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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, 8 July 2011

Much happening in June?

  
This is probably the hardest month for me to report all of the wildlife activity since we have been writing a blog as Brian and I seem to have spent very little time here. This is a summary of what we have been doing in June. The month started with the Suffolk Show (1st & 2nd) and the Barker family were out in force with bowler hats stewarding different areas of the show and more importantly, a lot of socialising. I was able to do my next BBC Radio Suffolk Wild on Wednesdays slot live from the Radio Suffolk stand at the Suffolk Show with Lesley Dolphin and although I was drowned out by the Apache helicopter at one point it was nice to be on a stage in front of a crowd rather than in a studio. The day after the show, local tree surgeon and fearless climber Matt Allen was on hand to check the Buzzard nest in woodland in Westhorpe and lowered 2 Buzzard chicks down which Chris McIntyre and I were able to ring. This is the 2nd time in 3 years Buzzards have bred on this area of the farm and we are very pleased to have them. (http://lodgefarmwesthorpe.blogspot.com/2011/06/baby-buzzards.html) The following week Brian and I were invited to judge the East of England Agricultural Society’s Supreme Conservation Champion Competition which involved visiting farms in Bedford, Croxton, The Trumpington Estate and West Wratting Estate and gave us a fascinating insight into the way other farmers approach on farm conservation, their wildlife and habitat management. We were very pleased to be able to name Dan Bull at the Croxton Park Estate as the winner as he is delivering true conservation benefits whilst running a profitable, commercial farm. We then went straight off to Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses (www.suffolkcheese.co.uk) to help Jason and Katherine Salisbury with their Open Farm Sunday. Their farm attracted over 1000 people during the day and it was nice for us to be able to meet many people to talk about modern farming and take home some of their Guernsey milk and delicious Suffolk cheese, especially the brie! The next week we took a day trip to Cereals, an agricultural show in Lincolnshire. This is a proper industry working show and gave us a great opportunity to catch up with many different people throughout the farming and conservation world and investigate advances in crop varieties, new machinery and spray chemicals and fertilizers.
On Saturday 18th I visited Nicholas Watts at Vine House Farm at Deeping St Nicholas in Lincolnshire. Nicholas was one of the judges when we one Countryside Farmers of the Year last Year having won the award himself in 2009. I was wandering around his farm shop when I bumped into Peter Allen, a farmer from Cumbria  Peter visited our farm on the same day as Nicholas in his capacity as a sponsor of the FW awards as a Natural England board member and it was good to catch up with him as well.
It was great to see another farm that is really delivering visible conservation benefits with very simple principles and techniques. It was amazing to see over 100 Tree Sparrows is one area of reed surrounded by thick hedges and baby tree sparrows in the nest boxes he has erected. It was also amazing to see a tower Nicholas had built with 4 nesting chambers and each chamber had a different species actually nesting in it. There were Barn Owls, Kestrels, Jackdaws and Stock Doves all co-habiting without any effect on the other. 
Brian asking testing questions!
On the 20th and 21st Brian and I were off again, this time judging the Farmers Weekly awards with Melinda Appleby, Isabel Davis from the Farmers weekly and Mike Phillips from NWF Agriculture. Having whittled the entrants down from 14 to 3 we visited Chris Dowse in Stainton Le Vale (Lincolnshire), Fay Smith in Great Easton (Leicestershire), and Charlie Bransden in Laleham, (Middlesex). Details of these finalists are on – (www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/06/14/127260/Farmers-Weekly-Awards-finalists-named.htm)
The results are not announced until the awards night on Thursday 6th October, so until then that is all I am saying.
On 25th our friends Jim Allen and Steph Brooks were married at Great Ashfield Church and had their wedding reception in the barn at Westhorpe. The day was fantastic, one of the best weddings I have been to and the whole farm looked amazing. The transformation of a grain barn to a wedding venue was a minor miracle and testament to the hard work by many people but especially Steph’s father Kevin who spent months preparing the flowers and friends Zoe, Zia, Lucy, Hannah, Ellie and Caroline who decorated the inside of the marquee. The month finished with visiting the Norfolk Show on the 29th and we started pre-season football training on the 30th. On top of all that we have had 7 groups visiting the farm on different evenings to see the farm and our conservation work.
We are hoping for a quieter July as harvest is approaching and the real work starts!

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