The FWAG Association was founded 50 years ago this year, what a landmark! Gary Rumbold, General Manager of FWAG SouthWest, has written some words to give you an insight into FWAG’s 50 years, from the beginning and into the present, as well as our vision for the future.

The National FWAG Association is a collective of currently 7 English independent FWAG organisations with close ties with our colleagues in Scotland, Wales and most recently the Isle of Man.

Since starting my role with FWAG SouthWest almost seven years ago I have often started writing funding bids with this same introduction:

“Over 40 years ago FWAG was established by a group of forward-thinking farmers that recognised that conserving wildlife and the environment was key in securing a successful business for the future”

This year I have had to make a subtle change to this statement as it is now over 50 years since FWAG was established by a group of forward-thinking farmers.

But actually, this isn’t the whole story either and I should probably be changing our strapline even more. It is true that the forward-thinking farmers were involved from the start but also there were many other individuals and organisations that formed the crucible that created FWAG.

During 1969, at a 2-day conference in Silsoe, Bedfordshire, a group of leading conservationist and agriculturalists, including the RSPB, the National Agricultural Advisory Service, the NFU and the CLA, came together under the banner of “Farming and Wildlife: A Study in Compromise”. Through a series of farm walks and break out sessions, the 100 or so delegates discussed how compromises could be made that would bring together the conservation and agricultural sectors.

One of our Trustee’s, Richard Appleton, has kindly provided me with much information and research on the formation of FWAG, for which I am very grateful. He tells me that Jim Hall was the first FWAG employee, in 1970, but was not employed as a farm adviser, although he had a central role in establishing FWAG and its guiding principles.

Although, at the time not technically a FWAG employee, it is commonly considered that Dorothea Nelson was the first FWAG adviser, initially funded by Somerset County Council and the Somerset Wildlife Trust. In fact, I spoke recently with the fifth employed adviser for FWAG in the UK, Jane Beresford, now Warmington, who told me that she was inspired to be a FWAG adviser by an article on Dorothea in Cosmopolitan magazine.

Following Somerset and Gloucestershire, Suffolk FWAG started very soon after, initially using a group of volunteer farm advisers that would provide advice for the princely sum of £5 per hour. 

Since those early days there have been successes and failures, but I believe FWAG today remains as relevant as it was when it was founded 50 years ago, possibly more so. Within FWAG SouthWest, our staff numbers are increasing steadily, we are involved with new ELMS Tests and Trails across the region and we sit directly on the national Agri-environment Stakeholders Working Group. We continue to develop workstreams and our projects grow and develop.

To celebrate our 50th Anniversary we will be putting together some short video interviews on social media celebrating the diverse range of supporters FWAG is so lucky to have. Keep an eye out for these, we will be releasing them over the coming year.


As we move into a brave new world, of public money for public goods, and as we embark on what will be the largest payments for ecosystem services project ever attempted, I believe FWAG are still ideally placed to occupy the space we were initially set up for. As a practical facilitator between agricultural businesses and conservation. A study in Compromise. In a world where we seem to be expected to have a polar position on everything, this liberal approach may be considered unfashionable. But it is how things get done. By quietly getting on with delivery for 50 years FWAG have had a major impact. Of course, there is always more to be done and with our friends, members and partners I hope we can continue our work for another 50 years.

We welcome you to share your key memories from FWAG history, photos of events you have been to and hopes for the future in the comments below.