Grassington rare breed farmer is named new Chair of the Rare Breed Survival Trust Dales Support Group

A North Yorkshire farmer has been elected as the new chairman of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust’s Dales Support Group.

Helen is the new chair of the Rare Breed Survival Trust Dales Support Group

Helen Wray, who farms a wide range of rare native breeds at Gam Farm Rare Breeds in Grassington, said she was “thrilled” to take on the role.

“As chairman of the RBST Dales Support Group I am thrilled to act for the many passionate and dedicated farmers, smallholders and supporters in Yorkshire who work every day to safeguard the future of our amazing native breeds.

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“This is an exciting time for the charity and for rare breeds, with post-Brexit farming policy, changes in society and scientific innovation all creating new opportunities to boost the prospects of our native breeds. Our Dales Support Group has a crucial role to play,” Helen said.

The national Rare Breed Survival Trust (RBST) works to save and safeguard the future of native breeds of livestock and equines and the RBST Dales Support Group covers one of the largest areas, representing the charity across the Yorkshire Dales region.

The Dales group creates a network that helps RBST members in or near the area work together to boost rare breeds’ chances of survival. It monitors the localised prospects and challenges for rare breeds, helps deliver conservation programmes, runs a programme of – currently virtual – social events, as well as encouraging new interest in keeping native breeds.

Helen is a dedicated champion for rare breeds at the farm near Skipton.

Her livestock includes 180 Whitefaced Woodland sheep and 50 Northern Dairy Shorthorn cattle, as well as Wensleydale Longwool sheep, Bagot goats, Tamworth pigs and Middle White pigs. With commercial viability essential to a native breed’s survival, Helen has a wealth of practical experience in finding the strongest opportunities for rare breeds in modern markets.

In normal circumstances, this includes supplying high-end restaurants in Leeds and Halifax with her slow-grown, grass-fed rare breed meat, and selling native breed wools through the Gam Farm Wool Shop.

Helen also has first hand experience of how native breeds of livestock and equines can be used to support the natural environment, not only at her own farmland but also in supplying primitive sheep for conservation grazing to promote biodiversity and natural land management on the Foxglove Covert Nature Reserve at Catterick Garrison.

“Securing the future of rare breeds is a long-term mission. The Dales Support Group can draw on the wonderful resource of a raft of committed and experienced breeders as well as a flurry of young breeders and farmers we have recently welcomed, who are exploring fantastic ways to keep native breeds relevant and commercially valuable for today and for tomorrow.

“Our group is energised by the potential created by this combination of long-learned expertise on getting the best out of these wonderful breeds alongside new ideas for commercial ventures that put native breeds to the fore.

“And this is all set in the context of increasing consumer preference for high-quality local produce and growing recognition at Government level of the environmental benefits our native breeds can deliver. We are developing exciting plans for the future, we are making a real difference for these rare breeds.”