world agriculture down on the farm
agricultural services pedigree livestock news dairy beef agricultural machinery agricultural property agricultural organisations
Stackyard News Nov 05

news index

soil links

    Defra Helps Northumberland Farmer Plant Seed For New "Green" Business

photo courtesy of

A green-thinking farmer has secured funding from Defra's Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES) to support his latest business venture.

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 Wildseeds.

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 next spring.

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 requirements.

"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 farming methods.

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 year.

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."

link 'The Big Three' Can Help Farmland Birds
link Defra Grants Are Making A Difference For Rural Communities And The Environment

    home | agri-services | pedigree pen | news | dairy | beef | machinery
BPS | property | organisations | site map


Department for Environment
Food and Rural Affairs