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National Trust's Wimpole Home Farm seeks online farmers

  • 4 May 2011
  • From the section UK
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Media captionFarmer Richard Morris says some 10,000 virtual farmers can vote

A National Trust farm is to be run by online subscribers voting on which crops to grow and livestock to rear.

For a £30 annual fee, 10,000 farm followers will help manage Wimpole Home Farm, in Cambridgeshire.

The National Trust says its MyFarm project aims to reconnect people with where their food comes from.

It was partly inspired by the online Facebook game Farmville and follows the example of Ebbsfleet Football Club which is run on a similar basis.

Decisions about the running of the team in Kent has been in the hands of MyFootballClub subscribers since 2008.

Monthly decisions

Wimpole Home Farm, which is converting to organic, is currently commercially self-sustaining.

The 1,200 acre site is home to rare breeds of sheep, cattle, poultry, horses and goats and produces meat, eggs, wheat and oil seed rape.

Subscribers will be expected to make key decisions on which crops to plant, which animals to buy and whether to put in measures such as new hedgerows to help wildlife.

They will be asked to make 12 major monthly decisions during the course of the year as well as other choices.

The options put to members will be within parameters dictated by climate, legislation, and the requirements of the environmental stewardship scheme which the farm is signed up to, as well as the heritage protection given to the estate.

The MyFarm website will feature video updates, webcams, information about farming and expert opinion and subscribers will also be entitled to a family ticket to visit the site.

'Real consequences'

The National Trust says it is the UK's biggest farmer with 200,000 hectares in production, mostly managed by tenant farmers, including lowland arable farms and Snowdonia sheep farming.

Image caption White Faced Woodland sheep are among the rare breeds on the farm

National Trust director general Dame Fiona Reynolds said the scheme was "all about reconnecting people with farming, giving them the chance to get involved with and feel part of the farming community and farming life and give them a greater understanding on how the food they eat gets to their shopping basket".

But she said she was sure that there would be some "wacky" ideas proposed by subscribers.

"We're entering into it very much as an experiment," she added.

Wimpole Home Farm's farm manager, Richard Morris, said: "MyFarm is Farmville for real. Real farming decisions with real farming consequences.

"By influencing the work at Wimpole, our farmers will start to understand the effects and implications of their own decisions."

The National Farmers Union welcomed the project.

Its president Peter Kendall said: "The National Trust's MyFarm project is an opportunity for a wider audience to see some of the competing priorities that 21st Century farmers have to manage."

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