Farmer And Smallholder Group to Be Set Up

Scilly’s farmers and smallholders are setting up an equivalent of a Chamber of Commerce for islanders who work the land.

£100,000 of grant funding has been secured from Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England.

The cash will be used to support training and mainland visits for farmers who want to experience best practice in farming. There’ll also be opportunities to develop their skills with training sessions here or elsewhere in the southwest.

Ben Julian, who farms on St Martin’s, is a member of the group driving the project.

He says the money will be used over the next 20 months to help form a voice for the islands’ farming industry so one body can deal with Government agencies and officials.

Ben says the new body could reduce individual’s costs by acting as a discount buying group for bulk purchases of seeds or feed.

There’s a need for socialising and idea-sharing too, says Ben, something that has become apparent since the closure of the Trenoweth R&D station, which had provided a forum for farmers.

Advertisements will be placed locally and on the mainland soon to try and recruit a paid project manager who will be funded by the grant money.

Ben says the increased livestock interest and the abattoir proposals means the focus of farming has moved away from a mainly flower-based industry.

There’s no accurate data on how many islanders could benefit from this new farming initiative. The holding numbers, which list islanders with livestock, indicate there could be as many as 50 members.

A meeting of the new body is planned for the end of next month.