Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Wildflower Seed Venture at North Farm

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

New Wildflower Seed Venture at North Farm

Article excerpt

Byline: By Anna Lognonne

Many farmers are leaving field margins around their crops to promote the regional flora and fauna ( but one green-thinking farmer has taken the idea a step further.

Simon Henderson and his wife Helen, of West Fenton Farm, near Wooler, have set up a new business venture called Fenton Wildseeds, which will provide native wildflower and grass seeds to other farmers, land developers and gardeners keen to provide environmental benefits.

The new company will collect the seeds from sites across Northumberland, using sustainable methods to ensure the sites' futures. They will then be sorted, stored and planted out into single-species seed beds at the farm next spring.

To help set up the business, the couple have invested more than pounds 175,000, including a Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES) grant of almost pounds 65,000.

Mr Henderson said: "It will take up to 18 months before we can harvest seeds from these new plants, and we'll be collecting from other sites again next summer to ensure we have all the species we need. The aim is that eventually we'll be producing all our own seeds here at West Fenton.

"These can then be supplied to farmers and other landowners and managers who are looking to introduce native species to their fields and meadows. We will even be able to make up specific mixtures to cater for Environmental Stewardship (ES) agreement requirements.

"The seeds will also be available to others, such as builders and highways managers, who wish to plant native wildflowers and grasses on open areas of new estates, roadside verges and village greens. We're even hoping to offer some for domestic use, allowing homeowners to introduce wild flowers and grasses to their gardens.

"And once everything is up and running we'll be taking on two full-time staff to help run the business."

A range of specialist equipment has been installed to tackle the delicate harvesting and sorting process and to ensure the correct, climate-controlled storage conditions for the seeds. The Hendersons have also invested in a comprehensive computer system to ensure full traceability. …

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