HILL farmers from Northumberland and the Peak District visited Cumbria as part of an exchange scheme to promote the benefits of shared learning.
A group of 24 farmers visited farms in the Orton, Kirkby Stephen and Sedbergh areas looking at how local farmers have adapted their businesses in recent years.
The Hills Alive project is funded by the Fells & Dales Leader+ programme and co-ordinated by the Cumbria Farmer Network in partnership with farmer groups in Northumberland and the Peak District.
It is intended to give hill farmers the chance to get together to help them evaluate their own businesses and to help them to plan their next steps in keeping hill farming alive in the North of England.
Will Rawling, of the Cumbria Farmer Network, said: “The future of hill farming in Cumbria relies on us having an open mind on how we manage our farms. These exchange visits are useful in helping us learn from hill farmers in other rural parts of the country. We believe that by sharing ideas and good practice, and by visiting farms, that we will be able to identify new ideas that will allow us to improve profits in the future.”
After a reception at Newton Rigg College, Penrith, the group visited Paul and Andrea Dixon at Rake Head, Nateby, for a talk on artificial insemination in sheep, and were shown other examples of technical improvements in farm management.
Tea was provided by Diane Halliday, who talked about her farm bakery business, which now has contacts to supply some of the local supermarkets as well as trading at farmers’ markets and shows in the county.
This was followed by a visit to Neil and Christine Hodgson and family at Park House, Ravenstonedale, to look at a traditionally run low-input hill farm. The day finished with a meal of local produce at the Fat Lamb, Ravenstonedale. Geoff Brown, manager of the Fells and Dales LEADER+ group, gave a short presentation. The following day the group were up early to hear from Pam Hall, of the Wool Clip Co-operative, about the opportunities surrounding wool processing and direct marketing of Herdwick mutton, followed by a visit to the Junction 38 cutting plant, where they were shown around by the plant manager.
The group heard how the plant is supporting local farmer processors, including Richard Simpson, from the Rough Fell sheep breeders producer group, who are co-operating to supply Rough Fell lamb to local specialist outlets.
They then visited Farfield Mill, Sedbergh, to see the retailing of local produce and finished with a visit to Roger Sedgwick’s farm at Lock Bank, Sedbergh, where guests had a look around the farm and saw how Roger is adding value to his milk.
Adrian Shepherd, of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, spoke about income opportunities from environmental schemes, before everyone headed back home after a hectic 24 hours.