Farming Matters: Heather Hancock - Like me, King Charles sees tremendous opportunities ahead for family farms

Heather Hancock is chair of trustees for The Princes Countryside Fund.

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Farming Matters: Heather Hancock - Like me, King Charles sees tremendous opportunities ahead for family farms

Heather Hancock is chair of trustees for The Princes Countryside Fund.

AS Britains longest-serving heir to the throne, His Majesty King Charles III carved out a unique role as an enabler and a catalyst for change, in many areas of our national life. Perhaps chief among them is his passion and care for the countryside, and the family farms working tirelessly to nurture it.

People living and working in the countryside have long seen His Majesty as our best champion and advocate, someone dedicated to turning up the volume so that our voices are heard and our needs understood.

He recognises the self-help instinct of rural communities to create a more sustainable future, despite the challenges of isolation, unpredictable circumstances and being an afterthought for many decision makers.

The Kings deep concern and understanding is why The Princes Countryside Fund came into existence in 2010.

The charity is a direct and tangible expression not only of His Majestys unwavering commitment and practical approach to making a difference, but also a mark of recognition for the stark reality that many countryside communities are subject to: a threat to survival.

From climate change, increasing economic pressures, through to a steady decline in the vital local services and infrastructure that glue places together, many rural communities across the country are at risk of running into long-term decline.

As we mark His Majestys coronation, its an important moment to reflect on the work of The Princes Countryside Fund since its founding over a decade ago, and on what comes next.

To put it mildly, the farming landscape has drastically changed since 2010. Many certainties have become uncertainties, the rising costs of food, fuel and fertilizer have created immense challenges, and 7,000 agricultural businesses have gone out of business in the UK. And yet, as the King so eloquently put last year, it is in a farmers DNA to be extraordinarily adaptable when required as masters of reinvention.

Like me, King Charles sees that amid all the change and confusion, there are real opportunities ahead for family farms and the communities around them.

At The Princes Countryside Fund, we are dedicated to helping farming families identify, prepare for and secure those opportunities, and to backing rural communities to adapt and build their own a sustainable future.

We stand out as a UK-wide charity entirely focused in this way, providing practical advice and training to secure the viability of family farms, offering grants to build resilience for rural communities, and creating enduring networks of mutual support.

Since our founding, weve proudly supported 2,500 small-scale farming businesses and have backed 500 rural community-led initiatives. Weve awarded 481 grants totalling 11.2 million in funding, reaching over 150,000 people in rural areas, providing specialist support that tackles the micro and macro issues they face.

Ultimately, King Charles recognises that without healthy, sustainable farming communities, we all will feel the impact.

The landscapes we all enjoy are what they protect and maintain. The hardworking people we rely on to produce quality home-grown food will be unable to meet that fundamental need, and a rich and important part of our national identity and heritage will slowly decay.

Empowering farming and rural communities to find solutions in an everchanging world is our lifeblood. As His Majesty inherits new responsibilities as monarch, we are proud to ensure the practical continuation of his vision - a secure and sustainable future for farming communities across the UK.

The challenge we face is indeed large. However, we believe wholeheartedly that together, and with the right support, any obstacle can be overcome.

To support the work of The Princes Countryside Fund,