Farming has played a major role in shaping the landscape of Scilly. The Islands’ characteristic field patterns (bulb-strips and pasture), rural settlements and heathlands are legacies of farming through the generations.
Contemporary farming continues to contribute to the character of the Islands’ landscape. Flower farming is the most economically productive agricultural activity. However, the landscape also supports a broad range of activities including livestock rearing (cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and chickens), vegetable and fruit growing, and woodland management.
Scilly is identified as a target area for the Higher Level Scheme (HLS) of Environmental Stewardship (ES). However, the small average farm and field size in Scilly is a limiting factor in the uptake of ES, both HLS and, more specially Entry level Scheme (ELS). Therefore, in 2009 Natural England sanctioned via the European Union some bespoke ES options for Scilly. In effect from 2010, the new Scilly options are part of a strategic plan to secure transferral of 80% of existing ES agreements to either HLS or ELS.
Opportunities and challenges in Scillonian farming are currently being analysed throughCapacity for Change in Farms on the Isles of Scilly. This research (steered by Mainland Marketing, Council of the Isles of Scilly, Duchy of Cornwall, Natural England and Isles of Scilly AONB Unit) specially focuses on:
Strategic management of the landscape, including protection and management of the historic and natural environment underpinning much of the Islands’ economy;
- A diversified and sustainable farming sector;
- Support for the flower industry to maintain its brand distinctiveness;
- Development of local food networks and initiatives in order to improve and increase the distribution of local food;
- Improved food processing capacity and infrastructure on the Islands;
- Support for added-value, marketing and branding;
- Securing a sustainable, resident veterinary service.
Special features of farming in Scilly:
- Favourable climate for flower farming and horticulture;
- Relatively long growing season;
- TB-free status;
- Support mechanisms through environmental stewardship schemes;
- Skill and knowledge base on the Islands including significant expertise in both growing and marketing;
- Symbiosis with tourism industry (many farm tenancies also feature visitor accommodation);
- Local produce is in high demand from residents and visitors;
- Strong local branding opportunities