gave an overview of biodiversity offsetting, the few rules that will need to be complied with through the legal agreement and offered landowners the opportunity to write their own grant scheme and payment terms. The NFU then gave its own perspective on the scheme and explained how they would prefer marginal areas of land to be used in the scheme, rather than land that is currently producing food. We would like to thank NFU for hosting the event and providing lunch.
Thomas Maynard of Hatton Farms Ltd
wins Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019
Thomas Maynard, Director of Hatton Farms Ltd, was announced as the winner of the Forsyth Lapwing Trophy for 2019 at a Syngenta farmer’s meeting on 1 July 2019. The trophy, sponsored by Syngenta, is awarded for excellence in environmental farming and conservation on a commercial Warwickshire farm.
As well as retaining and managing such features for wildlife as woodlands, ponds and hedges Thomas has also taken an archaeological feature out of cultivation. Winter bird seed plots, beetle banks and pollen and nectar mixes have been introduced to the farm and Tom uses grass leys to help control black grass and on arable headlands to improve arable gross margins, field operation efficiency and improve soil structure. Hatton Farms hosts regular visits from schools and bird surveys. Thomas Maynard was presented with the Forsyth Lapwing Trophy to retain for one year plus a Syngenta seed mixes voucher by south Warwickshire farmer Anthony Forsyth. The runner-up for 2019 was Jonathan Hince, Farm Manager of HJ and CF Beecham of Tidmington, near Shipston on Stour.
Photo: Left to Right – Jonathan Hince, Anthony Forsyth, Thomas Maynard
“The Hub helps to inspire its Members to do something different, to embrace change and learn from each other.”
Warwickshire Rural Hub Chair
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c/o Pleasance Farm, Kenilworth
Warwickshire, CV8 1PR
Tel: 07780 159291
Company Registration No: 7026157
Registered office: 23 West Bar Street, Banbury, OX16 9SA
Warwickshire Rural Hub CIC Directors
Henry Lucas (Chair)
Graham Collier (Deputy Chair)
Hub Steering Group Members
George Bostock, NFU
Mark Dickin, Ellacotts Accountants
Tom Newbery, Highfield Farm
Alexandra Robinson, Wright Hassall LLP
Matt Willmott, King's Seeds
Jon Slee, Abbey Farm
Andrew Cook, Farmer
Emlyn Evans, Squab Hall
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