Cornflowers, cowslips and oystercatchers have helped David Hutchinson win Natural England’s prestigious Future of Farming Award, it was announced this week.
David who has lived and worked all his life on his 300 hectare arable farm at Manor Farm, Strixton in Northamptonshire has built up a successful farm business which is a showcase for how wildlife and habitat creation can be integrated into farm production.
The Future of Farming Award celebrates the achievement of farmers who have made the greatest contribution to conserving and opening up access to England’s special wildlife and landscapes. Following a series of regional finals earlier this year, the nine finalists for the 2008 Future of Farming Awards were congratulated at a reception held today at Ragley Hall, near Alcester, Warwickshire.
Announcing David’s award, Sir Martin Doughty, Chair of Natural England, said, “David’s commitment to producing high quality crops while enhancing the natural environment is a superb example of what can be achieved. He has very successfully developed a profitable farm business where wildlife habitats have been actively supported and wildlife friendly farming techniques have been showcased.”
A range of environmentally-friendly land management techniques are used across Manor Farm which has been in Environmental Stewardship for a number of years and joined Natural England’s Higher Level Stewardship scheme (HLS) in 2006. Wildlife enhancement measures include creating wildflower margins around crops to encourage insect, wildlife and bird populations. Parts of Manor Farm are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for their wildlife interest - the various lakes on the SSSI attract birds such as oystercatchers, little ringed plovers and lapwings, and David has introduced a herd of Highland cattle to graze the grasslands. Hedges bordering the SSSI are left uncut, with only minimal intervention. The highlight and reward – a large colony of the increasingly rare tree sparrow is thriving.
Rural enterprise funding has been used to diversify the farm business, converting a redundant barn into a meeting room and creating office space which is leased to local businesses. David also has a large demonstration area on the farm, to illustrate different HLS options to farmers interested in enhancing wildlife and habitats on their own farms.
Sir Martin Doughty, continued, “The public's enjoyment of the countryside and the success of some of our most precious species and habitats depend upon the fantastic efforts of farmers and land managers. Environmental stewardship schemes can support farmers in their businesses and make a huge difference to our countryside. This really is the future of farming.”
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