Browns Go Green In Staffordshire!

A long-standing Duchy tenant is encouraging the return of pollinators, waterfowl and other species of indigenous wildlife to the hedgerows, ponds and field margins across their 350-acre farm in Staffordshire.

Mrs Mary Brown and her son Graham entered into a 5-year Mid-Tier Countryside Stewardship Scheme in 2019, after completing a five-year ELS scheme. Along with growing wild bird seed mixtures they have introduced pollen and nectar mixtures around the farm. This includes the addition of floristically enhanced grass margins beside watercourses and proactive hedgerow management to provide feeding sources for farmland birds.  They are also embarking on a programme to restore anumber of redundant ponds on the holding, creating reed beds and aquatic habitats to attract insects, birds and native wildlife.

Minimal cultivations have also been adopted across the 220 acres of arable land at Hanbury Park Farm, which operates an arable rotation of wheat, spring barley and winter beans, with catch and cover crops being grown whenever the weather allows. A passionate advocate of soil health as the key to the future of agriculture, Graham introduced this sustainable soil system of farming in 2019.

“The quality and health of the soil is business-critical to arable farmers,” he says. “We not only have a moral and environmental duty to look after the land but there are also long-term economic benefits to be had from a more environmentally friendly approach. Healthy soil is productive soil and I believe that more and more farmers will be looking to introduce sustainable farming methodologies in the future so that we can provide the country with the range, quality and quantum of food it expects.”

The Brown family has farmed at Hanbury Park Farm for over 35 years and it is now home to three generations, with grandson Christopher playing a key role in the day-to-day farming and grassland management at the holding. In the late 1950s Mary and her husband became Duchy tenants at a neighbouring holding, Hanbury Park Gate. However, realising that the family’s farming ambitions required a larger holding, the Duchy offered the tenancy of Hanbury Park Farm to the Brown family when it became available in 1987.

In addition to sustainable crop farming, the Brown family has diversified their business over the years with Mary’s daughter Valerie building up a successful livery business complete with horse-walker and manège for the numerous horses currently catered for at Hanbury Park Farm. Later this month, Graham also plans to reintroduce sheep to the farm, the first non-equine livestock at the holding for over two decades.  Grassland is currently managed on a low input regime as part of the Countryside Stewardship Management Plan.

“The Duchy is hugely supportive of progressive tenant farmers,” said Head of Rural Carol Hawkey. “We really believe that sustainable farming methodologies are the way forward and recently introduced a grant to help tenants invest in direct drilling equipment. We are also actively encouraging additional woodland planting and the rewilding of field margins and hedgerows wherever possible. These are all excellent examples of ways in which farmers can encourage greater biodiversity and help to build a sustainable legacy for future generations.”