Statement by Henry and
Felicity Edmunds owners of the Cholderton Estate
Our task at
Cholderton has been to try to preserve a Victorian landscape, to
augment it and to demonstrate a rapport between farming and conservation,
while maintaining rural employment. The Estate has a diverse economy
and employs some 20 people. This is not an exercise in philanthropy;
the Estate has to be self-sustaining. The employees are required
for animal husbandry, forestry, mechanics, building maintenance
and general farm and conservation work. This level of employment
would not be achieved on a conventional arable unit.
A recent publication
by Deloitt & Touche, agricultural consultants, has called for
one man to be responsible for 1,000 acres (400ha) of combinable
crops or 1.25 million litres (0.27 million gallons) of milk. Yet
in the same paper we are told that stress is becoming a major issue
for the whole farming community, and the steadily rising numbers
of suicides reflects this. Are these not analogous?
The land is
driven by a productivity treadmill – an all-consuming dynamo
that demands ever greater production for lower producer returns.
This has been forced on the farming community by the continual decline
in the value of its product and a failure by policy makers to link
agricultural support to factors other than production itself.
is changing to accommodate these renewed pressures. Bigger machines
need bigger fields; continuous cropping demands an intensive spraying
programme. What place for wildlife in our hedgeless mega fields?
What place for the family farm and the farm worker in an industry
that will be dominated by robotic machines and chemicals? The Utopian
ideal of the English countryside, celebrated by our greatest artists
and poets, has nearly vanished. What is the value of a Turner or
Constable, if that which it portrays so lovingly has been lost?
Click here to see our products.
application of subsidies to cereals, with inadequate environmental
safeguards, has been a disaster. There has been a steady drain of
wildlife from our farms for centuries, but this process is now accelerating.
Birds that were common even a decade ago have now nearly vanished.
All wildlife benefits from a mixed farming regime, yet this has
been discouraged under present support mechanisms.
What is the
logic of a system that will culminate in the utter destruction of
the landscape and its denizens over vast swathes of our countryside?
Yet farming cannot survive without subsidies; we are not able to
compete with countries that enjoy lower unit production costs, are
not limited by welfare and safety restraints and enjoy a more equitable
climate. Nor should we seek to do so. Ours is a small, overcrowded
island. We must care for our landscapes and our wildlife. Excessive
productivity and efficiency are a direct threat to the remnants
of our rural ecology.
What you will see at Cholderton can
be achieved only if farming is profitable. We are becoming increasingly
depressed by the thought that we are representative of a system
of farming that will soon vanish. Support mechanisms must be geared
towards those systems of farming that are most conducive to the
preservation of the tapestry of a diverse countryside, in all its
many and varied aspects.
Our quest at Cholderton is to demonstrate
that farming and a healthy environment can co-exist; to attempt
to undertake the righteous task of husbandry but with the inclusion
of nature rather than her exclusion; to foster wildlife and wild
meadows; to maintain our local ancient breeds of domestic stock;
to care for a spectacular landscape; to build soil fertility but
not to pollute; to be as self sufficient as possible and yet to
produce good quality, wholesome food for local consumption.