The search to find the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer has been launched. The annual Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers who work hardest to help threatened countryside wildlife, such as butterflies, moths, skylarks, brown hares, bees and plants.
The award is run the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph.
Last year’s winner, Henry Edmunds, narrowly saw off the three other fantastic finalists with his organic farm in Wiltshire, which hosts an array of rare birds, bumblebees, moths and butterflies.
He said: “I have witnessed our landscape deteriorate over the last 30 years - birds have disappeared, butterflies have been lost, and ancient grasslands ploughed up. I wanted my farming policies to reverse those trends.
To do without wildlife is not an option. We all have a responsibility to maintain it and help it flourish, not sacrifice it for greater commercial yields. We need to step back, look sensibly at the way we farm and try to make it more sustainable and better for the environment in the long run.
Applications for this year’s award will be accepted until the 18 April. There is always a high volume of entries with numbers increasing year on year and the charity hopes this year will be its best yet.
After the closing date, judges will select eight regional winners, and then a panel of experts will decide which four should go through to the national finals. There will also be a highly commended category, to recognise the efforts of farmers who have excelled in their support of farmland wildlife.
When the competition reaches its final stage, control will shift to the UK public, as they decide the overall winner. People can cast their votes online, over the phone, via The Telegraph, or at country shows throughout the summer.
RSPB Head of Conservation Management and one of this year’s judges, Nick Droy, said: “More and more farmers are recognising that running a profitable farm business and helping wildlife on your land can go hand in hand. The RSPB provides advice to help farmers do their bit for nature on their farm and we'll support them every step of the way, but ultimately, it’s them and their local communities that do the hard work. They’re the real heroes.
“The recent EU Budget deal dealt a terrible hand to Europe’s wildlife, with potentially huge cuts to wildlife friendly farming schemes. But there is hope for the UK, a country which has led the way in investing in this field. If Owen Paterson and his colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show leadership and use their powers wisely to ensure that as much funding as possible will go towards those farmers and land managers who provide the greatest benefits for wildlife and the countryside, then all will not be lost.”
This year’s judging panel:
Nick Droy - RSPB Head of Conservation Management Advice
Dr Martin Warren – Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive
Victoria Chester – Plantlife Chief Executive
Fergus Collins – Countryfile Magazine
All the details on how to enter can be found on the RSPB website at www.rspb.org.uk/natureoffarming