I’ve noticed a shift in thinking around the term ‘rewilding’. There is now a new appreciation of the need to include the farming community in conversations around restoring nature while producing food.
Clearly, there is a need for farmers and conservationists to be on the same page: there is a need to both conserve the land and keep producing food. So, now we have a new concept: wild farming, an approach to farming that advocates land-friendly food production. The goal is to have both healthy food and a healthy planet.
Whether we are speaking about rewilding or wild farming, the point is that we need everyone on board. We need to bring together all parts of the community – farmers, conservationists, employers, educators, health providers, and so on. By pooling our ideas and resources, we can hopefully develop strategies that are going to benefit conservation, food production and local economies.
With this in mind, I was delighted to be at the launch of a new group of like-minded farmers and conservationists. I was invited to the Isle of Wight for the inaugural meeting of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Rewilding Network – it is a network of landowners who are committed to nature recovery, and it was inspiring to see what other people are doing.
One highlight of the launch was a visit to Nunwell Home Farm, which is supporting local food production while encouraging biodiversity.
Only a year ago, the estate adopted traditional farming methods that complement conservation, and they’re already starting to see – and taste – the difference, producing delicious, good quality meat. Indeed, one memorable moment was when we gathered for lunch. We sat in a barn, with hay bales made into tables and chairs, and shared a delicious meal of chilli made with meat from the Nunwell Home Farm. It felt wonderful to be sitting among people with a shared enthusiasm for landscape recovery and sustainable farming.
At the launch, I met rewilders with farming backgrounds who are producing high quality food while also looking after the land and the wildlife on it. This has to be commended as the way forward.
These days, many of us are rethinking our connection to nature. In my view, we need to work symbiotically with the land, rather than being parasites: we can’t just take, we have to give back. We have to establish a relationship with the land that allows nature to thrive. When we work in tandem with nature, the ecosystem thrives and we get better food: this is a principle of rewilding.
Conventional and industrial-style farming is not sustainable, hence we need to have a new type of conversation. And we need groups like the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Rewilding Network that are encouraging and enabling farmers, landowners and conversationists to share ideas that can support food production while enabling nature to flourish.
These are not short-term projects. It is a long-term vision that, as well as looking after the land, will boost local economies.
It was inspiring to see what is happening on the Nunwell Home Farm because we are engaged in a similar project at Ewhurst Park, which I took ownership of in 2020. Our own rewilding project is regenerating the land and helping wildlife to bounce back and thrive, while also supporting food production. We are part of a UK-wide movement that is on board with the UK Government’s commitment to see at least 30% of our land and sea to be protected for nature’s recovery by 2030 (the current figure stands at something like 3%).
As a reminder for why this national rewilding project is necessary, I want to quote Debbie Tann, who is the chief executive of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. She explains:
“Nature is in crisis with more than half of our species in decline and our rivers and seas in poor health. Traditional conservation has done an amazing job over decades saving our most threatened wildlife but nature reserves alone are not enough to tackle the biodiversity crisis. As well as protecting the fragments of wildlife rich habitat that we have left, it’s vital that we start restoring ecosystems at scale.”
How do we do this? By rewilding, which Debbie summarises as follows:
“The role of rewilding [is] to restore the natural processes that support life (for example, grazing, natural flood management, regeneration) and reinstate missing species (for example, keystone species such as beavers), allowing them to shape the landscape and habitats within.”
And she offers these five principles for rewilding:
1) Let nature lead, 2) Support people and nature together, 3) Work at nature’s side, 4) Create resilient local economies,
5) Secure benefits for the long term.
Rewilding is a national, indeed a global, project that I’m proud to be involved with.
Read more of Mandy’s articles in Sublime Magazine
About the Author
Mandy Lieu is an exclusive columnist for Sublime Magazine, food systems entrepreneur and philanthropist. Having enjoyed success across Asia as a model, film and TV actress, she moved to the UK in 2015 to start a family and join the revolution in local, sustainable food. Now Mandy is transforming her lifelong passion for nutrition and food systems into a business – she owns The Good Plot, a new farm-to-table restaurant and Ewhurst Park a regenerative farm.