Suffolk farms tied for top place at farm conservation awards
- Credit: Dora Nichols
The sterling efforts of Suffolk’s top conservation-minded farmers in preserving and enhancing the county’s wildlife and environment was celebrated at an annual event last month.
The Suffolk FWAG Conservation Competition awards have become a byword for best practice on farms, rewarding conservation work which sits alongside healthy crop production.
This year the judges couldn’t separate the two main contenders for one of its main accolades, the Tim Sloane Trophy, which went to two highly successful vegetable growing operations.
Finalists, AW Mortier (Farms) Ltd, of Alderton, Woodbridge, and Home Farm (Nacton) Ltd, Ipswich, will now hold the trophy jointly for a year.
There to pick up the award was farm manager at Home Farm (Nacton) Andrew Williams, and Richard Parry, farm manager at A W Mortier.
AW Mortier Farms comprises of 6,000 acres of arable land and has 1,500 acres of heathland, marshes and grassland and is the UK’s largest grower of turnips.
Its 2,700 acres of farmland embraces schemes including Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) and Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA), running alongside in-house conservation projects, such as mixed flora bumblebee strips and extensive hedge planting.
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It is working with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust on farmland at Sizewell maintaining valuable natural habitats, and has 75 acres of saltings with Sites of special scientific interest (SSSI) status at Boyton on the River Ore, which provides nesting habitats for shorebirds.
Home Farm (Nacton) comprises 1,170 hectares on the historic Orwell Park Estate on the north bank of the Orwell estuary.
The farm is a patchwork of woodland, heath, grass and arable land used for organic vegetable production as well as conventional vegetables and cereals and grows more than 30 different crops. It has 140 hectares under Soil Association organic certification.
“The theme this year was soil management, and, with activity in the fields virtually 365 days a year, both farms clearly put a huge amount of thought and planning into their intensive rotations in order to maintain good soil health and structure, including the use of green covers and livestock grazing,” said Steve Podd of Suffolk FWAG.
This year’s Conservation Competition award, the Lapwing Trophy, went to Bridge and Ivy Farms, of Wickham Market.
The award’s focus this year was on holdings farmed under contract, and Alde House Estate, farmed by Richard Mann, came a close second to Bridge and Ivy Farms, which is contract-farmed by Andrew Greenwell.
“Both farms are using Entry Level Stewardship (ELS)/Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreements to good effect, providing management for habitats and features as well as creating patches of bird food and pollen and nectar sources,”
“It was interesting to see how well both farms had integrated intensive rotations and wildlife conservation, fine models for those doubters who say the two can’t work together. It seemed almost invidious to pick a winner, but in the end the judges agreed on Bridge and Ivy Farms.”
Guest speaker was National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice president Guy Smith.