Petition launched to save university farm

Students are concerned at the drawbacks of the farm's sale (Photo: Royal Agricultural University)
Students are concerned at the drawbacks of the farm's sale (Photo: Royal Agricultural University)

Students at an agricultural university have started a petition to stop the sale of its 622 acre farm.

The Royal Agricultural University (RAU), the oldest agricultural institution in England, has decided to sell its farm Harnhill Manor Farm.

The farm is an integrated livestock and cropping system, part of which is managed organically.

It is associated with a 120-sow outdoor organic pig herd, managed as a joint venture with a local business partner.

In addition, a mule, Lleyn ewe breeding flock is kept under a conventional farming system together with a calf rearing enterprise.

Arable cropping is rotated with forage crops, grown to support the livestock and to facilitate an effective rotation to underpin the management of a mixed farming system.

But students are concerned at the drawbacks of this action, including depriving students of first hand practical experience.

They also have concerns over a perceived message which suggests a negative future for the British farming industry.

RAU, which is based in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said the sale of the farm was part of proposals to concentrate on training on the university's sites nearer to the main campus.

The campaign says: “Harnhill is an invaluable asset to the University, especially to those students who attend without a farming background.

“Please sign the petition to stand with students and alumni in convincing the university to withdraw the sale.”

Professor Mike Gooding, Head of School for Agriculture, Food and the Environment at RAU, said the move is to 'enhance the learning experience' for students

“We have decided to focus our on-site teaching activities at Coates Farm, next to the university.

“In addition, we continue to develop strategic partnerships with local and regional farming enterprises, providing our students with an enhanced range of up to date best practice farming operations off-site.

“Only a small proportion of land at Harnhill is currently used for teaching and research - and the farm is not easily accessible from the main university campus.”

The university has been at the forefront of agricultural education and a key contributor to the land-based sector for more than 170 years.

It has more than 1,200 students studying courses such as agriculture, animal science, environment and equine science.