The Network was set up to build on the success of the Exmoor Hill Farm Project, part of the SW Uplands Livestock Initiative which also covered Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor, funded by the Rural Development Programme for England. This funding source was due to end in December 2013 so local farmers were challenged to consider whether they wanted support to continue.
The Network has received startup funding for 2014 – 2016 from the Prince’s Countryside Fund and the Exmoor National Park Authority. The Prince’s Countryside Fund is supporting the Network to address low farming incomes and rural isolation through its networking and training activities. Exmoor National Park Authority is supporting sustainable land management activities including farm visits, training, demonstrations and the peer support.
We are a farmer led group, chaired by Exmoor farmer Dave Knight, who decided to work with local partners to source funding to continue, resulting in a bid to the Prince’s Countryside Fund and subsequent confirmation of additional RDPE transition funding. The group agreed on a Network model and recruited a new Officer to coordinate their activities. Network Officer Katherine Williams was appointed in April 2014, with management and hosting services provided through economic development agency, North Devon+. The Network’s steering
group is composed of 10 farmers, 3 community and 3 agency representatives who meet every two months.
As of January 2016 the network has been successfully awarded £49,990 from The Princes Countryside Fund to continue its work to support the farming community on Exmoor and act as a vital ‘go to’ hub situated in the middle of the moor. The new grant will enable the network to offer crucial support to over 430 members and (growing) across Exmoor. The new grant will be particularly focusing on the younger generation and to improve viability, efficiency and sustainability of Exmoor farming businesses.
The Network’s focus is on improving farm incomes, profitability and sustainable land management in the upland area of Exmoor. Recent events have covered pasture management, CAP reform, cross compliance, farm diversification, EID systems and livestock management.
The Network covers all types of farming on Exmoor and is open to anyone involved in farming, with free membership. The Network will organise training courses, farm visits, study visits, presentations and farm business support to achieve its aim.
A particular approach to learning is through ‘peer support groups’. Three groups are active at present: the Exmoor Forward Farming Group, the Women in Farming Group and the Micro Farming Group. Each group has a tailored range of meetings, presentations and practical visits supported by the Network Officer, responding to issues and opportunities raised by the members groups.
The Network is hosted by North Devon+, an economic development company supported by the public and private sectors, that provides management and administration services. Key partners working with the project are Exmoor National Park Authority, North Devon and West Somerset Councils, North Devon+, local training agencies, agri-businesses, farmer groups and the Dartmoor Hill Farm Project.
The network produces a monthly newsletter and our website can be found at www.exmoorhillfarmingnetwork.org.uk where you can get up to date information on
news and events.