Natural England - Students take part in Great Farm Challenge 2012

Students take part in Great Farm Challenge 2012

25 October 2012

Talking to agricultural students about how to protect our water environment.

Cows grazing by river © Peter Wakely/Natural England

In October and November, students from three agricultural colleges in the Midlands will be taking part in the ‘Great Farm Challenge 2012’. Students will learn how to use better farm management to protect our water environment, and will be challenged to a competition to showcase their ideas for achieving this.  The Great Farm Challenge is being run by The Environment Agency, Natural England and Severn Trent Water.

Raising awareness of how farmers can help safeguard our drinking water is really important as even small amounts of pesticides or fertilisers escaping into the environment can harm aquatic life, and mean that more treatment is required to make water drinkable. 

Students will spend a day hearing from farming advisors and will learn about the Catchment Sensitive Farming initiative, which offers practical advice to farmers on how to reduce water pollution from agricultural activities. They will tour a local farm to assess how current farming practices might impact on the water environment, and will be challenged to produce a plan showing how risk to rivers and groundwater can be minimised.

Agricultural students from the three colleges - Warwickshire College, Rodbaston College (Staffordshire) and Walford & North Shropshire College - are taking part in The Great Farm Challenge.  The students who produce the best plans will be invited to present their ideas at a day hosted by Severn Trent Water in December. The winning group will win £300 of gift vouchers.

Catchment Sensitive Farming is a joint initiative between Natural England and the Environment Agency, funded by Defra and the Rural Development Programme for England, working in priority river catchments within England. The project is part of the national response to meet the requirements of the EU Water Framework Directive and contributes towards achieving Natura 2000 objectives.

Geoff Sansome, Natural England’s Director for Land Management (South) said:  “The Catchment Sensitive Farming project is an excellent example of what can be achieved through partnership working with the farming sector, and it’s a project that is not only helping to protect the environment but is also boosting farm businesses.  It’s great to have the opportunity to share this valuable work with the next generation of farmers through the Great Farm Challenge.”

Caroline Savage, Drinking Water Project Manager for the Environment Agency said: “Our waterways are hugely important to the economy, society, and the environment.  The Environment Agency's role is to provide a clean, healthy water environment, and farmers play a vital part in achieving this. We are delighted to be helping the land managers of tomorrow develop practices that will protect this precious resource.”

Jodie Whitehead, Catchment Management Planner for Severn Trent Water, explains: “This is a great education project for young farmers. Our job at Severn Trent is to make sure that the water we deliver to our customers is clean and drinkable, and farm run-off can mean that water needs a greater level of treatment. This project really helps the students understand the importance of managing what they put on the land.”