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Sower of Wild Oats Wins Natural England's Top Farming Award
15/11/07

The inventor of a revolutionary new way of collecting and sowing wild seeds to help restore medieval hay meadows in Sussex has been awarded the top honour in Natural England’s prestigious “Future of Farming Awards”.

Keith Datchler

Keith Datchler

The winning farmer Keith Datchler won the award for his work for both running a successful farm business and for protecting a precious yet threatened habitat that supports a rich mix of native wildlife, including wildflowers, butterflies and other rare insects.

Keith Datchler, of Beech Estate, near Battle, East Sussex, narrowly pipped the 15 other regional finalists to take the national title in the inaugural year of Natural England’s award scheme which set out to show that first rate environmental land management and sound farm businesses can go hand in hand, setting new environmental standards for farmers in the future.

Keith was nominated by Natural England staff with first hand knowledge of Beech Estate and succeeded in impressing a panel of judges selected from local experts from Natural England, the National Farmers' Union and the Country Land & Business Association based in the South East. Then the national judges panel, chaired by Peter Allen - a 17th generation Lakeland tenant hill farmer, chairman of the North West Regional Management Board of the NFU and board member of Natural England – selected him as a worthy overall winner.

Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of Natural England, said: “Keith's inspirational approach to transforming the Beech Estate from an intensive arable and dairy farm into a haven for wildlife makes him a clear winner. His lasting legacy is that a growing number of farmers are adopting his techniques to conserve the ancient unspoilt landscape of the High Weald.

“At Natural England we believe that the future for farmers lies in adopting sustainable techniques, that not only produce high quality food, but also enhance the scenic beauty of the English landscape and conserve our much-loved native wildlife.” All 16 finalists in the Award Scheme participate in one of Natural England's green farming schemes, which reward farmers and other land managers for conserving and enhancing our natural environment.

Nearly £3 billion of public money will be spent through these schemes in England over the next 7 years, which already cover more than half of all farmland in England – more than 5 million hectares.

To mark the inaugural Future of Farming awards Natural England is launching an online map that shows all the land that is currently in one of these schemes, so that for the first time the public can see where their money is being spent. This map can be searched by parish or place name so that people can see what is happening in their local area.

A delighted Mr Battle said: “Farming more than any other business needs to evolve and change to survive. And uniquely it has charge of our country’s most basic asset – land. This is a huge responsibility for the farming community.

“I think it was Dickens that once said: “Live your life in case you die tomorrow ~ Farm your land in case you live for ever!” He was right.”

link Natural England Launches Future of Farming Awards 2008
link FAO Forecasts Continued High Cereal Prices
link Live Maize Harvesting and Crimping Demo at Exeter Site

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