The gradual acquisition of country estates by members of the Rothschild family led many of them to take an interest and a pride in agriculture. Natty, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915) on his estate at Tring Park in Hertfordshire ran an enterprise which was well in the vanguard of farming progress. Even as a young man, he had taken a keen interest in the day-to-day administration of the estate.
At Tring Natty bred Shire horses, Dairy Shorthorn and Jersey cattle, Hampshire Down sheep and prize-winning poultry. Tring was among the first estates in Britain to keep detailed milk-yield records as a guide to the improvement of the herd. A few miles away, Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922) at Waddesdon, equally enthusiastic on stock-breeding, was a regular prize-winner at agricultural shows.
Meanwhile, far from the English Home Counties and well outside the normal pattern of estate farming, Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) was orchestrating a major agricultural experiment in his support for the pioneering Jewish colonies in Palestine. His determination to ensure that these settlements were economically viable led to trials for crops as diverse as grapes, mulberries (for silk), flowers (for perfume), wheat, avocadoes and grapefruit. This economic testing-ground laid the basis for the future growth of Jewish immigration.
The late Amschel Rothschild (1955-1996) grew fruit trees at his farm at Rushbrooke, Suffolk.
When Albert von Rothschild (1844-1911) bought the Langau estate in western Austria in 1880 he was shocked by the damage done to the landscape by unfettered timber felling to meet the demands of Viennese builders. He set about reversing the situation, embarking on massive replanting and encouraging the return of the native plants and wildlife, setting a pattern which others were later to emulate. Today the Albert Rothschild-Bergwaldreservat Dürrenstein, set aside as a wilderness conservation area, is a tribute to his ecological foresight.
In England, the fascination of Charles Rothschild (1877-1923) with the natural world led him into a pioneering concern for the protection of the environment which bore fruit in his foundation in 1912 of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves. Ahead of its time, the Society campaigned for the identification of areas of significant natural habitat, to which Charles contributed a survey of nearly 300 areas in great Britain. In Hungary too, his wife's native country, a Nature Reserve at Puszta Peszer was a legacy of Charles' zeal.
Charles' daughter the late Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) continued his work, and the redevelopment of a natural habitat became her crusade in the 1970s. As a wildflower and grass gardener she grew over 120 native wild species at her home in the English midlands, and encouraged many others to follow her lead. Situated at Ashton Mill, the National Dragonfly Sanctuary and Museum was set up by Miriam's niece Kari de Koenigswarter (b.1950) daughter of the late Baroness Nica (1913-1988).
David de Rothschild (b.1978), the youngest son of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild is an adventurer, ecologist, and environmentalist. He heads Sculpt the Future Foundation, a charity that promotes positive environmental change towards global sustainability by supporting creative, innovative and sustainable action. In 2001 he bought a 1,100 acre organic farm in New Zealand, and was invited to take part in a Polar expedition. In 2006, he spent over 100 days crossing the Arctic from Russia to Canada, which saw him become one of only 42 people, and the youngest British person, to ever reach both geographical poles. His expeditions led to his founding the Adventure Ecology organization, to help inspire people to live more sustainably. In the late 2000s David began a mission to raise awareness of the Pacific Garbage Patch. He invented a new form of sustainable ship boat a 60-foot (18 m) catamaran built from approximately 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and a unique recyclable technology called Seretex, called the Plastiki. In March 2010, The Plastiki and its crew sailed over 8,000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco to Sydney.