THE EXMOOR Hill Farming Network has established itself as a Community Interest Company (CIC) and started running as an independent, 100 per cent farmer-led organisation from February 1, 2020.

The move will mean greater independence for the Network, which already works with around 318 farming businesses, with opportunities to reinvest assets in the community and attract new sources of funding.

The newly appointed board consists of 11 directors and four advisory board members, led by Dave Knight, who has been chair of the Network since its establishment five years ago.

Until now, the Network has been hosted and supported by North Devon +, an economic delivery agency for North Devon and Torridge, which runs a number of rural development programmes in the area.

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Dave Knight, EHFN chairman of directors said: "We are immensely proud of the progress the Network has made under the auspices of North Devon + so that it is trusted by farmers and other land managing businesses in the Greater Exmoor areas as a source of valuable advice, training and support in these uncertain times.

"North Devon + has played a key role in this success and we hope to continue a close working relationship going forward.’’

The Network was established in early 2014 to improve the viability and sustainability of Exmoor farming businesses. It does this through knowledge-transfer, peer-group support, training, and co-operation to safeguard upland farming, rural employment and landscape management. It has become the ‘go-to hub’ of information and contacts for land-based businesses, overseen by its highly regarded network officer, Katherine Williams.

Sarah Bryan, chief executive of Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “It’s been a pleasure to see the Exmoor Hill Farming Network grow from strength to strength and we’re pleased to see them complete their independence through this next step.

"Having a strong voice for the farming community on Exmoor is vital to sustaining the traditional farming practices and ways of life that make our landscapes special. We look forward to continuing to support them in this next venture.”