There are a variety of reasons people establish farm businesses. Some people are driven by their desire to connect with the land while others are motivated by environmental ethics or a sense of social justice.
Whatever your motivation, there are many steps to consider before you plant any seeds or raise any animals.
Hundreds of miles of valuable hedgerows a year are at risk under changes to farming rules, new analysis suggests.
Hedgerows are increasingly recognised as vital tools for absorbing greenhouse gases, providing homes and corridors for wildlife and slowing flooding.
But changes to England’s system of farm payments means that rules that currently protect rural hedgerows will lapse this year.
Under the protections, farmers are required to maintain existing hedges in order to qualify for agricultural subsidies.
If England returned to rates of hedgerow loss seen before the rules were introduced, 400 miles a year may be killed off, according to analysis by the think tank, Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).
Without incentives for their survival, hedges can be lost as farmers remove them to make cropping easier or more lucrative, or cut down for development.
Hedges also require active care to stop them from losing their structure, effectively turning into lines of trees.
The Government has targets to plant 30,000 miles of new hedgerow by 2037, or 2,000 miles a year, to help achieve its net zero and nature targets.
But the loss of carbon from these mature hedgerows would offset the greenhouse gas savings from new hedgerows, according to ECIU, because mature hedgerows can store significantly more carbon.
Between 1998 and 2007, 1.4 per cent of England’s hedgerows were lost, covering the decade before current protections were introduced in 2005.
If this rate of loss was replicated again, it would equate to 390 miles of hedgerows being lost in England each year.
Tom Lancaster, land analyst at ECIU, said: “Mature hedgerows provide significant benefits for farming, from reducing soil erosion due to wind or run-off from rain to providing shelter for livestock.
“These are increasingly important for our food resilience as we see increased extreme wet and dry weather with climate change. Hedgerows also provide a vital source of early season pollen and nectar for the bees that are so important to pollinating farmers’ crops.
‘Losing a small fraction can wipe out benefits’
“Losing even a small fraction of existing habitats can wipe out the carbon, nature and soil health benefits associated with creating new habitats such as hedgerows.”
Paul Miner, from countryside charity CPRE, said: “Currently, farmers are required to meet conditions for hedgerow management and to ensure the hedgerow and habitat it provides are protected.
“It’s vital that these standards are transferred into UK law at the end of the year so that hedgerows remain at the heart of our countryside in the future.”
Defra is currently consulting on whether to continue the existing protections beyond the end of this year, as part of its post-Brexit overhaul of farming subsidies.
A Defra spokesman said: “We are committed to protecting wildlife and improving biodiversity. As part of these efforts, we are supporting farmers to create or restore 30,000 miles of hedgerows by 2037 and 45,000 miles of hedgerows by 2050.”
“We already have existing legal protections for hedgerows in England and Wales outside of cross compliance, and are not proposing any changes regarding the removal of hedgerows. “Our strong legal protections for the environment will continue to protect our work here after 2024 when Direct Payments will be delinked from the amount of land a farmer has.”