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National Trust’s MyFarm – Farmville Goes Real

Posted by Andrew at 3:32 AM on May 4, 2011

The UK’s National Trust is looking for armchair farmers to farm for real with MyFarm. For a £30 annual subscription, 10,000 desktop farmers will take control of the farm on the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire, England and work with farm manager Richard Morris to decide how it should be run. The subscription also pays for a family ticket to visit the farm for a day.

(For non-UK residents the National Trust is a charitable organisation that works to preserve and protect the coastline, countryside and buildings of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For most people that means stately homes, castles and places of historic interest, but it also makes the Trust one of the largest landowners and farmers in the country with over 250,000 acres of which about 80% is farmed.)

Results from a new survey published to mark the MyFarm launch reveal that people in the UK rate their knowledge of food and farming at an average of only 4.5 out of 10, with 75 per cent of respondents hungry (sorry) to know more about how food is produced.  Mothers, in particular, show there is a need for a new way of learning – rating the importance of their children understanding where their food comes from at 7.5 out of 10, yet only 8 per cent felt confident that they knew enough to teach their children all about it.

Richard Morris, the National Trust’s Farm Manager at Wimpole, 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.  They will also witness first hand how unplanned events can turn a profitable year on its head. This winter hundreds of sugar beet growers have had to plough in their crops because of intense frost damage, resulting in a whole year of costs with no return.  What surprises the weather holds for Wimpole this year only time will tell; but it will affect the farm’s success and the choices the Farmers can make.”

The MyFarm website will include video updates, webcams, live webchats, debates and comment and opinion from both well known farming experts and National Trust tenant farmers. The real-life farm on the Wimplole Estate is 2,500 acres with a mix of arable land, pasture, woodland, lakes and gardens on mainly clay and chalk soil, currently producing meat, eggs, wheat and oil seed rape. The farm manager will set monthly options for the 10,000 farmers, who will debate and vote on issues including whether to grow wheat, barley or oats as part of the autumn sowing, through to which animals to buy and rear.

There’s additional coverage over the The Guardian.

If you want to become a farmer and learn more about your food and where it comes from, sign-up at MyFarm.