16th July 2021


Rural Rap

250 ACRES OF LAND NEAR ASHFORD HAS BEEN EARMARKED FOR A HUGE SOLAR FARM, reports the Kent Messenger.  EDF has proposed the land on fields between Smeeth, Aldington and Sellindge, and claims it would produce enough electricity to power 17,000 homes.  If approved, the so-called East Stour Solar Farm would be constructed over 9 months and generate nearly 50 megawatts every year.  The intended site would also include areas of planting and biodiversity improvements.  In an effort to appease locals, the firm says there would be no construction traffic through Aldington and the site would be monitored remotely.  EDF would also put in place a community fund for the 40-year lifetime of the project.

A FARM WHICH HAS BEEN A LIFELINE FOR PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS FOR OVER 100 YEARS IS SET TO CLOSE, reports the Kent Messenger.  North Kent College has confirmed it will not be renewing its contract with KCC to run Princess Christian Farm in Hildenborough, putting its future in doubt.  The 115-acre farm in Riding Lane was founded by Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Christian, in 1910 and was outsourced to Hadlow College by KCC in 2009.  The working farm regularly caters for around 25 adults, most with autism but some with physical disabilities.  They learn to care for the animals, which include pigs, sheep, ducks and chickens, and they learn about horticulture, growing shrubs, hanging baskets and bedding plants, many of which are sold in the farm shop.

THE KENT COUNTY SUMMER FAYRE WAS A SUCCESS, reports Produced in Kent.  The covid secure event had a limited attendee figure of 4,000 each day.  The atmosphere was “fantastic,” and the highlight of the show were the Young Farmers who worked incredibly hard to get their animals “show ready” and who excelled across the weekend, taking part in the Grand Parade and chatting to the public to encourage young minds into the field of agriculture.

KENT WINES WON 33 AWARDS IN THIS YEAR’S DECANTER AWARDS, reports Produced in Kent.  The world’s largest wine competition saw its biggest year to date, with 18,094 wines tasted from 56 countries.  Over 15 consecutive days in June, almost 170 expert judges, including 44 Masters of Wine and 11 Master Sommeliers, awarded the prizes.  Kent’s vineyards were the most successful region – perhaps no surprise give its excellent terroir and wine making expertise.

FARMERS AND LAND MANAGERS ARE BEING ENCOURAGED TO TAKE ACTION TO CARE FOR BEES, reports Farming UK.  Bees Needs Week aims to encourage individuals, food producers and gardeners to help pollinators thrive.  In the Kent Downs, farmers have created four distinct networks focused on creating species-diverse habitats.  The networks have been created over the last 20 years – one of which is the East Kent Valleys project, where a large network of newly created species-rich grasslands has transformed the area into an insect rich landscape.

SOUTHERN WATER HAS BEEN FINED £90M BY CANTERBURY CROWN COURT FOLLOWING HISTORIC OFFENCES RELATING TO ILLEGAL SEWAGE SPILLS.  The sentencing followed Southern Water pleading guilty in March 2020 to historic offences of unpermitted discharges under the Water Resources Act and the Environmental Permitting Regulations, which happened between 2010 and 2015.  The Chief Executive promised that shareholders would bear the cost of the fine, and that it would not be reflected in customers’ bills or the ongoing investment in transformation.

A NEW GRANT SCHEME HAS BEEN LAUNCHED FOR THE KENT DOWNS AONB.  The Farming in Protected Landscapes programme is a three year scheme aiming to fund outcomes for People, Place, Climate and Nature in the Kent Downs.  It is possible to apply for more than one year.  There is no minimum grant, and the absolute maximum is £250k for very exceptional projects.  While funding can be up to 100%, value for money is part of the assessment criteria.  Supported projects will: provide opportunities for people to discover, enjoy and understand the landscape and cultural heritage; support nature-friendly sustainable farm business; mitigate the impacts of climate change; support nature recovery.

A 10% SHIFT IN FOOD RETAIL TOWARDS A MORE LOCAL SYSTEM COULD CREATE UP TO 200,000 JOBS, reports ITV.  Food and farming charity Sustain are calling on the Govt to use its post-Brexit investment funds to fill local food infrastructure gaps to achieve environmental and social benefits.  The report, The Case for Local Food, argues that Govt support to plug the gaps could help local food businesses access £2bn of contracts.  The report suggests that every £10 spent on a “delivery box” scheme results in £25 spent in the local area, compared with just £14 when the same is spent in the supermarket.  67% of vegetable box schemes are run by “small scale” producers, regularly supplying up to 300 boxes a week to local communities.  41% use produce from their own farms, and 76% within 100km.

BRITAIN IS IN DANGER OF “RIPPING THE HEART OUT” OF THE COUNTRYSIDE IF IT LETS SMALL FARMS GO TO THE WALL, reports The Times, Farmers Weekly and Farming UK, among others.  The Prince of Wales believes that the focus on producing plentiful and cheap food threatens the survival of small farms, but optimism can be found in the efforts of high profile figures such as Marcus Rashford and Jamie Oliver.  Prince Charles spoke of the “hidden costs” of modern industrial farming in an essay for the Today programme.  He said that there must be support for a diversity of farms in order for there to be food that is healthy and produced sustainably.

SALT AND SUGAR TAXES SHOULD BE INTRODUCED TO DRIVE A REVOLUTION IN BRITAIN’S DIET, reports the Times, among others.  The National Food Strategy argues that people must cut their meat intake by a third and up to a fifth of farmland should be turned over to woods and wildlife.  It is part of a “farm to fork” reset of how Britain produces and eats food to cut carbon emissions and obesity.  Among other measures, the £1.4bn plan for changing the way the nation eats wants doctors to prescribe fruit and veg, and cooking lessons, and calls for the introduction of free school meals to all families earning under £20k.  The author of the report is the co-founder of healthy fast food chain Leon.

BRITISH HOP GROWERS ARE BUCKLING UNDER PRESSURE AFTER A YEAR OF PUB CLOSURES AND CANCELLED EVENTS, reports the Grocer.  The British Hop Association has warned that hop sales are “significantly down” and growers are being left with an “oversupply situation.”  Roughly 70% of British hops head directly to British cask ale – which is really only consumed in the pub.  Growers are being forced to idle increasing amounts of their crops.  Drinkers need to choose British hopped beers and brewers who support British industry.


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

To receive the Rural Rap direct to your inbox please contact info@ruralplc.com