The Fens account for around half of the most productive (termed “grade 1”) agricultural land in England. The Agricultural sector includes farming and horticulture with 37% of England’s vegetables being grown here including Fen celery which has been given EU geographically protected status due to its distinctive nutty and bittersweet taste. This puts it on a par with Melton Mowbray pork pies and Parma ham. The Fens are also an important area for growing ornamental bulbs and flowers.
Around 8-9% of fenland farmland is under environmental stewardship. In these schemes farmers are actively involved promoting wildlife on their farms for which they receive additional subsidies. In the Fens the key focus is on the improvement of areas of grassland to make them more attractive for wildfowl and waders and the installation of arable field margins to provide food and cover for populations of farmland birds (birds which really heavily on in-farm habitats for their existence). Many fenland farmers are passionate about the wildlife on their farms and prepared to go that extra mile. For example a group of 14 farmers in and around Thorney, near Peterborough have set up the Thorney Farmland Bird Friendly Zone. They are working together to balance the needs of farmland birds and other wildlife with those of their farm businesses.