In 1999, farms were growing – fast. And they weren’t just getting bigger; they were becoming more intensive in their methods too. Here at Nancarrow, we decided to tread a different path, adopting a more ecological approach to the way we farmed. Skip forward 20 years, and those principles are more important to us than ever; an invaluable compass that guides our business.
From maintaining the highest levels of animal welfare and boosting biodiversity with our wildlife corridor, to generating over half of our electricity from solar panels and converting all our food waste into kitchen garden compost thanks to our aerobic composter on site, sustainability is at the heart of what we do.
For this year’s 1000 Mouths festival, we’ll be raising funds for two charities – one of which is Cornwall Wildlife Trust. We spoke with Isabella Hawkes, community fundraising and engagement officer, Seán O’Hea, deputy head of reserves, and Catherine Pinney, business advisor at Tevi, to talk about looking after our county’s wildlife, the work we’re doing together, and the Trust’s Wilder Beef initiative.
Why is there a pressing need for us to look after our wildlife in Cornwall (and beyond) right now?
Isabella Hawkes (IH): Across the UK, 56% of species have been lost since 1980. Cornwall is no exception and faces very real threats to its wildlife and wild places from climate change, marine plastics, pesticides and development. This is something we are witnessing on both land and sea in Cornwall. A seven year high has been recorded of marine strandings, with 255 cetaceans [whales, dolphins and porpoises] washed ashore on Cornish beaches in 2017.
How important is the work Nancarrow is doing in terms of wildlife?
Seán O’Hea (SOH): It’s great that Nancarrow is actively working to ensure the farm is not only beneficial to the herd, but also the wildlife that lives alongside and around it. Sustainable grazing of cattle helps conserve some of our most cherished species, from the Cornish chough to the rare marsh fritillary butterfly. Diversifying pastures helps wildlife in a wealth of ways from encouraging more flowers for pollinators to improving the health of the herd – and by extension its consumers. Working with Nancarrow, a farm with a shared belief in these principles, is great – you’re doing this day to day and the wildlife benefits are there to be seen!
Can you tell people how we’ve been working together to make a positive impact on the farm’s surrounding wildlife at the moment?
Catherine Pinney (CP): Cornwall Wildlife Trust are a partner of the Tevi project, which has supported Nancarrow in improving its approach to circular economy and waste management. Tevi has helped to fund an on-site hot-rocket composter, which will enable food waste to be composted and then reused at Nancarrow to support food production in the kitchen garden. We are also working together through Upstream Thinking – a project with other organisations – to improve land management and its effect on our water systems. Cornwall Wildlife Trust supports and celebrates Nancarrow’s proactive approach to creating a farm that supports wildlife.
What’s the Wilder Beef initiative?
SOH: Grazing cattle provide an essential service to Cornwall Wildlife Trust on our Nature Reserves. While they are on our Reserves, the cattle feast on a varied diet not found on a typical farm pasture. Incredibly, they are able to self-medicate by choosing different plants for different ailments, and the varied diet provides a wide range of valuable minerals – which pass into the human food chain.
Farmers who feed their cattle 100% grass, instead of cereals, are able to produce beef which has many of the same characteristics. It produces an important source of food with a much lower carbon footprint than cattle fed cereals, which are often sourced from all over the world. If farmers also put a wide range of herbs into their pasture, there’s less requirement for veterinary medicines.
How important is fundraising to Cornwall Wildlife Trust, and how will the money raised by 1000 Mouths be used?
IH: As a charity, we rely on the support of the public, our members, business relations and all kinds of fundraising to enable us to continue to protect Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places. It’s fundraising that allows us to run projects, educate and train volunteers, carry out key research and recording that influences ecological and environmental change.
The money raised from 1000 Mouths can be used to support a variety of projects that improve biodiversity across Cornwall. The support from the festival could allow us to purchase seed that would diversify our own farmland, learning from Nancarrow’s work, and build a project to encourage sustainable practice across Cornwall.
What does it mean to you that Nancarrow is supporting Cornwall Wildlife Trust through 1000 Mouths?
IH: It’s an incredible opportunity to be selected by Nancarrow as its local wildlife charity for 1000 Mouths. We are really excited to showcase how organic farming can flourish alongside local wildlife. Cornwall Wildlife Trust aims to interact and engage with people all over Cornwall – from landowners to businesses, farmers to the general public – to educate and enhance Cornwall’s wildlife and wild places. Nancarrow’s support means that we have yet another champion of the work that we do, which we are extremely grateful for.
For more on Cornwall Wildlife Trust, visit cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk.