The NFU Scotland Farmland Biodiversity Award, sponsored by RSPB Scotland, was established six years ago. The Award aims to recognise and reward farmers or crofters whose contributions have benefited priority species or habitats as defined by RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.
Modern farming in Scotland has many demands placed upon it. Legislation coming from the EU, UK or Scottish parliaments requires compliance with many different environmental rules and regulations. In addition, the public and consumers have certain expectations about how farmers should take care of the environment and our wildlife. This is a public service that farming provides for the nation and which continues to justify the expenditure of farm support.
For that reason, NFU Scotland and RSPB Scotland wish to congratulate and reward those farmers who have made a special effort to ensure that priority species and habitats are nurtured and maintained. Future generations should be entitled to enjoy the countryside as much as current generations and so those farmers who do their best to ensure the preservation of the countryside deserve to be recognised.
The Farmland Biodiversity Award attracted many entries from all over Scotland. The panel of three judges from RSPB Scotland and NFU Scotland have shortlisted the entries to a final of five applicants who have all been visited and now await the announcement of the results.
Once the winner and runner-up have been selected, the official announcement will be made at the NFU Scotland AGM on 2 March when Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, will present them with their prizes. The winner receives £500 plus a valuable Biodiversity Farm Audit. The runner-up receives £250. In addition, both prize-winners and their partners will receive an all expenses paid night at the St Andrews Bay Hotel when they are presented with their prizes.
The five finalists are:
Michael Johnston - Michael farms 104 hectares on an organic farm near Keith in Banffshire. He took over the farm in 2000 and in that time he has planted over 1000 metres of hedges and created two pond systems, in addition to undertaking many other measures. In the short time since Michael took over, the farm has seen a huge increase in wildlife.
Brian Kaye - Brian manages the 1553 hectare Culfargie Estate at Balbeggie in Perthshire. His work towards biodiversity includes development of ponds, red squirrel conservation, a programme of grey partridge habitat improvement and constant development of hedges and field margins. Brian's plans for the future include further improvement of heather moorland as well as the introduction of bird monitoring.
Charles McAllister - Charles farms 298 hectares on the Isle of Arran. He has created four ponds and maintains existing habitats such as water margins, species rich grassland, coastal heath and hedges to maximise food and shelter for wildlife. The farm currently plays host to hen harriers, short-eared owls and a corncrake was spotted on the farm in 2005, for the first time in 30 years.
Danny Miller - Danny farms almost 1300 hectares at Wick in Caithness. The key achievement he cites since embarking on his work towards biodiversity is the return of grey partridge to the farm, as well as increasing numbers of brown hare and huge numbers of swallows and bats. Danny plans to continue his efforts by creating more wildlife corridors and increasing hedge planting.
David Soutar - David is Farms Director for the Strathmore Farming Company
and he manages 1700 hectares at Glamis in Angus. The environmental protection
measures put in place include water margins, arable field margins and hedges
and David has also integrated unharvested crops, wetlands and species-rich
grassland. David also organises walks and training courses on farm, to explain
to members of the public how the environmental work is being carried out, and
the benefits of it.
Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said:
"We are delighted to sponsor this important award. Farming is the main force
that shapes Scotland's wildlife habitats. Farming that is done in sympathy
with the needs of birds and biodiversity in mind is essential if we are to
protect and enhance the countryside. The award is made to the farmer or crofter
who takes that extra step and makes significant efforts to integrate conservation
into their overall agricultural activities. The five finalists clearly illustrate
the diversity and richness of Scottish wildlife and the key role that Scottish
farmers and crofters can play in protecting and enhancing this to everyone's
benefit. We look forward with great interest to seeing who impresses the most."
Anna Davies, NFU Scotland Communications Officer, said:
"With agriculture being in the midst of great change at the moment, NFU Scotland feels it is essential to reward those individuals or companies who are making a positive and forward looking impact upon the industry. Environmental management is more important than ever to the general public and we must therefore reward those who are doing their best to protect our countryside for future generations.
"I am proud that NFUS is running the Excellence Awards again this year and I look forward to seeing yet another deserving winner in this category."