Kate Russell PMIAgrM CEnv
Kate Russell FRICS FAAV PMIgrM CEnv
Q: What is your current role?
I’m a Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tellus Natural Capital Ltd (www.tellusnatcap.com), a specialist consultancy business which we founded in 2021 to advise landowners and land managers on natural capital, ecosystem services and the opportunities that they offer for rural land and property management.
Q: Tell us a bit more about your background and how this led to your current role.
I have been an Agricultural Valuer and Chartered Surveyor for more than 25 years, with a varied career path! I spent a decade working in private practice, advising farmers and landowners and I also worked in academia as a lecturer in Rural Estate Management at the Royal Agricultural College (now the Royal Agricultural University). In 2008 I joined the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers as a Technical and Policy Adviser, where I represented and briefed around 3,000 Agricultural Valuers across the UK on topics ranging from residential property letting to compulsory purchase and taxation. The CAAV began looking at natural capital and ecosystem services 5 or 6 years ago and I found the subject absolutely fascinating, which led to me deciding that I wanted to focus on it full-time.
Q: When would you say you became interested in environmental issues?
Growing up in a rural community I was always interested in nature, but when I started working in rural land management the fundamental importance of the natural environment was so clear to see: farmers and landowners depend on it directly in a way that the rest of society rarely does. Working in policy at the CAAV, I saw how difficult it was to balance all the competing demands for land, which is why it is important that we identify the benefits that the environment delivers for society and start putting a value on them, in order for them to be properly recognised. Some struggle with the concept of valuing nature, but I think we have to try in order to understand what the environment does for us all.
Q: What does being a CEnv in the agricultural management sector mean to you?
I applied for Chartered Environmentalist status because I saw it as a good way to highlight this element of my varied skillset, but I also think it is very important that we bring farmers and the conservation profession closer together. There is a tendency for those from different backgrounds to focus on what divides them, when it could be much more helpful to concentrate on the common ground and build a consensus from there. As the farmer and author James Rebanks put it: “Every farmer should adopt an ecologist and every ecologist should adopt a farmer”!
Q: What are the key challenges you’ve overcome in your career so far?
I didn’t know any female land agents and only one female farmer when I chose it as a career and inevitably I encountered some sexism in the early days, but things are very different now, with women in high profile roles across agriculture, surveying and the environment. In terms of work challenges, I’ve always been interested in trying to negotiate solutions to thorny problems, but my optimistic nature and positive outlook was sorely tested at times in dealing with large scale infrastructure schemes. Big hierarchical organisations don’t find it easy to deal with individuals and I haven’t yet cracked that problem, although good communication and always treating others with professionalism and courtesy is a start.
Q: Do you have any words of advice for those considering becoming a CEnv via IAgrM?
I would definitely encourage others to do it, as a useful stepping stone in building their knowledge and expertise. Farmers are at the front and centre of delivering solutions to the twin climate and biodiversity crises, so we need more farmers, farm managers and land managers to grow their skills and understanding in environmental land management and then to have their expertise recognised and rewarded, including by becoming a Chartered Environmentalist. Farmers are excellent at peer-to-peer learning, so we need leaders who can share their knowledge.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Firstly I hope that in 5 years’ time Tellus Natural Capital will be commercially successful, because it will only be so if we can help our clients to find sustainable ways of working – environmentally sustainable but also economically and socially sustainable too.
Secondly, by 2027 I hope that the natural capital markets emerging now will have developed so that I will be advising farmers and landowners on a whole range of different ways in which nature restoration and sustainable food production is recognised and fairly rewarded by society.
Finally I hope that I will be facilitating better understanding between the conservation profession and the farming industry, bringing all parties together to tackle the huge challenges we face.
On Twitter @TellusNatCap
On LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/tellus-natural-capital-ltd/