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Features // Blog

Here’s Why we Should Rewild British Farms

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

Dani R

Jan 24, 2022
6 minutes to read

It was an idea born of frustration.

Tim Martin – a former BBC Natural History Unit – had spent some frustrating years filming the decline of British wildlife. So too had his eventual business partner Luke Harris, an investigative journalist turned farming advisor. The duo wanted to do something to help.

“70% of Britain’s land is farmland,” Tim explains. “As farmers have had to increase their yields, this has come at an environmental cost. Wildflower meadows and ponds have been destroyed; pesticides and fertilisers have wiped out many different insecticides and plants.”

“As a consumer, I wanted to buy and support farms with great wildlife biodiversity. The ‘Organic’ label doesn’t actually guarantee that. If you’re not using fertiliser, you often have to do a lot of ploughing, which isn’t great for the soil. I realised the sort of food I wanted to buy wasn’t readily available.”

And so Farm Wilder was born - a way for consumers to get their hands on ethically farmed, pasture-fed meat.

“We decided to take farms with great wildlife and help them become more sustainable,” Tim explains.

How to Farm Wilder

The first step – finding the right farms.

The duo decided to find farms with certain wildlife species, which are indicators of biodiversity and also enabled them to promote their message.

“We looked for farms with lots of cuckoos - they’re a charismatic species which has been declining over the years. The marsh fritillary butterfly was another flagship species – if you have them you have great biodiversity,” Tim says.

They used Luke’s farming contacts to find a series of farmers across Devon who were interested in becoming more sustainable.

“One thing we ask farmers to do if they sign up to sell meat with us is to convert to 100% pasture-fed. Pastures are great for the environment – they contain between 10-20 different species and legumes. You don’t need fertilisers to grown them, and the species have deep roots, which helps put more carbon in the soil,” Tim explains.

“The consumer can taste the difference too. If an animal has been eating all sorts of different herbs and grasses, that diverse diet will be reflected in the taste of the meat.”

Nature-based farming like this helps improve soil life, and is much more sustainable. Tim and Luke were pleasantly surprised to find small farms already employing this practice, especially upland farms across Dartmoor.

“It’s a really unique area – many farmers haven’t moved too far from traditional farming techniques they’ve always used. Take Cat Frampton at Great Hound Tor Farm, for example. She has these heritage Welsh back cows and Hebridean sheep. She grazes them on ‘rhos pasture’, a rare marshland habitat, and also across common land.”

“We were with her when she found her first orchid. And being up at Hound Tor, hearing the cuckoos calling, shows you how full the country can be. We really can turn back the clock,” Tim says.

Where to buy Farm Wilder

Farm Wilder sells pasture-fed beef and lamb, chicken and wild venison from its online shop. It also supplies Farm Drop with its beef and lamb, alongside several local butchers. It’s currently working with around 26 farms – a number it hopes to double in the next couple of years.

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