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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Friday, 19 November 2010

FWAG Silver Lapwing Winners 2009


Patrick and Brian Barker of Lodge Farm, Westhorpe, Suffolk were announced as the winners of the 2009 FWAG Silver Lapwing Awards at a House of Commons reception on 28 October.   Cousins Patrick and Brian Barker were presented with a silver lapwing trophy, designed by Patricia Northcroft, and a cheque for £1,000 by TV presenter and farmer, Jimmy Doherty. 

Aimed at farmers and landowners who demonstrate outstanding commitment to conservation and environmental management, the FWAG Silver Lapwing Awards reward the very best land managers who can show a track record of environmental best practice integrated into a commercially successful farming enterprise for more than three years.   The Awards are being sponsored in 2009 – FWAG’s 40th anniversary year – by Waitrose in association with Coombe Farm.

Situated in the north Suffolk and south Norfolk clay lands Lodge Farm is a 510 hectare mixed enterprise farmed in partnership by Patrick and Brian Barker.   The farm’s aim is to produce high standard, high yielding crops for a variety of markets whilst always considering its impact on the environment and local landscape. 

The production – feed wheat, herbage grass seed crops, oil seed rape, spring beans and spring cereals – is the primary enterprise and is always given priority but in recent years a healthy balance has been forged to allow as much wildlife to prosper without affecting the farm’s output.    The farm is currently in its third year of a Higher Level Stewardship agreement and has been in Entry Level Stewardship for five years.     Nutrient and pesticide use has been considered by the Barkers and this led them to creating a new store which incorporated an isolated drainage system to prevent any possibility of water contamination.  A specific sprayer filling area has been built to catch and contain any spills and the water storage is fed by grey water.  The farm machinery fleet has also been assessed and scaled down to improve the efficiency of the farm and increase the speed and timings of all applications so that the soil and environment are not damaged by unsuitable working conditions.

Lodge Farm has 43km of large old and new species rich hedges and ditches, 25 ponds, 10 hectares of ash and oak woodland and other areas of scrub and young woodland.    A 4km grassland corridor has been created through the heartland of the farm taking fields and field corners out of production to return them to traditional wildflower meadows using green hay seed relocation from the local village green.  The corridor runs along the main watercourse of the farm and the watercourse has been given extra protection from modern agricultural practices by this newly created feature.  Grass margins have been used to combine the well established hedgerow network with the new grass habitats and existing habitats. 

The main conservation aim of the farm has been to increase farmland bird populations and protect the colony of Great Crested Newts present.  In order to achieve this aim the lower end of the food chain needed to be addressed.  Grassland and hedgerows were managed better to give more nectar, seed and potential nesting sites for insects, birds and mammals.  Vital winter food sources have been created for birds with 6ha of wild seed mix and pollen and nectar mix being sown over the farm in blocks of half a hectare.  Over the past 3 years 85 species of bird have been recorded including 13 Biodiversity Action Plan species which have been spotted on a regular basis.

Another important aspect of the farm’s operations is that of public access.  Eight kilometres of new permissive paths have been created for walkers and horse riders, all of which link up to existing bridleways and footpaths.    Waveney Bird Club use the farm as a Constant Effort Site and for ringing training, barn owl pellets are analysed for the Suffolk Harvest Mouse project and all bird rarities are submitted to the Suffolk county recorder.  The Barkers are also currently providing data for the Suffolk Hedgerow survey.

Over the next three years Patrick and Brian Barker will be building on their successes with further green hay seed relocation on to the grass margins and field corners.  The current bird ringing programme will continue and the family is also looking to develop their private collection of rural bygones into an educational asset.

Jim Egan, FWAG’s Technical Manager and one of the judges of the FWAG Silver Lapwing Award said “The Barkers are inspirational in their approach to integrating farming and environmental management.  As well as managing a well-run commercial farming operation they have spent a great deal of time seeking out advice and information on environmental issues and displayed an in-depth knowledge and great passion for wildlife”.

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