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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.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

I’m a pin up now! Mr November and Mr December!

Farmland bird populations have been in the media since the 1980’s when the decline in numbers was first seen and recorded. A huge decline in populations of Grey Partridge, Turtle Doves, Yellowhammers, Linnet, Lapwing, Corn Buntings etc. has led to land owners and the agricultural industry changing practice and mind set, to try and reverse this decline. The success of this reverse in populations lies within the willingness of land owners and farmers to sign up to an environmental scheme like Higher Level or Entry Level Stewardship Schemes. 70% of all farmland in Suffolk is covered by one of the types of Environmental Schemes and this means that 70% of farmers are doing a bit to help the wildlife in our county. 
However with all the will in the world by these 70% of farmers in Suffolk, the decline is still being recorded in certain species and more needs to be done. Farmers have the skills and the resources to put areas of wild seed mixes, pollen and nectar patches, rough grassland and new hedgerows back into the countryside but if they do not attract or help the species in decline, then the farmer needs some helping hands. Science holds the key, we need to study and investigate what the bird populations are doing and why some are recovering their populations and some still struggle. Can the farmers do something slightly different to make all populations prosper?
The members of Waveney Bird Club are doing their bit. They have started a Farmland bird ringing programme on a number of farms in Suffolk, looking at the winter foraging range of certain species. Yellowhammers, Reed Bunting, Linnet and Tree Sparrow are the target species for this project. The aim is to catch, ring and monitor the populations of these species with wild seed mixes and other feeding habitats on farms and then monitor the distance that they might travel to find another food source in winter. For this to happen, they need to re-catch a rung bird in the net again. This will then produce a control, as those birds will then start to build up a web of travel and catch records that show where they have been or come from.
The ringing is done on a winter’s day by volunteers who are fully trained by the BTO. They feed the vital statistics of sex, weight, condition and numbers into the BTO.  Then, as re-catches occur, the project starts to get the information needed to fulfil the aim of the study.  More information about the project can be found at http://www.waveneybirdclub.com/farmland-birds-project.asp
The Waveney Bird Club carries the cost of the rings, buying nets and poles and then at the end of the three years, they will need to fund the BTO to do a full statistical investigation into the findings. Then, hopefully, it can be published. Patrick is one of the project co-ordinators and our farm is one of the farms involved in the ringing of the species.  So, when the Waveney Bird Club committee needed to look for funding, we were only too happy to help.
This has led to the launch of the Waveney Bird Club 2013 Calendar. Four club members have donated a number of their best photos for the creation of a calendar where all profits go to the project. I am one of the photographers that have the privilege of being used for a couple of months. Lucky for many, the Yellowhammers and Hedgehog star in the last two months of the calendar and not me! But it is all for a very worthwhile cause.
If you would like to help out with the project and buy a calendar, they are being sold by the club for a bargain price of £5 plus a bit extra for P&P if that is the case. The Waveney Bird Club Event Organiser is the lady you need to get in contact with on email at events@waveneybirdclub.com  or by phone 01986 893311, to guarantee your calendar arrives ready for the New Year!     BWB

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Story of the week

We have loads of publications that arrive in the farm office and most are filled with interesting articles, so I will be sharing the one a week that made me think. This is the first an horrific statistic that we need to sort. BWB

Monday, 15 October 2012

Me.......Speechless for once!

Wow what a busy few weeks we have had and sorry that the blog has been put on the back burner! The farm is wet and the farm needs to be planted with crops ready for another year’s work. The weather has not been kind and so it has been all hands to the pump when it clears up, which has meant that my office has been run from my iPhone recently, inside four glass panels, bouncing along a field.

About a year ago, I was invited to speak at the Rotary International District 1240 conference in Northamptonshire. This came about after I had done a couple of talks for different Rotary clubs and hosted Colchester Rotary club for a farm tour about 18 months ago. Even being booked 12 months in advance, the weekend soon came round and I quickly found myself tweaking my PowerPoint presentation so that it would flow for the full half an hour that I had been allocated. Now, thirty minutes to sum up what we do on the farm with food production and wildlife management is rather difficult and I find myself talking very quickly. However, I got it all sent off to the Conference organiser in advance and everything seemed ok.

My girlfriend, Aimee, and I headed up to the hotel as we had been invited to attend the dinner dance on the Saturday night. We did have a minor ‘D’ tour due to our TomTom not knowing that the M1 at Milton Keynes had been altered but we got there in good time.

We were greeted and made to feel so welcome by all the Colchester Club members who were attending the Conference and supporting The District Governor, Ian McMeekan, who is a Colchester member.

The dinner dance was a lovely occasion with the great company and the added element of an after dinner game I brought along called ‘Corx’.  There was a bit of table envy as people were interested in what all the noise and commotion was about and I think a few ‘Corx’ sets have been added to Christmas present lists.

My conference slot was Sunday morning and, after a good hotel breakfast, I was ready to get going. I was announced on to the stage and, as I started, hit the button and the film that introduces the farm failed! The tech guy got busy sorting it, leaving me with a ‘rabbit in headlight moment’ but we were soon under way again and the talk flowed like I had hoped. I closed my talk bang on time and I was really happy how it went.

Ian came on stage, to do what I thought was going to be just a vote of thanks, but he asked me to stay up on stage. As I did, Ian produced a piece of paper from his folder and started to read it. It was a letter that Colchester Rotary had written to the International Rotary Committee. The letter read as follows;

Early last year we had a talk at Rotary by Brian Barker. He spoke about how he and his cousin, Patrick, ran the Lodge Farm at Westhorpe, Stowmarket.

Brian explained how he and his cousin worked together on their family farm with the aim of running a modern commercial 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.

The mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that their fathers and grandfather did to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength, being recognised at a national level. It won the coveted National Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009. Brian and Patrick were named Countryside Farmers of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

 Following the talk by Brian, a number of Rotarians were invited to visit the farm at Westhorpe and were very impressed to see at first hand the magnificent work that was taking place, not only in farming but in conservation. Following the visit I suggested to Rtn. Pat Driver (President at the time), that we should consider both for a PHF. As you know Brian will be speaking at the District Conference this year.

 Honours Committee will you kindly consider my proposal that Brian and Patrick be presented with PHFs at the District Conference.

Ian then produced two leather bound certificates and lapel pins from behind the stage and presented me with a ‘Paul Harris Fellows’ Award and one for Patrick as well. At this point I was totally stunned and speechless. I did not know much about the Rotary Club and Ian explained that a ‘Paul Harris Fellow’ Award was given to Rotary Club members for (quote from the certificate) ‘appreciation of tangible and significant assistance for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.’

Ian then explained that these awards can be requested and given to non-Rotarians if the club members feel that a person or persons deserve recognition for whatever service they offer the wider world.  I was truly honoured to receive mine and Patrick’s, on behalf of him.

We have been lucky enough to be recognised within the farming world for our approach to farming but this award is I think rather more special as it comes from outside of farming.  People who have done and seen so much of different industries felt that our approach to our business of farming and conservation, functioning hand in hand, was working so well. I am truly grateful to Colchester Rotary Club for nominating and presenting us with this very unexpected award. The more and more I research and learn about the award, I feel even more honoured.   

The Colchester Crew
So a huge thanks from Patrick and me to the Colchester Rotary Club and a special thank you to all ‘Colchester Crew’ who made Aimee and me so welcome over the weekend in Daventry. We look forward for the return farm tour next June when the lapel pin will be polished and worn with pride. BWB