Farmer Clusters: A FRAMEwork for connecting conservation measures in agricultural land
Abstract: Across the European Union (EU), 173 million hectares of land is used for agricultural production and due to the use of intensive farming methods this land is a major contributor to ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss. As a result of this, there is an increasing interest in the development and application of biodiversity sensitive farming systems designed to mitigate for these effects. One emerging solution is the Farmer Cluster concept, a movement which began in 2015 and has grown to encompass over 100 Farmer Clusters in the UK. A ‘Farmer Cluster’ is a community of farmers, located in the same region, who share knowledge, support and motivate each other to improve biodiversity and the ecological health of their farms.
Farmer Clusters have become increasingly popular in the UK, but evidence of theenvironmental benefits of Farmer Clusters is largely anecdotal. The European FRAMEwork project aims to introduce Farmer Clusters to a further eight European countries, and scientifically evaluate their effectiveness from the outset. The project will also develop this concept further to deliver Advanced Farmer Clusters, in nine countries including England, by providing a new level of technological support to help farmers reach their goals. Here we provide an overview of the history and development of the Farmer Cluster concept along with an overview of FRAMEwork’s 11 Advanced Farmer Clusters which represent a range of different farming systems, cultures, and climates.