Across the United Kingdom, rural communities and farming families are living with immense uncertainty amid the relentless pace and scale of economic, climate and societal change. An agricultural revolution is under way and the most significant reforms to farm support in living memory are accelerating, even as farmers’ fields are under water, their feed and fertiliser costs are sky-rocketing, a cost of living crisis is intensifying the demand for low food prices, and new animal and plant diseases hover on our shores. The rural voice remains faint against the clamour of bigger, more visible needs; the needs of rural communities frequently overlooked and just as frequently misunderstood, threatening their social and community fabric.

Without our collective help, the people who keep our countryside alive, the people who produce healthy, home-grown food, the people whose skills and dedication are vital to heal the wounds we’ve inflicted on the natural environment, the people who can keep our countryside the way we expect to find it, the people who bring next-generation energy and talent to keep local services and community life going, these are the people who will struggle to survive.

The Royal Countryside Fund offers these people a lifeline to a sustainable future: 70% of our land is under the stewardship of farmers, and one-fifth of the population lives in rural communities. Every day through The Royal Countryside Fund, we witness the self-help instinct, the resourcefulness and determination of family farms and rural people to carve out a sustainable future for their corner of rural Britain. 

We are the only nationwide charity with this focus. Since we were founded by HM The King, when Prince of Wales, The Royal Countryside Fund has supported more than 4,000 farming families and given grants to nearly 500 rural communities. We’ve followed His Majesty’s lead, connecting people at local level to find solutions to the challenges they have in common, and supporting them to apply those solutions. Our evaluation shows that this model is trusted and it works.

We are picking up the pace

This 2024-2028 strategy is about picking up the pace. We want to paint this picture of what works on a broader canvas, to reach more of the countryside in all four nations, to keep a step ahead of the relentless pressures on agriculture with innovative new business support themes, and to accelerate and differentiate our community programmes. We are incredibly honoured to have been renamed The Royal Countryside Fund and we feel deeply the trust this signals from His Majesty.  We are determined to use this landmark moment to its greatest advantage and have set our sights high. Our strategy describes an ambitious growth plan, expanding and replicating our model for supporting family farms and rural communities county by county, while tailoring our advice to local circumstances. In tandem, we’ll develop our rural community programmes on that same convening model, aiming to help build confident self-help networks which will survive and thrive beyond our specific intervention, and with a particular focus on the next generation and innovative, repeatable solutions.

Many of our fellow citizens wouldn’t choose to live in ‘the middle of nowhere’, but we know that millions of them feel a great connection to and responsibility for our countryside, for those places which to some of us really are ‘the centre of everything’. The Royal Countryside Fund wants to become the charity of choice for people in the countryside and for everyone who cares about those people and the difference they make, who understands that they are essential to our future countryside on which so much depends.   Our strategic ambition requires us to build our profile and build our income.  We are so grateful to the many, many supporters, advisers and participants who have brought The Royal Countryside Fund to this stage.  I hope you’ll be as excited as we are by the direction we are setting.  There’s no shortage of opportunity to be involved, and we at The Royal Countryside Fund look forward to welcoming your support, guidance and skills over the next four years.

Heather Hancock LVO DL
The Royal Countryside Fund                                                                                         

Our vision:

Founded in 2010 by His Majesty King Charles III, then The Prince of Wales, The Royal Countryside Fund’s vision is of a thriving countryside – a living landscape of working family farms and prosperous rural life, built on connections and relationships – which in turn shapes rural places, creating vibrant, sustainable communities.

Our ambition is to:

Be the countryside charity of choice for people living and working in rural and farming communities across the UK, and for those who care about helping them secure a sustainable future.

Our approach is to:
  • Help those who wish to help themselves – to “power-up, not prop up”.
  • Offer expertise, advice, encouragement and practical, forward-looking solutions to help people in rural communities and those running family farms.
  • Act as a catalyst and convener, bringing together individuals, family farms, community groups and partner organisations to work collectively in enterprising and pragmatic ways to tackle the real local issues that they identify.
  • Value long-term relationships with all the people and organisations we support and who support us.
  • Ensure that all our programmes of support are subject to continuous, rigorous evaluation and, where appropriate, based on sound research.
Our four-year strategy is to:
By the end of four years, we will have:
  • Worked with a further 2,000 family farms, of which 85% will feel more confident, connected and sustainable because of their engagement with The Royal Countryside Fund.
  • Developed and be working with a network of 6,000+ farm businesses.
  • Invested a further £3m in rural community-led projects across the UK.
  • Developed and be working with a network of 500+ rural community organisations.
  • Achieved a minimum annual income of £3m.
  • Embedded a culture of continuous learning through our monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) framework that ensures all activity is relevant and our work anticipates the change and challenges facing the people we support.
  • Grown our partner and stakeholder relationships to better understand the future direction of the rural economy to inform our work.
In 2028, we will measure our success by having in place:
  • A vibrant UK-wide network of family farms and rural communities which we have supported.
  • A robust bank of practical evidence from our work on the ground with rural communities and farming to shape our future response to their needs and that will enable us to secure funding.
  • A comprehensive programme of engagement with all of those who support our charity.
  • A balanced approach to the two pillars of our work: supporting both farming families and rural communities.
Our new operating model is to:

Grow our UK-wide activities, specifically through developing our work on a county basis in England by focusing on the most rural areas, while building an equally distinctive offer in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We will work with an average of ten new counties in England for each year of our strategic plan and focus on one other home nation on an annual basis to extend our work in new ways.

Over the next four years, we want to:

Accelerate our scale and reach

Accelerate our scale and reach as an operational, delivery-focused charity enabling measurable change through our high quality programmes of rural and farming support that are practical, grounded and informed through local circumstance, differentiating us from others.

Our key shifts will be to:  

  • Increase our capacity to offer a new integrated and progressive programme of support to around 500 family farms each year. This will build on our current approach of encouraging productive agriculture that works in harmony with nature, from a starting point that all farm enterprises must be financially viable.
  • Develop and grow a network of rural, locally-led community organisations across the UK from our past and present grant beneficiaries. We will also create a new grants programme with a differentiated and focused approach, particularly aiming to develop resilience in rural areas; keep young people in the countryside; build the environmental sustainability of rural communities; and ensure the economic viability of rural communities.
  • Ensure that we promote well-being through our support programmes, which will encourage personal development, address isolation and provide a sense of connectedness.

Develop our place-based packages

Develop our place-based packages of help via trusted partners who are embedded in the communities which they serve through our networks of farm support groups and rural grant beneficiaries. 

Our key shifts will be to:

  • Build on our existing relationships with grant recipients to foster deeper long-term relationships with them through closer collaboration, communication and recognition of volunteering, and to increase our understanding of local challenges and support the development of place-based solutions.
  • Consolidate our relationship with farm support groups through a new model of support, mapping and defining farm support groups, identifying new farm support groups and funding gaps to be addressed.
  • Establish connections with new local partners which will enable us to extend our support to rural and farming communities through joint working, funding opportunities and through our respective convening roles.

Build a platform for growth

Build a platform for growth and longevity for The Royal Countryside Fund to inspire support to enable us to diversify our income so that we can reach more people in farming and rural communities.

Our key shifts will be to: 

  • Broaden our support base to secure baseline operating costs and a minimum annual income of £3m, by increasing our fundraising efforts with trusts and foundations on a national scale, and a renewed focus on individuals and major donors.
  • Develop our trusted brand to reflect our clarity of purpose and how we change people’s lives through a targeted communications strategy on profiling the people supported by our work and highlighting our unique selling point in a crowded farming landscape. Alongside this, a strategic events programme will highlight the impact of our work.
  • Invest in social media to increase our visibility, particularly through storytelling and increasing engagement with our followers and partners. We will also seek to collaborate with stakeholders, including corporates, with larger social media presences.

The way we work will be enabled by:

Making The Royal Countryside Fund the best we can be

Making The Royal Countryside Fund the best we can be, ensuring a special feeling is generated for all who connect with us, whether as programme participants, as supporters, or by working for us.

Our key shifts will be to:

  • Focus on our relationship management and stewardship of our supporters and those who deliver our programmes to inspire and build a strong feeling of connectedness with our charity.
  • Extend our programme of events to ensure greater coverage and engagement with us across the UK.
  • Grow and develop our staff team to unlock our potential and make The Royal Countryside Fund an employer of choice.

Ensuring that we monitor, evaluate and learn from all aspects of our work

Ensuring that we monitor, evaluate and learn from all aspects of our work and that our activities are aligned with our charitable purpose, encourage sustainability and make a real difference to rural communities.

Our key shifts will be to:

  • Enable businesses, institutions, and individuals with an interest in the countryside, farming and rural communities to help make a lasting difference in a way which helps them adhere to their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals or own personal commitment to sustainability.
  • Further invest in our insight and evaluation to improve the shape and structure of our support programmes.
  • Ensure our support programmes are consistently experienced across the UK.


Our values define our charitable culture and bring our purpose to life. They are:

Practical: Our work is grounded in the experiences of the people who live and work in rural and farming communities. We ensure that our support is provided in a straightforward and accessible way.

Empowering: All of our work is through inclusive and collective endeavour. We encourage those who wish to help themselves towards a sustainable future.

Collaborative: We work with a range of trusted partners and supporters to deliver our support programmes and to positively contribute to rural life.

Responsive: We are creative, agile and solution-orientated in responding to the changing needs and circumstances in rural communities to make things happen at speed.

Our work programme will be defined each year by:

Producing an Annual Operating & Resources Plan for every year of this Strategic Plan which will guide our work and set out our key deliverables and measures of success.

This will be complemented by our Annual Trustees’ Report which will demonstrate how we fulfil our charitable purpose.   

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