Thanet farmers’ flowering crop has an EU message

Blaze of colour Photo David Townsend

A burst of colour with a political message can be seen either side of Northdown Hill in St Peter’s and Margate and off Thorne Hill in Minster.

The blaze of blue and gold are cover crops created with phacelia and sunflowers by farmers William Friend and son George.

A cover crop is planted to manage soil erosion, soil fertility, soil quality, water, weeds, pests,diseases, biodiversity and wildlife. It is planted between food crops rather than leaving the area fallow.

One purpose of the 50 acre crop is to display the Friends’ support for the UK remaining in the EU. Currently Brexit Day is scheduled for October 31 but this has been thrown into uncertainty with threats of a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Boris Johnson and moves to block a no deal exit.

The actual use of the ‘EU’ crop is to attract bees, migrating birds and minimise nitrate leaching.

George said: “We share a common purpose with the rest of Europe to deliver environmentally friendly sustainable agriculture, safeguard a thriving rural economy and high quality regional produce.

“This could all be lost if we open our borders to rainforest beef and US chlorinated chicken.”

Dad William added: ‘This is our EU people’s vote field in Brexit heartland – South Thanet.

“It is part of an EU funded agricultural- environment scheme to stop nitrogen leaching into the soil during the winter, to provide nectar for insects and, later, seeds for birds. The blue plant providing the background is phalacia with sunflowers providing the gold stars of the EU flag.”

William and Louise Friend run farms, a plant nursery, Taddy’s Barn and the East Northdown Farm Business Centre in Thanet as well as businesses in Staffordshire.

William says EU membership has been beneficial for UK farming and brings more choice to shoppers as well as boosting the rural economy.

He said: “When we went into the EU, you could buy one sort of cheese, butter, one sort of beef and lamb and that was it. Since being in the EU artisan and regional food has mushroomed and the idea of getting nearer to your source of food is really important.”

William says if Britain exits the EU it will revert to ‘cheap food policy’ rather than supporting sustainable, quality foods.

The Friends currently receive funding for a number of EU projects, such as managing ancient woodland and sustainable wood sources, preserving ancient farmland and species of grassland and environment nurturing schemes such as the flower cover crop to mop up nitrogen and  provide sustenance for bees and birds.

He said: “This corner of Thanet is really important for migrating birds and as they come in from the Continent they end up at Foreland and Foreness and my farm is one of the first green spaces they will reach.”

Photo Sandra Crowhurst

In June 2016 the public voted to leave the European Union (EU) by 51.89% to 48.11%. In Thanet the figure was 46,047 for Leave to 26,065 Remain – a 64% majority. The turn out to vote was 73%.

In the EU election vote this May Thanet votes were in favour of The Brexit Party (49%), headed by Nigel Farage, Liberal Democrats polling second and Green Party third.

The voter turnout for Thanet was 36.11% – based on an electorate of 98,626 and 35,618 ballot papers returned.


  1. Has anyone noted if Mr Friend and his son have campaigned to stop TDC from encouraging farmers in Thanet selling their grade 1 farm land for housing. I certainly have not. Of course more houses = more customers. More customers = more profits. Of course Mr Friend will still get a government grant this being instead of the EU set aside grant.

    17,000 + Dwellings in Thanet by 2031 will choke the area with the potential of an additional 36,000 vehicles and a potential of another 72,000+ residents all attempting to use the over stretched surgeries and a hospital with decreasing services.

  2. I like the idea of catch cropping and especially if it serves a duel purpose of looking great attraction of beneficial insects and also halting the leeching of vital elements & minerals essential for good plant growth. I’m all for it.

  3. Very sensible people. Many farmers are facing hard times with the loss of their customers in the rest of Europe.
    I seem to notice a split appearing. Those businessmen who actually produce things such as food, cars, machinery ,or else transport the goods, are seriously worried about Brexit and are speaking out more and more to stay in the EU.

    But the section of the business establishment that DOESN’T actually produce anything, but just plays at stocks and shares in the “Capitalist Casino” in the City of London (think Rees-Mogg, Aaron Banks, Nigel Farage) ,are the keenest on Brexit. Because their money is invested all over the world. And if the UK economy is trashed by Brexit, it doesn’t matter to them as their cash and investments may well benefit from one country (Britain) going under while others thrive.
    Our local farmers or industrialists have their money and effort invested right here in Britain and , so, are due to suffer immense damage when they lose their natural customers just over the Channel.
    Are we witnessing the final victory of the City whizz-kids , and the Hedge Fund managers who regard the world as their playground, over the older, more rooted business types who are actually committed to industry right here in this country? How ironic that the global investors who have no commitment to any country should portray themselves as the greatest Leave-voting “patriots” while condemning those , like the farmers , as “traitors” and “enemies of the people” because they know how Britain will suffer from Brexit.

    • Quite right Keefogs! The real traitors are trying to Hi Jack the government to force through a No Deal exit from the EU, meaning our country will be sold off to the highest bidder, most probably we will become the 51st State of America, or a small offshore Chinese island! The Referendum result was a scam, only 72% of the Electorate voted, and by a narrow margin of just 52% the result was decided to leave, but wait a minute! It means only 52% of 72% voted to leave, which is under 38%, so how come less than 38% of the electorate are holding the remaining 62% of the electorate who did not vote to leave, to ransom! The Johnson’s of this world know they do not speak for the majority of people, so are trying to make a power grab, which is why Johnson lied to the Head of State, the Queen! Isn’t that treason, can you still be hung for treason? I think we should be told!

  4. Eventually all this lush farmland will be swallowed up by housing developments. The 17000 + houses designed for Thanet will likely be just the start of it. Bit by bit Thanets precious farmland is being concreted over.
    I applaud these particular farmers for doing their bit for nature and the environment but it’s just a shame the others are selling food producing fields to developers.
    I travel a lot throughout the uk and what hits home when back in Thanet is how few trees we have compared to the rest of the UK. It’s amazing how successive councils from all political parties have allowed the destruction of our tree stocks.
    No trees and and diminishing farmland makes for a pretty glum future.

  5. When the phacelia comes back as a weed next year there will be no gold stars left.
    Catch cropping is a fantastic idea though.

  6. Marva there has been a campaign against the houses for the last 5 years but no one seems to want to know. Bet they will when the diggers finally arrive.

  7. Was this campaign widely publicized? I live in Ramsgate but was not aware of an organized campaign, applying pressure,presumably. on local councils and MPs. What was it called? Thanks.

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