Dorset Council considers buying dairy farm for rewilding

Farmers have expressed concern over the potential purchase of a dairy farm for a rewilding project by Dorset Council.

Dorset Council is considering buying a local dairy farm, Middle Farm at Higher Kingcombe, as part of its nature recovery efforts. 
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Dorset Council is considering changing the use of Middle Farm at Higher Kingcombe, which sits alongside a Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) nature reserve, into woodland or rewilding the area. 

The price of the farm has not been disclosed, although the council has received a £4.63m grant from the government, the BBC confirmed.

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Delivering nutrient mitigation

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said that the council is considering several alternative projects for nutrient mitigation.  

They confirmed that discussions around the purchase of Dorset farmland for nature recovery are still ongoing, and no final decision has been made yet.   

In a statement published by the BBC, the council said the current intensive use as a dairy farm was “not ideal” as it suffered from run-off and soil erosion.

“The land is ideally located to deliver both nutrient reduction and nature recovery in the headwaters of the River Hooke.

“Changing its use to woodland or rewilding can reduce nitrates as required and could be achieved with little investment,” it continues.

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Farmers reaction

Farmers from around the UK have been sharing their views on this news.

A Welsh farmer, Bob Davies, wrote on X that the farm ‘could have been a wonderful opportunity for a young farming family to start on the farming ladder, farming sustainable and making a future for themselves and the local community.’

James Melville from No Farmers No Food added:

A North Yorkshire farmer, called on X @MicOrchard also wrote: ‘Swapping the farm from dairy to arable or horticulture or out wintering silvopasture would definitely have been possible. And achieved the offsetting targets too. If only they had advertised the tenancy appropriately.’

He added:

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Delivering nutrient mitigation

A council spokesperson told Farmers Guide: “Dorset Council remains steadfast in its support for our farmers, who work hard to maintain British food security, and are a vital part of our local community and economy.  

“This potential land purchase is about delivering nutrient mitigation for development in the Poole Harbour catchment area, and is certainly not indicative of any wider policy to reduce agricultural land use within our county.” 

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