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How Jordans Cereals is helping to protect biodiversity in our countryside

Since launching its farm partnership, Jordans Cereals has made growing delicious oats and caring for nature one and the same thing

6 mins read time  |  Written by Kayleigh Giles

Did you know that farmland accounts for 71% of the UK’s total land (which is essentially all the land in England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined), with 60% of farmland species in decline* – particularly birds such as curlews, tree sparrows and grey partridges?

Jordans Cereals believes the world is better when it’s bursting with nature. That’s why after 30 years of nature-friendly farming, it launched the Jordans Farm Partnership (JFP) in 2016: a unique collaboration between Jordans Cereals, The Wildlife Trusts, LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) and The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Through the scheme, each of Jordans’ 31 farmers grow oats sustainably and dedicate at least 10% of their land to wildlife areas – and it’s paying dividends for our flora and fauna. Already the JFP has preserved an area the size of Oxford (that’s around 50km²) to benefit all creatures great and small, particularly those that are important in the local, wider landscape.

*2019 The State of Nature Report

Wildlife Trust advisors, such as Matt Dodds, a Planning and Biodiversity Manager with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, are vital to the partnership and ensure that the creatures on Jordans farms not only survive but thrive. Here, he reveals just some of the ways he’s helping the farmers to embrace nature like never before...

Over the hedge

“Most farm life revolves around the hedges because they are often the most natural and productive habitats as they provide an important refuge network,” says Matt. To augment their importance, Jordans insists all hedgerows on JFP farms are bordered by a margin of grass with wildflowers, which make them even better for wildlife. Adapting your hedges to better benefit wildlife is a lot simpler than you might think, as Matt explains: “Wildlife hedge laying is simply a rougher form of traditional hedge laying, which retains and creates more habitat. By leaving more volume at the base of hedges, you’re providing the perfect environment for the animals to tuck themselves in.”

Wildlife wonders

While surveying the woodland on Fergus Lyon's Easthall Farm, with the help of the Herts and Middlesex Bat Group, we discovered one of the largest maternity populations of the barbastelle bat in the whole country. It’s just one of the discoveries that was unlikely to have happened without the Jordans Farm Partnership. “We’ve since gone back and discovered we’re up to about 12 different roost sites and have even found many of the bats’ foraging sites,” Matt enthuses. “The farmer himself is thrilled. He was proposing to do a whole lot of forestry in his woodland, but now the bat group are checking and marking the different trees, so he knows exactly where to avoid. Work needs to be done to the woodland anyway to improve its wildlife value, so it will be better for the barbastelles – they’ll have more woodland to exploit and can also avoid losing their roost sites.”

Working in harmony

While historically there can be a disconnect between nature conservation and agriculture, Matt admits one of the JFP’s biggest perks is that it allows an open line of communication between the two parties. “It really provides a vehicle to have an honest dialogue with the farmers,” praises Matt. “We’re always keen to break down that disconnect because it’s not helpful to anyone. Farmers have to farm and we [conservationists] have to be cognisant of all the issues they have, and the time and cost involved in everything, as well as the financial implications.

“The majority of land in this country is farmed, but without supporting biodiversity, we could end up with a catastrophic ecological collapse, so the two must go hand-in-hand. The genius of the JFP is that it provides an incentive to farm for wildlife, as well as for food. We should be thinking of nature in everything we do.”

It’s not just The Wildlife Trusts who are overjoyed with the results of the Jordans Farm Partnership. Jordans’ oat farmers are also relishing the abundance of wildlife that’s started to prosper on their land since implementing their bespoke Wildlife Trust plans:

Nick Rowsell, a third-generation farmer based in Hampshire, is working to recreate and restore important habitat on his farm after vast tracts were lost to intensive agricultural production over the last century. With the help of Alison, his wildlife advisor, his land is now providing food, shelter and breeding sites for dormice and rare birds like woodlark and willow tit – wildlife that’s important in the local, wider landscape.

Graham Birch, who grows Jordans oats on his Dorset farm, also established a conservation plan in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts and has seen his birdlife grow year on year. “Our corn bunting numbers are massive now, which is great as it’s a rare species,” he says. “We have a four-hectare nesting plot created specifically for corn buntings, and a three-hectare wildflower strip alongside that, which is alive all year round. It’s incredibly satisfying when you plan for and create a new habitat and it really works.”

Guy Tucker, has been hard at work erecting barn owl boxes and establishing grass margins on his Hertfordshire farm, though one of his biggest successes came from a wild bird seed mix. When a local bird club surveyed his land recently, they found the highest recorded number of linnets – a species on the UK’s Red List of Conservation Concern – in the county!

Ian Crabtree, who runs Shirley Hall Farm in Derbyshire, has seen his brown hare population flourish in particular, enthusing: “Fifteen or twenty years ago, we had one or two brown hares on the whole farm, but we now have a much bigger population – you can see groups of seven or eight at times in the spring!”

Want to find out more about the Jordans Farm Partnership and what you can do for nature?