Writtle College has restructured its farming operation in partnership with large local farming company Essex Farms in a move that will give students access to a substantially increased area of arable land in addition to the existing expanded and enhanced livestock enterprises.
Head of the School of Sustainable Environments Caroline Flanagan said: “The restructure has been designed to ensure an excellent long term proposition which works equally well for the College’s commercial farming operation and, most importantly, for our students to have access to an extensive range of field laboratories.”
Given the College’s geographical position within East Anglia ‘the UK’s breadbasket’, the emphasis is on leading on an arable focus and underpinning this with ventures that will add value both commercially and within the education portfolio.
Via a partnership with Essex Farms, who will contract-farm the College’s arable land in addition to their own large local landholdings, there will be access to a further 1800 hectares to students and staff for visits, research and field scale trials.
“We will now be able to demonstrate best practice with modern machinery on a large scale” said Caroline.
Alongside the arable focus, has been a rescoping of the livestock provision. The College has capitalised its Red Poll herd for an undisclosed sum and is acquiring 50 head for its finishing beef unit. The first 25 are due to arrive shortly with the second 25 arriving in the second year. The pig unit is being repositioned to allow greater emphasis on research and a brand new sow house is being constructed which marks a £200k investment from the College in the operation. The sheep flock remains unchanged at 90 commercial ewes.
“The investment in the future of the farming operation is very timely given the College’s renewed emphasis on our agriculture portfolio which is to include the introduction of a new MSc in Arable Crop Management starting in the Autumn of 2010.
“Increasingly Writtle is attracting high calibre undergraduate and masters students who are going on to make an important contribution both in the UK and internationally” said Caroline.