TWO high-profile champions of Cumbrian farming have been appointed to the top positions with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

The newly appointed RBST President is Shadow spokesman for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the House of Lords Baroness Sue Hayman, and the newly elected RBST Chairman is Lake District farmer John Atkinson.

A Labour Life Peer in the House of Lords, Baroness Hayman served as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2017 to 2019. Baroness Hayman and her family run a smallholding in West Cumbria, where they use native breed Luing cattle for conservation grazing, rear sheep, and keep rare breed Buff Orpington chickens.

She says: “Through my roles in Parliament and Defra I have developed a strong interest in the role of native breeds within sustainable food production, animal welfare and good farming practices. I am keen to help raise RBST’s profile in Parliament, the charity has an important mission which is quite different from other farming groups and it is really important that Government understands what RBST does, its relevance to the wider farming world and why native and rare breeds are so important to the future of farming and of our countryside.”

John Atkinson is the sixth generation farming at Nibthwaite Farm, near Coniston. His rare and native livestock includes Luing and Whitebred Shorthorn cows as well as Teeswater, Castlemilk Moorit, Hebridean, Boreray and Blue Faced Leicester sheep. John is passionate about carving out premium markets for high quality native breed produce, and incorporating native breeds into farm diversifications.

He says: “With growing consumer interest in provenance of food and an increasing focus on the environmental impacts of farming and land management, alongside the move from CAP to payment based on public goods, we have a golden opportunity to show why native breeds can and should play a major role in a sustainable future for food, farming and the environment. For a long time agriculture has focused squarely on production, but the current shift towards greater consideration of the cost of production is shining a light on the attraction of native livestock breeds.”