Yew Tree Farm is the last working farm in Bristol. It’s located in Bedminster Down on the south western edge of the city. It’s not just any old farm – it’s a small farm that operates sustainably with a very strong emphasis on habitat protection. It has been designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest. You can read the story of the farm here: Yew Tree Farm – Bristols Last working Farm.
Here are a couple of comments from conservationists who have visited the farm:
Tim Curley, Avon Wildlife’s Living Landscape Manager commented:-
“Local food production is hugely important and the low intensity farming that your family has practised is a great example of what is possible for those interested in the relationship between farming and wildlife.”
Dr Helena Crouch, Naturalist who undertook a meadow survey wrote:-
“The meadow supports a huge number of insects and is incredibly important for pollinators.. there really were clouds of butterflies using your meadow all the time and the sounds of grasshoppers.”
The future of Yew Tree Farm is under threat. The farm leases a fair chunk of the land it uses and cares for. The landowner who is based in London, sees the land as a financial asset and nothing more. Catherine Withers who runs the farm, recently found out she would be getting evicted by the landowner from a third of the farm. This is in the broader context of the massive amount of pressure from developers for land in the south west of Bristol going into North Somerset to be released for building.
On Monday, April 3, there was a stand off at the farm as a contractor hired by the landowner turned up to cut a hole in an historic hedgerow to enable the construction of a new entrance. In the article featured below, Catherine Withers tells what happened that day and puts it in the broader context of the pressure the farm is under from land hungry developers:
In Their Own Words: Catherine Withers – B24/7 | 9.4.23
“I am very much the little guy”
“The land clearances are very strongly with us still. I have got no rights whatsoever it appears. I am very much the little guy with zero voice. I need to get this story out.”
“Surely after 56 years, I am meant to be given some notice?”
“Our lease is mean to be renewed every March. We have had this lease for 56 years and since then we have farmed this farm as one entire piece. Surely after 56 years, I am meant to be given some notice? It’s nuts that we are so at risk of being evicted like this and treated like this. I was led to believe via an email from our land agent that we were going to have the lease this year as usual.”
“It’s an ancient boundary”
“On Monday morning, a tractor came down the land with a hedge flail. An evil hedge flail. It was a contractor, someone I didn’t know which is unusual as I know most of the people around here and have really good relationships with them. It stopped halfway up the lane after turning round. It was a beautiful day. It’s nesting season and you could see all the birds really busy, thinking about nesting places, hanging around the hedgerows. This is a magnificent ancient hedgerow of huge significance, not only for us but for wildlife. It’s an ancient boundary as well and still is the border between Bristol and North Somerset.”
“I wasn’t given access to any paperwork because I wasn’t important enough”
“He told me that he was knocking a hole in the hedge for a 12-foot gate. He told me he had all the relevant paperwork and he was just waiting for an ecologist to turn up. I wasn’t given access to any paperwork because I wasn’t important enough. I matter not. He told me that I don’t own this land. I said that it is my driveway.”
You can read the rest of this piece here
Yet again, it’s a story of a small farmer under grave threat from the corporations. In the case of Yew Tree Farm, the threat is from developers. In many other instances it’s small farms under threat from massive, industrial scale agricultural operators backed by corporate wealth. Small farmers have a relationship with the land that involves a sense of responsibility and awareness of a duty of stewardship: We Are Avon – a regional food and land project. This is something that industrial scale agricultural operators don’t have – they simply see the land as a resource to be ruthlessly exploited.
We don’t want to come over as conspiracy theorists but the war on small farmers being waged by a number of players is yet another ploy to further separate us from nature: The Great Food Reset has begun – Thomas Fazi | Unherd | 28.3.23. All part of the dystopian agenda of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the transhumanists. An agenda that has to be defeated at all costs…