Lower Smite Farm

Lower Smite FarmLower Smite Farm (c) Wendy Carter

Our farms are managed to demonstrate good practice in farming for wildlife. Lower Smite Farm is also home to the Trust HQ and education centre.

Farming for Wildlife

At Lower Smite Farm you can see organic and conventional farming working side by side. We use a wide range of crop types and diverse management strategies to provide wildlife with year round habitat and food. The farm is developing a new approach to food production which we call Eco-farming. You can find out more in our our most recent farm report.

Since the post-war drive to intensify farming, the soil at Smite has steadily declined in terms of humus content, organic matter and soil wildlife. Our soil had become almost totally reliant on artificial inputs to grow arable crops and this was associated with costly heavy cultivations to create seedbeds. With around 75% of terrestrial wildlife living in the soil a thriving soil food web is vital to the recovery of the majority of farmland wildlife, most of which continues to suffer ongoing declines.

Rebuilding humus levels and earthworm numbers are a priority and we have planted a wide range of ‘green manure’ mixes, including red and white clovers, cocksfoot, yellow trefoil and phacaelia to ‘feed’ the soil and encourage microbial activity. These mixes also provide good forage for sheep and cattle.

Earthworms are not only the ‘lungs’ of the soil they are directly linked to the survival and abundance of a wide range of farmland wildlife including thrushes, lapwing, curlew, buzzard, moles, badger, robins, rooks, frogs, ants and can even form up to 34% of the diet of foxes.

A healthy soil is fundamental to establishing a resilient cropping system able to cope with the adverse weather patterns created by Climate Change. Our soil type is ‘Dunnington Heath’ ( a stagnogleyic argillic brown earth) which in layman terms means a deep silty loam, relatively free draining, prone to compaction when wet and capping in the spring but capable of growing a wide range of crops when in good heart.

Organic farming at Smite

Half the farmland is now managed organically and establishing a diverse range of crops including traditional varieties of strawberries, blackcurrants, orchard trees, potatoes, spring wheat and forage crops. A neighbouring farming family rents the remaining arable land and under our auspices grows forage for their dairy as well as carrying out operations for us on the organic land. Our apiary now has three bee-hives and you can attend training days planned in the future.

The entire farm is in the Higher Level Stewardship scheme (HLS) which pays land-managers to take areas out of production and focus on creating and maintaining a wide range of habitats ranging from wetlands to cultivated fallows for rare arable plants. Within this scheme we have recently planted over 2 km of hedges, built a bridge and replaced 500m of fencing allowing us to take in livestock which will improve the diversity of our grasslands.

Wildlife needs connectivity between habitats in order to be able to move about and we are working with neighbours and other landowners to develop innovative approaches to creating corridors which will benefit both wildlife and the local economy.

Helping out 'down on the farm'

Visit our volunteering pages if you'd like more information on helping at Lower Smite Farm.

More about Lower Smite Farm

You can find out more about the farm and the Trust HQ on the Lower Smite Farm reserves page.