A green-thinking farmer has secured funding from Defra's
Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES) to support his latest business
Simon Henderson and his wife Helen, of West Fenton Farm, near
Wooler, Northumberland, have invested more than £175,000,
including a RES grant of almost £65,000 to launch Fenton
The new company aims to collect native wildflower and grass
seeds from sites across Northumberland, using sustainable methods
to ensure the sites' futures. The seeds will then be sorted,
stored and planted out into single-species seed beds at the farm
Mr Henderson said:
"It will take up to 18 months before we can harvest seeds
from these new plants, and we'll be collecting from other sites
again next summer to ensure we have all the species we need.
The aim is that eventually we'll be producing all our own seeds
here at West Fenton.
"These can then be supplied to farmers and other land owners
and managers who are looking to introduce native species to their
fields and meadows. We will even be able to make up specific
mixtures to cater for Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreement
"The seeds will also be available to others, such as builders
and highways managers, who wish to plant native wildflowers and
grasses on open areas of new estates, roadside verges and village
greens. We're even hoping to offer some for domestic use, allowing
homeowners to introduce wildflowers and grasses to their gardens.
"And once everything is up and running we'll be taking
on two full-time staff to help run the business."
A range of specialist equipment has been installed to tackle
the delicate harvesting and sorting process and to ensure the
correct, climate-controlled storage conditions for the seeds.
The Hendersons have also invested in a comprehensive computer
system to ensure full traceability.
Mr Henderson explained:
"The computer tracking system will be able to trace all
our seeds throughout the production process. We will be able
to show when and where they were harvested and which site the
original seed stock came from.
"We're also now building up a database, recording which
species are found at each site so that we know the places and
conditions where each of the species of plant are most likely
to thrive. We will then be able to offer the most appropriate
seed mixes for our customers."
As keen conservationists the Hendersons have already carried
out a wide range of environmental improvements on their own farm,
where they have three Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS) agreements
covering the land.
Last year they also opened the Fenton Centre, an environmental
education facility, with the support of RES, where they welcome
school groups, farmers, farming organisations, university students
and members of the public who wish to learn more about environmentally-friendly
And they are keen to link the new business with these existing
initiatives, offering workshops at the centre for those wishing
to learn about harvesting, preparation and sowing the seeds.
Visitors will also be able to learn more about wildflowers and
grasses generally as the couple will be extending their existing
nature trail to allow people to see the plants growing in the
seed beds and through a new wildflower meadow to be created next
Martin Price, an adviser for the Rural Development Service in
the North East, said:
"West Fenton Farm is a wonderful example of environmentally-friendly
farming at its best. It is already one of our demonstration farms,
where others learn how CSS and the new Environmental Stewardship
(ES) scheme that has replaced it can help farmers preserve and
enhance the landscape.
"Having access to native wildflower and grass seeds that
have been produced in such a way that does not jeopardise existing
areas where they grow in the wild, is vital for those wishing
to adopt good environmental land management practices.
"The Hendersons have realised there is a market for such
a product and we're delighted to have been able to support them
in their new venture, which will also have benefits for others
wishing to restore and create habitats as part of their ES agreements."
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