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Stackyard News Jul 2010

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Dales Farmer Network Gathers Pace with Specialist Meetings

Yorkshire Dales farmers are signing up to the benefits of a new organisation through which they can help themselves and improve the running of their businesses.

YDFN manager Chris Clark
Chris Clark

Launched in February this year, the Yorkshire Dales Farmer Network has 30 members with a further 200 farmers expressing interest in joining.

The YDFN model was based on the success of the Cumbria Farmer Network which within four years built up to 550 members and organises practical solutions to common problems.

The YDFN is staging its first demonstration days on August 11 and 12 at Hawes and Hetton, near Grassington when network members and potential members can hear the latest on EID from tag manufacturer Ritchey, ram MoTs and lamb selection from Eblex, winter beef feed rations from local feed specialists and faecal egg counts and worming policy from a local vet.

The network’s aims are to maintain and develop a viable farming community, maximise rural income via food production and other activities, support, inform and educate and raise the profile of farming.

The network philosophy is that local farmers benefit by working together, especially when facing changes in input prices, regulations, environment and the market place, which affects changes to management practices.

Members will get professional prices on key input/services and already in the Yorkshire Dales the network has negotiated some good deals on the disposal of waste plastic, electricity, fuel and UELS advice, with other negotiations ongoing. They also receive a regulation checklist with updates as needed, to help cope with inspections.

“YDFN is owned and run by farmers for farmers. It is a not-for-profit organisation,” said manager Chris Clark, who farms a 400 acre hill unit at the top of Wharfedale.

“Farmer groups in Cumbria have not only reduced input costs but increased profits, improved their knowledge, saved time, reduced bills and sourced funding to share new equipment,” he added.

“Savings made can recoup the membership fee in the first six months and the more members we have, the greater potential there is to reduce bills further.”

Following extensive consultation with the community in 2009, and support from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the Carnegie UK Trust, the YDFN was set up as the Yorkshire Dales branch of the Farmer Network and is serviced by the company office, based at Penrith. Mr Clark manages the operation in Yorkshire with five co-ordinators.

For an annual membership of £41.50, (discounted to £35 if paid by 31 August 2010) which is open to farmers and farmer controlled businesses in the Yorkshire Dales LEADER area, YDFN provides practical, cost effective solutions to combat the burden of regulation, rising input costs and barriers to innovation.

As well as organising demonstrations to help improve technical knowledge, results from Yorkshire Dales Farmer Network on-farm research projects can save time and money.

By joining forces, the YDFN can broker deals for new equipment and get preferential prices on key inputs such as feed, fuel, electricity, veterinary medicine and fertiliser.

Funding from the Yorkshire Dales Leader Programme and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Sustainable Development Fund has helped to establish the network.

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