Agricultural Change in the Welsh Marches: its impact on agricultural policy and practice
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Worcester
Unit of AssessmentGeography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology
Summary Impact TypeEnvironmental
Research Subject Area(s)
Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences: Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
Summary of the impact
A body of research on agricultural geography, with a strong regional
focus on the Welsh Marches (the English counties bordering Wales), has led
to changes in conservation policy and practice relating to rare breeds,
primarily at the national level but also internationally; it has shaped
farming policy at the regional level, particularly in Herefordshire,
specifically leading to increased diversification in the farming sector
across the county; and it has stimulated policy debate around the place of
farming in society.
The Centre for Rural Research (CRR), under the leadership of Professor
Nick Evans (1990-present), has engaged in a body of research over a period
of 18 years on agricultural change with a particular focus on the Marches
region (reflecting a consistent mission of the University to engage in
research within the region). While this research has often had a strong
theoretical slant (see for example Reference 2 which critically
evaluates the concept of `post-productivism'), three areas of research
with a more applied perspective have emerged within this overarching theme
of change: (i) Livestock and locality, (ii) Agricultural survey, (iii)
Socio-cultural perspectives on farming.
(i) Livestock and locality
Beginning with a project funded by the Nuffield Foundation in 1996 (Grant
a), examining the geographical distribution of rare breeds (Reference
1), the CRR has undertaken a body of research focused on the
conceptual and practical problems of defining and identifying these breeds
(Reference 3). This led to a project funded by the Rare Breeds
Survival Trust (RBST) (Grant e) to examine the geographical
endemism — ecological state of being unique to a defined geographic
location — of rare breeds in the Welsh Marches. The study used GIS
(Geographical Information Systems) technology to map the distribution of
specific breeds across a defined geographical area.
(ii) Agricultural survey
CRR (Evans and Dr David Storey, 1992-present) undertook two major surveys
of farming at county level, in Herefordshire (Grants b and d)
and in Shropshire (Grant c), the latter in collaboration with the
Universities of Reading and Gloucestershire. Both surveys involved an
initial questionnaire sent out to all farms in the counties which sought
to define and examine farm and farmer characteristics, agricultural
change, diversification, and approaches to environmental management. The
questionnaires were followed up by in-depth interviews with a small sample
of farmers. Reports were submitted to Hereford County Council in 2001 (and
a follow up report post the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2003) and to
Shropshire County Council in 2002. The empirical data from these surveys
formed the basis of a subsequent paper which examined how farmers in the
Welsh Marches had adjusted to agricultural change through the 1990s and
2000s (Reference 6).
(iii) Socio-cultural perspectives on farming
A theoretical paper examining the cultural turn in rural geography
research highlighted the importance of culturally informed perspectives in
geographical research (Reference 4). This has been reflected in
much of CRR's research going forward. So, for example, Evans has
undertaken qualitative research on the incidence of stress and suicide in
agriculture amongst farm families in Powys, Wales (Reference 5).
This research identified the economic, social and cultural consequences of
this problem. More recently, Evans has engaged in a body of work examining
the socio-economic value of care-farming, in collaboration with colleagues
from the University of Worcester's psychology department and funded by
Care Farming West Midlands (Reference 7, Grant f). This
research has demonstrated this value explicitly using a Social Return on
References to the research
1. Yarwood, R. and Evans, N. (1998) New places for "Old Spots":
the changing geographies of domestic livestock animals. Society and
Animals, 6, 137-166.
2. Evans, N., Morris, C. and Winter, M. (2002) Conceptualising
agriculture: a critique of post-productivism as the new orthodoxy. Progress
in Human Geography, 26, 313-332. DOI: 10.1191/0309132502ph372ra.
3. Yarwood, R. and Evans, N. (2003) Livestock, locality and
landscape: EU regulations and the new geography of Welsh farm animals. Applied
Geography 23, 137-157.
4. Morris, C. and Evans, N. (2004) Agricultural turns,
geographical turns: retrospect and prospect. Journal of Rural Studies
20, 95-111. DOI: 10.1016/S0743-0167(03)00041-X.
5. Price, L. and Evans, N. (2009) From farming stress to
distress: conceptualizing the British family farming patriarchal way of
life. Journal of Rural Studies, 25, 1-11. DOI:
6. Evans, N. (2009) Adjustment strategies revisited: agricultural
change in the Welsh Marches. Journal of Rural Studies, 25,
217-230. DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2008.10.002.
7. Leck, C., Upton, D. and Evans, N. (2013) Social Aspects of
Green Care. In Gallis, C. (ed.) Green Care: For Human Therapy, Social
Innovation, Rural Economy and Education. Nova Biomedical, Nova
Publishers, New York, USA: 155-188.
a) Evans, N. (PI), The Geography of Rare Breeds of Domestic
Livestock. Nuffield Foundation March to September 1996, £6000.
b) Evans, N. (PI), The Herefordshire Farming Study. Southern
Marches / Herefordshire Partnership. April 2000 to January 2001, £15,000.
c) Evans, N. (PI), Sustainable Landscapes in Shropshire: A Farm Study
Shropshire County Council and Partners. May 2001 to June 2002, £22,000.
d) Evans, N. (PI), Herefordshire Farming Study — post-FMD Follow-up.
The Herefordshire Partnership. November 2002 to July 2003, £10,000.
e) Evans, N. (PI), Geographical Endemism as a Definition of
Endangerment in Farm Livestock Breeds. Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
Two phases, December 2008 to July 2010, £7000.
f) Upton, D & Evans, N., The Psychosocial Value of Care Farming,
2009-2013, Care Farming West Midlands, £30,000.
The University is confident the underpinning research meets the 2*
threshold. Reference 1 emerged from a project funded by the Nuffield
Foundation which is indicative of its excellence. References 2 and 4 were
returned to UoA32 in RAE 2008 as part of a submission where the majority
of research was rated 2*or better. In addition, references 2 and 4 have
been highly cited (133 times and 73 times respectively). References 5 and
6 are returned to UoA17 in REF2014. Reference 6 won an Elsevier award for
`Journal of Rural Studies Top Cited Article 2009-2011' in 2012.
Details of the impact
The research has had 3 main impacts:
- It has changed conservation policy and practice for the UK's rare
native breeds of farm animals, while feeding into debates about
conservation policy and practice internationally and enhancing
UK cultural understanding of the conservation of rare breeds
- It has influenced farming policy in Herefordshire, leading to a
greater focus on diversification within the farming sector
- It has stimulated debate about the place of farming within society
The conservation of farm animal genetic resources is of great economic,
social, cultural and environmental importance. Previously, breeds at risk
have been defined on the basis of numbers and genetic make-up. The
research on geographical endemism led to the development of a new,
geographical measure of risk which has formed part of the RBST "watchlist"
categories since 2009 (Source A). Tim Brigstocke, Chairman of RBST,
described the impact of the research as follows: "This research is a
breakthrough for conservation work. RBST has recognised the problems of
geographical concentration for a number of years and has always encouraged
the widespread farming of our native breeds. However, we now have clear
statistical information which can inform our conservation work of native
breeds and make it even more effective" (Source B).The research
subsequently fed into the work of DEFRA's Farm Animal Genetic Resources
(FAnGR) Committee on Breeds at Risk (BAR). DEFRA's UK Country Report
on Farm Animal Genetic Resources states that: "as part of the work
in developing a revised list of breeds that meet the UK BAR criteria and
are potentially exempt from culling in the event of an exotic disease
outbreak, the FAnGR Committee also undertook some work to identify breeds
that can be considered to be at risk because they live in a concentrated
area. This was based on independent research by the Sheep Trust and RBST'.
(Source C, p.25). The Committee subsequently developed a definition
of geographic concentration (Source C, Appendix 1). The UK BAR list
was also revised as a consequence (Source D).
The research has been disseminated internationally through, for example,
Rare Breeds International's 8th Global Conference on the Conservation
of Animal Genetic Resources, a conference aimed at a broad audience
of sector representatives and academics (Source E). The research
has been further disseminated to the general public through media
appearances by Evans on TV and radio, publicising the issue of
geographical endangerment and increasing cultural understanding of the
issue (Source F).
According to a policy document produced by the Bulmer Foundation in
conjunction with Herefordshire Food Partnership, the Herefordshire Farming
Study `has influenced County policy and thinking ever since [its
publication in 2001]' (Source G, p.7). The study's emphasis on the
importance of diversification has been particularly significant with the
document stating that some 10% of total farm incomes in Herefordshire come
from diversified activity, while the majority of farms in the county are
now classified as `other', which are those that do not fit within standard
categories. This diversification has contributed to the rise in average
farm incomes over the course of the 2000s (Source G).
CRR's research into socio-cultural perspectives on farming led to Evans
and Dr Peter Carruthers (Honorary Senior Fellow, University of Worcester,
2008-present) being commissioned to co-author a report for the Oxford
Farming Conference in 2013 on the value of farming to society (Source H).
The event was attended by government ministers (DEFRA), leaders of farming
organisations (such as the National Farmers' Union) and executive
personnel of agro-industries. The report was the subject of a detailed
debate which focused on the implications of the report for farmers, for
consumers and for society more broadly. The full extent of this debate is
reflected in a series of videos recorded at the conference (Source I).
Sources to corroborate the impact
A. RBST Watchlist: https://www.rbst.org.uk/watchlist.pdf.
Geographical concentration was first identified in the watchlist
categories in Spring 2009 edition of The Ark, the magazine of the
Rare Breeds Survival Trust, p.21.
B. Statement from Tim Brigstocke, Chairman, Rare Breeds Survival Trust
(RBST) on the RBST website: https://www.rbst.org.uk/sheep-breeds-threatened-being-too-close-together.
C. DEFRA (2012) UK Country Report on Farm Animal Genetic Resources.
D. UK BAR list:
E. Rare Breeds International's 8th Global Conference on the Conservation
of Animal Genetic Resources, 2011: http://rbiglobalconf2011.nku.edu.tr/rbi/Conference_proceedings.pdf
F. Media Appearances:
BBC Farming Today — The geography of endangerment amongst farm livestock
breeds, broadcast 16th December 2008
BBC Midlands Today — The geography of endangerment amongst farm livestock
breeds, broadcast 2nd August 2009
G. Herefordshire Food Partnership (2011) From Field to Table. A
sustainable food and drink strategy for Herefordshire. The Bulmer
H. Carruthers, P., Winter, M. and Evans, N, (2013) Farming's Value to
Society. Study commissioned for the Oxford Farming Conference 2013:
Confident Farmers Delivering for Society. Vision 37, University of Exeter
and University of Worcester, January.
I. Videos of debate following the presentation of the report Farming's
Value to Society: