Wildlife accolade for top Suffolk farmer
PUBLISHED: 15:34 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:34 02 January 2020
A leading environmentally-friendly farmer has been named as a wildlife champion at a national awards event.
Patrick Barker, of Lodge Farm, Westhorpe, near Stowmarket, scooped the wildlife category at the Champion of the Farmed Environment awards held in Gloucestershire last year.
The Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) was launched in November 2009, but was relaunched in February last year as Championing the Farmed Environment. It hosts the CFE awards to celebrate the environmental work of farmers.
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"Lodge Farm is an exemplar for what a love of wildlife, combined with the best possible use of agri-environment scheme support - and a commitment to go above and beyond - can deliver," said CFE project officer Laura Harpham.
"Ten years of Higher Level Stewardship (HLS), followed by a Higher Tier Countryside Stewardship scheme, sets a strong baseline for the fantastic habitat management and creation on the farm.
"Add to this Patrick's approach to the farm as one big, interconnected ecosystem and you begin to understand how the farm wildlife flourishes."
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Patrick manages the 1300-acre family farm with cousin Brian and they have brought in measures for wildlife while maintaining a modern, intensive arable enterprise.
These include reduced tillage, long rotation and cover crops, which complement on-farm habitats including ponds, hedges, scrub, wildflower meadows, grass margins and woodland.
"The system works. Populations of target species including grey partridge, great crested newt, yellowhammer and barn owl have increased year-on-year for more than a decade," said Laura.
"When I visited recently, we passed within a few metres of a dozen grey partridge and saw brown hares, kestrels and deer. You don't even have to look for them, they are just there."
Patrick works closely with outside organisations to record the wildlife on the farm. He also acts as a farming advocate to educate and inspire others to care for farm wildlife, including through Lodge Farm's status as a LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) demonstration farm and farm levy-payers organisation the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) strategic farm for the east.
CFE is a partnership which supports farmers to deliver environmental benefits through a productive farm business. It provides guidance and support to allow more farmers to manage their land in a way which works for their business and the environment.