Winner Sponsored by Natural England
Brian & Patrick Barker
Lodge and Kiln Farm, Suffolk
Brian and Patrick Barker say one is a farmer/conservationist and the other a conservationist/farmer. And they've used this mixture of farming and environmental nous to change how their family has farmed for generations.Cousins Brian, 27, and Patrick, 29, came to the 513ha family operation, Lodge and Kiln Farm near Stowmarket in Suffolk, six years ago.
Since then they have reverted marginal areas to grassland - most notably a section to link together parcels of grassland on their farm - and planted wild bird mix, cleaned and restored ponds and altered the arable production and use of equipment.
"We did the ELS and HLS because we wanted it to be how we put our stamp on the farm that we are taking on to inherit," says Brian.
The whole farm is included in the HLS which has got Brian and Patrick clearing the 30 ponds across the farm at a rate of three a year.
"I looked at the habitats we have on the farm and they are all unique. When you look at it it's not very pulled together so I came up with this idea to connect the various areas with watercourses, fields being transformed back to grass and hedges," says Patrick.
The Barkers weren't comfortable buying seed "off the shelf" when returning sections of the farm to grassland so they researched an innovative technique to spread local seeds.
They used the "green hay seed" technique, mowing and baling the grass from the village green and moving the bales on the same day to their fields, where it is rolled out and spread.
"Everywhere we've taken it we've had really good take up, we have pretty much got all the species, with plenty of nectar for insect life to feed the chicks, such as Grey Partridge, early on," says Patrick.
Brian and Patrick have also reduced the amount of machinery used on the farm from six tractors and a specialist crawler to two tractors and a crawler, which has led to a variety of savings in maintenance, labour, and fuel.
The boys completely removed their families' pig operation, redeveloping one of the buildings, constructed on an isolated muck pad, into a fertiliser and chemical filling station and storage area.
"We know we are definitely more efficient than we were a few years ago," says Brian.
"But now we are starting to build a base of statistics to show we are working everything to its maximum, getting the most out of the land and the machinery and labour."
FARM FACTS• 513ha area
• 30 ponds across the farm
• "Green hay" used to keep local species in new grasslands
• 43km of hedgerows
• Detailed plans for wildlife
WHY THEY WON?• Detailed knowledge of animal and plant life
• Replacement of expensive equipment
• Excellent crop management
• Clear vision for the farm as a business