12th November 2021


Rural Rap

BIDDENDEN VINEYARDS HAVE TRIALLED MACHINE HARVESTING METHODS ON ONE AREA OF ITS GRAPES THIS YEAR.  This is the first time a trial like this has been undertaken in the UK, with grapes picked from the same block of vineyard and pressed on the same day.  Winemaking will produce three wines: one which is machine harvested, with berries removed from the stems on-vine; a second which is hand-picked and pressed in whole bunches; and a third that has been hand-picked and destemmed before pressing.  Only time will tell whether the way in which the grapes are picked has an influence on the end product.  Tom Barnes, General Manager, described 2021 as “one of the most challenging season we have ever seen,” but noted the very strong sales of the last year and said he was “excited” about the wines now in the tank.

PLANS HAVE BEEN UNVEILED FOR A HUGE SOLAR FARM COVERING 400 ACRES NEAR ASHFORD reports the Kent Messenger.  The solar array would cover an area close to Aldington with power fed into the national network via a connection at the nearby Sellindge electrical substation.  The firm behind the plans, Evolution Power, says it could generate enough renewable energy to power about 48,000 homes. These plans are in addition to EDF’s proposal for a solar firm on a 250-acre site between Smeeth, Aldigton and Sellindge that was revealed earlier this year.

SHEPHERD NEAME IS TURNING A PROFIT AGAIN AND EXPECTS THAT TO CONTINUE, reports the Kent Messenger.  The pub and brewery giant saw revenues fall to £86.88m in the last financial year, compared to £118.2m, while pre-tax losses stood at £16.4m.  It pointed out though that of the previous 421 days, its pubs were closed for 296 due to the national and regional lockdowns.  The CEO, Jonathan Neame, said that trade in many of its rural pubs hit record levels after the first lockdown was lifted, while the company coffers were further boosted by a staycation summer helping its accommodation offering.

ONE OF CANTERBURY’S MOST PROMINENT BUSINESSWOMEN INTENDS TO FARM A 97-ACRE PLOT NEAR FAVERSHAM, reports the Kent Messenger. Susanna Tait, owner of the Goods Shed, intends to plant an orchard growing hard-to-find heritage fruits such as golden gage, green gage, quince and damson.  She also wants to set down pasture, create woodland and expand her flock of sheep, while rearing outdoor pigs and rare-breed cattle that could be sold in the Goods Shed butchery.  The produce will also be used by the restaurant at the Goods Shed.

THE ENVIRONMENT BILL HAS GAINED ROYAL ASSENT AFTER YEARS OF DELAY, reports Farming UK, among others.  The bill has now become the Environment Act, over three years after it was first announced by the government.  It brings into force a series of measures and environmental standards following the end of the Brexit transition period.  It seeks to improve air and water quality, tackle waste, increase recycling, halt the decline of species and improve the UK’s natural environment.

MORRISONS IS TRIALLING THE USE OF A SEAWEED-BASED DIET IN A BID TO REDUCE CATTLE METHANE,  reports the Kent Messenger.  The three year trial will see if changing the diet of livestock can have a major impact on agricultural methane emissions.  Joining forces with the Queen’s University Belfast, researchers are evaluating the nutritional value of seaweed while assessing its potential to reduce methane emissions and improve animal health, as well as enhancing meat and milk quality.  Scientific research earlier this year, says Morrisons, found that cows belched out 82% less methane after putting a small amount of red seaweed into their feed.

WAITROSE’S FARM IN HAMPSHIRE IS TO BE A TESTBED FOR FUTURE AGRICULTURAL INNOVATION AND REGENERATIVE FARMING PRACTICES, reports Farming UK.  The Leckford Estate will be trialling new farming innovations over the next 15 years, with the supermarket hoping to strengthen soil health and increase biodiversity.  The plan will also help the retailer to achieve its aim of being net zero by 2035.

AONB KENT DOWNS : Grants for farmers, land managers and landowners

Applications are now open for the Farming in Protected Landscapes programme (link)

The three year scheme aims to fund outcomes for People, Place, Climate and Nature in the Kent Downs.  It is possible to apply for more than one year.  Applications can range from £250k, to no miminum.  Funding can be up to 100%, but value for money is part of the assessment criteria.

Applicants will be supported to carry out projects that:

  • Provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage
  • Support nature-friendly, sustainable farm businesses
  • Mitigate the impacts of climate change
  • Support nature recovery


RABI, Addington Fund, FCN, Forage Aid and RSABI, supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, have launched the Farming Help initiative.  The initiative is also being launched with the NFYFC, the NFU and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust. 
FARMING HELP recognises that this will be an anxious time for many farmers and farming families and periods of poor health or self-isolation may result in temporary practical difficulties on farm.  For help drafting a contingency plan, for practical local help with livestock, shopping etc, or to discuss your concerns and anxieties,

Contact 03000 111 999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk

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