The County Farms estate in Norfolk is the third largest in England and covers an area of over 16,900 acres of farmland across the county of Norfolk, and is let to over 145 tenants. The 61 individual estates spread from West Walton in the west to Hopton in the east, Hindringham in the north and Carleton Rode in the south.
The two largest estates are the Burlingham Estate, at just over 3,200 acres between Blofield and Acle to the east of Norwich, and the Stow & Marshland Estate, at 3,457 acres between Downham Market and Outwell in the west of the county.
The Estate is managed in hand by a dedicated team of rural professionals based at County Hall in Norwich.
County Farms Estates nationally
County Farms play an important role within the farming industry and also with the benefits they provide to the rural economy, the wider community, tourism and the environment.
In 2009, the Association of Chief Estate Surveyors (ACES) updated its rationale for county farms estates, setting out the many benefits council farms can provide with the adoption of good estate management principles:
Working for agriculture
- A means of entry into farming for those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to farm on their own account
- The potential for tenants to establish and develop viable business enterprises, enabling internal progression to larger County Farms and advancement from the Estate to bigger holdings on privately or institutionally owned let estates
- A means of supporting the tenanted sector, boosted by the flexibility of opportunities offered by agricultural tenure legislation
- A tangible means of meeting the aspirations of the young farming community and agricultural industry
Working for the rural economy
- A valuable source of rural employment opportunities on small family farms, often in remote locations
- An opportunity to contribute to the wider economic wellbeing and development of the countryside, including local food products for local markets
Working for the wider community
- A direct stake in the countryside for councils enables links to be made between the local farming industry, the rural economy and the wider community through school visits, open days and guided walks
Working for the environment
- An opportunity to implement best practice in rural estate and sustainable countryside management and stewardship eg Environmental Stewardship Schemes, health and safety and community participation
- A wealth of traditional landscape features such as stonewalls, ditches, hedgerows and farm buildings which are more likely to be retained on small family farms
- The opportunity for the implementation of positive strategies that address the challenges of climate change, such as wind farms, anaerobic digestion plants and other renewable energy sources
Working for the council
- A ’bank’ of potentially surplus development land arising from positive property reviews and estate rationalisations, providing a valuable source of capital for essential estate reinvestment, which assists rural economic regeneration and also provides finance for the provision of other council services
- A potential land bank source of exception sites for affordable housing projects in rural areas