Food, Farming and Countryside Commission


Cumbria is the third largest county in England, and largely rural.

The county's population of half a million is dwarfed by tens of millions of visitors each year, many of them heading to the iconic Lake District. Recently inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its cultural landscape, the area is subject to intense debates about the future of upland farming and the impacts of potential policy changes on local communities. The landscape for support for the uplands is complex, making it challenging for farmers, funders and support organisations to deliver change in an effective manner. At the same time, whilst high-quality food is produced in Cumbria, diets do not reflect this equally across the county: there are significant areas of deprivation and diet-related ill health and progression to higher education are well below the national average.

What has happened so far

As part of our inquiry, Professor Lois Mansfield at the University of Cumbria analysed the existing resources being deployed to support upland farming. The report, Gap Analysis for Cumbrian Upland Farming Initiatives Post-Brexit, outlines the findings and recommendations, which include:

  • The provision of a local advisory service – operating flexible modes of delivery to fit a wide CPD offer and knowledge requirement for the new agendas. This should be staffed by people with good understanding of local conditions with the ability to use integrated knowledge to see the farm business as a whole and not pieces.
  • Relationship management – to improve dialogue and understanding between farmers and other stakeholders with a vested interest in the uplands of Cumbria

In addition, following the recent designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Action for Communities in Cumbria led a series of workshops to understand what this meant to residents and local businesses.

Who is involved

The Cumbria inquiry is being hosted by the University of Cumbria, chaired by Professor Julia Aglionby and co-ordinated by Hannah Field. There will be a cross sectoral Inquiry Leadership Group and a smaller management group to plan and steer the work of the Cumbria inquiry in collaboration with the Commission’s team.

What’s happening next

While our activities remain to be finalised the focus is on enabling livestock farmers transition to producing high-quality food while enhancing biodiversity, carbon storage and cultural heritage. Initial project ideas include developing tools to enable farmers to decide on optimal grazing levels and patterns, delivering on farm conservation, skills development, connecting the public with nature and the countryside and local procurement. At the heart of the Cumbria inquiry will be the goal of supporting family farms to remain viable as agriculture transitions to the Environmental Land Management Scheme and as we leave the EU.


Hannah Field