Richard and John Pendlebury, of Yate Fold Farm near Bolton, found making an income from their family farm no longer financially viable, due to rising costs and plummeting returns. They needed a new plan if they wanted the third-generational family farm to continue profitably - and they turned to biodiversity restoration.
Richard and John are part of a growing number of farmers integrating new environmental diversification schemes into their farming business.
Yate Fold Farm will soon be planted with over 49 hectares of new habitat, including lowland meadow, natural grassland, lowland fen and ponds, and used for large-scale biodiversity restoration - helping to secure the farms future.
Our land is difficult to farm. It’s grade 4 pasture land so often, it isn’t the most suitable for generating an income. After hearing about Environment Bank, I registered my land on their website and within three weeks, one of their senior ecologists, Fleur, had come to Yate Fold Farm to walk the site and talk me through initial plans.
The more I researched Environment Bank, the more I learned about the people behind it. What immediately made me feel more comfortable about making this change was reading about the Chairman of Environment Bank, Professor David Hill. Knowing that he was part of a team that had lobbied for Biodiversity Net Gain to become a legal requirement demonstrated to me his vested interest in restoring nature across the UK and made me really confident in the process.
Finally, the prospect of a Habitat Bank aligns with what I want for my family. The partnership with Environment Bank is enabling us to see a clear picture of how the farm can stay within the family for generations to come, and we’re comfortable that there will be no legal or tax issues in the future, as we’re still farming and grazing the land and thereby preserving its agricultural status.
Why did you choose the Environment Bank model?
The process has been really positive! Following Fleur’s visit, her team embarked on some in-depth research to ensure that the habitats we’d be creating and the wildlife we’d be aiming to attract would be the best possible addition to our land.
I also sold my dairy farm back recently, so Environment Bank is funding a conservation grazing course so that I can continue to farm cattle on the Habitat Bank. The breed of cattle I’m going to invest in will graze for conservation purposes but I’ll also be able to rear them for meat production, so Environment Bank really took into consideration how this Habitat Bank will improve my existing farm business.
We also put plans in place for the monitoring and management of the Habitat Bank and scheduled visits from the team of ecologists. It was great to have these conversations outright and map out what the future of the farm looks like, so we know what to expect.
What is the process so far?
The herd of cattle that will be grazing will improve the quality of the land. Unlike dairy cows that compact the land, pull out the grass by the root, and prohibit regrowth, the new breed we’ll be welcoming will chew the grasslands, almost like a lawnmower.
It really is like going back to the very early days of farming, where the land and the cattle would benefit each other, and make for a richer, more biologically diverse landscape. We can't wait to see the native wildlife, such as Lapwing and Curlew, and flora return to the area and how this supports our wider farming business.
How will the land change?
The financial benefits are abundant. The Environment Bank model means that we’ll receive funding for a minimum of 30 years to manage the Habitat Bank, with annual uplifts to counter inflation. Such a guaranteed source of income is quite rare in the farming landscape, which is typically subject to constant change. We looked at Government schemes and they simply didn’t match what Environment Bank offered.
We’ll also be able to boost our income from the new cattle on the land, which will be high-quality, organic meat that goes direct to market or direct to restaurant.
Farming is labour-intensive consuming around 70 hours a week. By opening up this income stream, we’ll be able to pursue a work-life balance, which is especially important for our kids.
The Habitat Bank will also potentially allow us to diversify our income even further. Given the farm’s location in such proximity to Manchester city centre, there is a real possibility that the farm could be opened as a visitor attraction for city dwellers looking to retreat into nature.
What benefits do you expect from creating a Habitat Bank?
We couldn’t fault Environment Bank! It did feel daunting to us when we first began to explore the options but the team of expert ecologists has been easy to get on with from the outset and always eager to answer any questions.
Our advice would be to explore the options offered by Environment Bank with a truly open mind. It’s easy to be skeptical, but trust the process! You’d need a crystal ball to predict the future of farming and this is an option that offers both certainty and a stable income for our family business for generations to come.
What advice would you give to other farmers?
GET STARTED WITH HABITAT BANK CREATION
Find out the habitat options for your land and the income you could generate by registering your land or calling our team on 01904 202 990.