Animals & Wildlife Magazine

It’s Time to Find out Which Farmer Does the Most for Our Countryside

By Philpickin @philpickin

The RSPB is calling on members of the public to decide who is the UK’s most wildlife friendly farmer.
After months sifting through hundreds of entries from farmers doing wonderful things for nature on their land, the judges for this year’s RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award have made the tough decision and whittled it down to four regional finalists.  Now it’s over to the public to decide their fate as voting opens today (Friday 22 July).
The RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award 2011 aims to celebrate farmers who do wonderful things for wildlife and single out the one who has done the most on their land to help special countryside wildlife.
With a recent survey† finding 93% of people value the countryside for relaxation, fresh air and peace, and 94% think it’s as important as ever to protect it, the RSPB is more determined than ever to reward farmers who work in an environmentally-friendly way.
Darren Moorcroft, the RSPB’s head of countryside conservation, said: “These farmers have shown themselves to be true guardians of the countryside, not just for the wildlife that shares their land, but also for the people that enjoy it. It is right that farmers who have stepped up for nature on their land should be celebrated by us all.
“With the fate of skylarks and brown hares, butterflies and rare plants in their hands, it’s reassuring to know that there are many farmers providing safe havens for some of the country’s most threatened flora and fauna.  I look forward to finding out who wins the public vote.”
Farming Minister Jim Paice said:“The shortlist for the Nature of Farming Award demonstrates the good work that farmers are doing across the country to improve wildlife on their farms. Farmers know that they play an important role in helping us achieve our ambition for a healthy and vibrant natural environment that we set out in our recently published White Paper. I wish all the finalists well in the competition and hope that other farmers see them as an inspiration of what can be achieved.”
From building beetle banks and planting hedgerows to restoring wild flower meadows, managing woodland and adding skylark plots – many farmers across the UK are putting passion and dedication into protecting the habitats of all kinds of native wildlife – and not at the expense of food production and commercial success.
Now in its fourth year, the Nature of Farming Award will see four regional finalists face the public vote throughout the summer. The national award is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph. The shortlisted farmers have strong environmental credentials and manage their farms with bird, plant, mammal and insect populations in mind while running commercially viable businesses.
From 22 July, the UK public will be invited to decide the UK winner by casting their votes by phone, post, online, via The Telegraph, orat various country shows until the end of August.  Information on how to vote can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote and everyone who votes in this year's competition will be entered into a prize draw to win a two night break for two people at a luxury hotel. 
Votes can be cast until 31st August 2011 and the winner will be announced in September.Victoria Chester, one of this year’s judges and chief executive of Plantlife, said: “The standard of entries this year is the highest it’s ever been and it was a huge challenge for us judges to choose the final four to go through to the next round.
“It’s evident that huge effort and a real passion for the countryside are the secret ingredients to wildlife friendly farming. Good farmers work hard to care for their land and, like us, want to see the signs of a healthy and wildlife-rich countryside once again.  You can’t beat hearing the screech of a barn owl and seeing the flaming heads of red poppies, or the flutter of a butterfly and brown hares boxing in spring.”
The four finalists chosen for the 2011 Nature of Farming Award are:
Robert Law, Eastern EnglandThis 1,500ha conservation grade farm is a shining example of the integration of wildlife friendly farming into a successful commercial business.  It includes a chalk grassland SSSI, woodlands and 1,200ha of arable production; 10% of which is managed for wildlife, making maximum use of agri-environment schemes.  Corn bunting, grey partridge, lapwing and skylark abound, and careful sheep grazing allows rare chalkhill blue butterflies and pasque flowers to flourish on the heath.  Robert hosts hundreds of visitors and is in demand as a speaker.
Robert Kynaston, Midlands  Robert strongly believes there is room for wildlife alongside profitable production on his 97ha mixed farm.  Keen to minimise resource usage, he has installed a reed bed to clean water, and decreased fertiliser use by 80%.  Environment stewardship fits well with his approach.  Rich and varied wildlife thrives, including curlew, grey partridge, lapwing, 14 species of water boatmen and over 20 mosses and lichens.  Robert widely promotes his ethos, hosting events and running training courses for a very wide audience.
David White, South West England  David manages his 554ha farm and another 870ha of countryside with an inspiring ethos of working withnature. The farm is predominantly arable, managed without insecticides and corn bunting, lapwing, turtle dove and yellow wagtail all flourish.  Areas of chalk downland are managed by native cattle, supporting dotted bee-fly, brown hare and a range of butterflies and rare arable plants such as Venus’s-looking-glass.  Narrow-fruited cornsalad has also recently been discovered on the farm.  David advises surrounding farmers, who have followed him into environmental stewardship.
Somerset and Carolyne Charrington, ScotlandThis 750ha upland livestock farm is managed with both sustainability and profitability at its heart.  Alongside targeted grazing regimes, Somerset and Carolyne have created and restored key habitats such as native woodland, wetland, peat bog and moorland, supported by agri-environment schemes.  Wildlife has flourished, and includes field gentian, wood bitter vetch, corncrake and curlew and a host of invertebrates; including more than 300 species of moths and butterflies.  Somerset and Carolyne promote their ethos through events that they host, tourism and social networking.
For the first time, there will also be a highly commended category this year, to recognise the efforts of farmers who have excelled in their support of farmland wildlife.
This year’s judging panel:
Darren Moorcroft - RSPB 
Head of Countryside Conservation
Martin Warren – Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive
Victoria Chester – Plantlife Chief Executive
James Fair – BBC Wildlife Magazine

The competition is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph.
The EU LIFE+ Programme funds RSPB work which supports wildlife-friendly farming that furthers sustainable development.
[† The Prince’s Countryside Fund]For more information visit www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote
© Phil Pickin

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