We know all our Fair to Nature farmers and work closely with them. We think they are a special breed, willing to work harder for the benefit of nature. Here are just a few of them:
Graham and his farm manager Scott Bagwell, have created and now manage various habitats but Graham does have some firm favourites on the farm. Perhaps it’s no wonder that one of these happens to be the glorious Dorset chalk grassland that’s abundant with wildflowers and as a result supports a fantastic array of butterflies and moths.
Beautiful Pyramidal, Early Purple and Bee Orchids are to be found in his wildflower meadows, encouraged by a late hay cut followed by sheep grazing.
Graham rightly believes that butterflies and moths are a good indicator of the health of his farm and has been working with a local representative of Butterfly Conservation to gain an understanding of the health of these insect populations. Graham firmly believes that this is an indication of where his conservation actions are working.
The habitats he’s created look very good on Graham’s farm and this is reflected in the results from recent surveys. 83 moth species have been recorded from light trap surveys on the farm and at least 31 species of butterfly! Notable butterfly species include Dingy and Grizzled Skippers, Green and Purple Hairstreaks, Adonis Blue and Silver-washed Fritillary.
The wildflower, nectar flower and bird seed plots have all made a noticeable difference to small birds on the farm and winter flocks of Linnets and Corn Buntings can be seen over the plots searching for seed whilst during the summer months Grey Partridge, Corn Buntings and Skylarks can be found foraging in insect rich managed habitats. Barn Owls also benefit from the network of wildflower and tussocky grass margins across the farm along with the erection of numerous Barn Owl nesting boxes.
Graham approaches the conservation work on the farm in the same way he does the regular commercial farming practices and the hard work and commitment of his farm manager, Scott, has been pivotal in the high quality of the wildlife habitats.
Graham takes the opportunity to promote his Fair to Nature practices by opening the farm gates to visitors on Open Farm Sunday.
Graham was the winner in the 2014 Fair to Nature Farmer of the Year Award.
Nestled in the South Downs, Lordington Lavender (www.lordingtonlavender.co.uk) was established in 2002 by Andrew Elms. After selling his dairy herd he was looking for a way to diversify and decided that lavender would be a unique and exciting alternative. The crop is grown with conservation of the environment very much in mind. No fertilisers or pesticides are used on the lavender, and it has become haven for wildlife.
Andrew manages areas of his farm specifically for wildlife through over wintered stubbles (the stems of the harvested crop left in the field over winter) and wild bird mixes to provide food for birds over the winter, and some well managed nectar flower and wildflower areas for insects. He has also created habitats as part of Operation Turtle Dove by sowing plant species that will provide seed food for these endangered birds. Additionally, beetle banks for small mammals, Barn Owls and over wintering insects have been created in larger fields.
Andrew and his team hold annual open days and give various external talks on the value of Fair to Nature farming practices and the need to conserve and enhance threatened wildlife.
Working with the RSPB, who have conducted bird surveys on the farm, Andrew has been delighted to learn his efforts are being rewarded with purring Turtle Dove this year along with Yellowhammers, Linnets, and Skylark. Butterflies and bumblebees adorn the wildflower areas created alongside the insect rich crop of lavender.
Andrew was a finalist in the 2014 Fair to Nature Farmer of the Year Award.
Charles manages 181ha of farmland in Bedfordshire and uses contractors to carry out the commercial cropping practices, enabling him to spend more time on the conservation management of the farm. Charles takes great care to ensure that the arable farming doesn’t encroach on the wildlife areas and as he states “my conservation margins are sacrosanct” it gives you an indication of the care and effort that Charles happily puts into making the wildlife areas work.
Six separate areas of wild bird seed mixtures, plus a mixture of unharvested crop species provide for farmland birds in the winter months. Additionally, since these can be exhausted of seed late in the winter, Charles also scatters grain within them to provide a further boost to hungry birds.
Insects are encouraged in four blocks of sown nectar flower mixes where bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects abound, in turn providing food for insect eating birds including young Corn Buntings.
Along with sown areas of insect rich habitats Charles has created and managed wildflower meadows of 14ha now in their 11th year of reversion and rich in wildflowers.
Adding to the diversity of habitats, ponds have been created or enhanced across the farm with seven ponds now supporting a wealth of life including dragonflies and damselflies, three of the ponds now support Great Crested Newts.
Grey Partridge, Lapwing, Spotted Flycatcher, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting can all be found on the farm and benefit from the diversity and quality of habitats.
Each year, Charles hosts several farm walks for interested groups, such as the local Wildlife Trust and Natural History Society, and this gives him the opportunity to explain the work of being a Fair to Nature farmer. In addition Charles also takes this approach on the road by giving talks to various groups about farming and the environment.
Charles was a finalist in the 2014 Fair to Nature Farmer of the Year Award.
Robert Law – Hertfordshire
Robert farms 3,500 acres on the Herts/Cambs/Essex borders as well as managing a further 1200 acres in Nottinghamshire. Robert was one of Conservation Grade’s pilot farmers, having started in 1985 with 40 acres of oats. He has grown Conservation Grade crops every year since and now grows Conservation Grade wheat, barley, oats and rye.
Robert is a first generation farmer and the land was pretty sterile when he took it over. He’s replanted miles of hedgerows and allocated areas for wild bird food, wild flowers, grasses and clover. Now it is an oasis for wildlife. You’ll often see buzzards, skylarks, grey partridges, owls and finches flitting about the place.
Robert was the Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year in 2006.
Phil Jarvis – Leicestershire
Having run the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Allerton Project farm for nearly 20 years Phil has first hand experience of the compromises that are made between commercial farming and the environment, and has worked with Conservation Grade since the project started. Set up in 1992, the aim of the Allerton Project is to research the effects of farming on wildlife and the environment, and to disseminate the results through educational activities.
The farm is a mixed livestock and arable business covering 333 hectares. Among other crops, the farms grows Conservation Grade wheat and oats.
Stephen & Robert Honeywood – Suffolk
Stephen and Robert farm a mixed arable unit in mid Suffolk. Honeywood Brothers currently supply of Conservation Grade oats and wheat. They also have a company manufacturing Conservation Grade accredited horse feed, Honeychop, supplying predominantly to wholesalers and manufacturers throughout the UK and Ireland.
Since joining Conservation Grade, the farm has seen a massive increase in biodiversity as a result of changes in habitat management. These changes have taken place alongside growth in both elements of their business.