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Help for Herdwicks

A campaign to protect Herdwick farming and give upland farmers a better deal for their livestock is to be launched, thanks to a grant from The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Secured by Taste Cumbria and partners the Herdwick Breeders Association, the funding will be used to help Cumbrian farmers capitalise on the recently awarded, worldwide PDO status for Lakeland Herdwick and create new, more profitable, markets for their products.

Specifically, the project will work to attain a number of high profile supply contracts between farmers and local, regional and national food service providers. Herdwick meat is a seasonal product, in limited supply, so contracts sought will be those which offer Herdwick meat the highest quality identity and offer farmers the biggest difference to their bottom line. This will be underpinned by the responsible promotion of Herdwick meat across the whole supply chain, and to consumers.

Mary Houston, Taste Cumbria Manager, explains; "Herdwicks are not just a tourism gimmick, they are a livelihood for many, dedicated farmers in Cumbria. This industry needs to be supported and celebrated. The Herdwick story and the unique characteristics of Herdwick meat should be sensibly communicated, so that visitors to Cumbria and the wider, British food industry can understand the significance of its journey to our plates, and reward our farmers with higher premiums.”

In keeping with HRH Prince of Wales’ ethos, tackling low farming incomes and supporting rural communities is integral to the project’s work. The farming of Cumbria’s uplands has shaped the landscape and is essential to maintaining it. However, an upland farmer earns, on average, only £6,000 per annum, which has contributed to a number of people leaving the industry – around 5,000 men left farming in 2012. It is estimated that 60,000 new entrants are needed in the farming industry in the next decade to ensure its sustainability but the average age of a hill farmer in Cumbria is around 58 and the opportunities for the young to learn the techniques required are diminishing.

Victoria Elms, Director of The Prince's Countryside Fund added; "Life in hill farming can be tough.  It requires stamina, dedication, long hours and a love of what you are doing.  Herdwick farming is integral to the Cumbrian landscape and we're pleased to be able to help build awareness of this product and support those at the core of Herdwick farming. With thousands of farmers leaving the industry each year, initiatives such as Taste Cumbria's Herdwick project are essential."

Amanda Carson, Secretary of the Herdwick Sheep Breeders' Association commented; "The Herdwick Breeders in Cumbria are delighted by the award of the grant from the PCF and are looking forward to working with Taste Cumbria to promote the Lake District's iconic sheep, the Herdwick. We hope that raising awareness of the Herdwick and the Hill Farmers of Cumbria will encourage people to visit the Lake District and enjoy our local heritage."


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