A farm which acts as a natural laboratory allowing students from the University of Cumbria to monitor biodiversity, lambing and undertake other valuable work experience has signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the university.
Susan’s Farm, at Houghton near Carlisle, is a 200 acre organic beef and sheep farm featuring pedigree Longhorn cattle, sheep, goslings and chickens. Named after Susan Aglionby, who was awarded an honorary fellowship by the University of Cumbria in 2014 in recognition of her dynamism and energy, the venture is a community interest company.
Professor Julie Mennell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cumbria signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the University and Susan’s Farm which last year hosted 310 educational visits.
“The link between the university and Susan’s Farm is invaluable,” Prof Mennell said. “For our zoology and outdoor students to be able to learn amongst such a diverse and rich variety of surroundings is perfect and I’m sure will lead to even greater collaborations.”
The farm has already played host to zoology students who sampled freshwater habitats on the land looking for invertebrates and examined different lichen species growing on trees which can indicate air quality. Students have also learned about coppicing and the benefits the practice brings to plants and wildlife while camera traps have seen images of roe deer, badger, otters and foxes recorded.
The university is also working with Susan Aglionby to develop a Care Farming initiative In the Eden Valley which is aimed at using agriculture to aid the wellbeing of people referred for mental health support.
“The agreement works well between academic staff, students and the farm – the nature of farming is 24/7 and I’m only too pleased to accommodate students whenever they’d like to come,” Susan said. “A partnership has to be worthwhile and we’re pleased to have this link with the university.”