Britain's biodiversity has been in decline since the arrival of the first mesolithic farmer around 7,000 years ago saw the clearing and cultivation of native woodland and grasslands.
This decline accelerated through successive agricultural and industrial revolutions to the point where the UK is among the most nature-depleted countries in Europe with only half of its natural biodiversity remaining. Over the last 50 years, 41% of UK species have declined under pressure from agriculture, urbanisation, pollution and climate change.
With 72% of UK land managed for agriculture, farming as a key role to play in protecting and even restoring biodiversity. More farms are showing how this can be done both within and around productive land.
The organic fields at Green Acres Farm in Shropshire are filled with diversity, both agrobiodiversity in the species, varieties and populations of crops, and wider biodiversity from healthy soil microbia to a flourishing range of plant, insect, animal and bird species.
Mark and Liz Lea have grown organic peas of many varieties for us for over the last 10 years, including yellow, blue, marrowfat and most often beautiful maple or carlin peas, with distinctive purple flowers and red-brown mature peas.
The farm produces a wide range of other crops, including a wide range of heritage and population wheats, oats and sometimes other crops like buckwheat.
Many of the cereals at Green Acres are grown through ‘living mulches’.This approach protects the soil, reduces the need for tillage & fixes nitrogen whilst at the same time provides a valuable in-field habitat for invertebrates.
Grass field margins play a key role in supporting wider biodiversity on farms. These strips of vegetation around the edges of arable fields are often vibrant with wildflower species in the spring. Year-round they provide vital habitats for many plant and animal species.
Read more about Green Acres and other farms we work with in Sheaf: Harvest 2022.
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A few years ago we were looking for a sweetner for some granola recipes, something UK produced and minimally processed. When our apple syrup order from Liberty Fields arrived we knew we were onto something special - we quickly added them to our short list of brilliant Guest Producers
We've launched ten pulses and grains from British farms as part of Holland & Barrett's transformation of their food range, available in their stores across the UK. It's a fantastic opportunity to make British-grown fava beans, carlin peas and quinoa, along with other pulses and cereals, available more widely and to support more diverse farming.
Down a warren of country lanes, not far from the Tamar Valley in Cornwall, is Julie Bailey's orchard Lower Trelabe, where she grows historic local varieties of apple and makes her delicious Apple Natural apple shreds, traditional fruit leathers that contain only the natural plant sugars.