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The UK's most wildlife friendly farmer is hailed a countryside hero

Last modified: 15 September 2009

Michael Calvert

Image: The RSPB

The polls have closed, the votes have been counted and the decision is in – the UK wildlife friendly farmer of the year is… Northern Ireland’s Michael Calvert.

The voting in the second annual Nature of Farming Awards has been taking place across the UK throughout the summer at country shows and online. The award is sponsored by the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and BBC Countryfile magazine and aims to reward farmers who put in measures to conserve wildlife on their land.

Michael Calvert, of Barnwell Farms in Ballywalter, County Down, edged ahead of the competition and won the popular vote thanks the remarkable results he has achieved with a variety of wildlife friendly methods. His 80 hectare farm is home to a vibrant range of birds, insects, mammals and plants including barn owls, bullfinches, smooth newts, Irish stoats and orchids.

Michael joined the RSPB’s Yellowhammer Recovery Project in 2006 and since then has brought in several measures to protect the nature on his land including planting hedgerows, limiting pesticide use and creating new native woodland.

“I was quite surprised and very pleased to win the award,” he said. “First and foremost I would like to thank all those who voted for me - over 1,700 people which is quite amazing.

“I think it was a combination of things that made it happen for me. Firstly I have had a keen interest in all things to do with nature for many years so this was a good starting point.

“Secondly, joining the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture (DARD) Countryside Management Scheme offered a structured approach to farming in an environmentally sensitive way.

“Lastly, the expertise and enthusiasm from the RSPB team when I joined the yellowhammer project was infectious and it has been a pleasure to work alongside such committed people.”

Michael has been hailed as a farming hero by the RSPB’s head of conservation management advice Darren Moorcroft who hopes he will prove to be a role model for others who care about the wildlife in our farmed countryside.

“Michael has shown a real passion for wildlife and as a result his farm is a haven for all kinds of animals and plants,” said Darren. “What is most inspiring is that he has shown all this can be achieved within a competitive business.

“We are extremely proud to be handing this award to someone who really cares about the countryside and the wildlife it supports. All the finalists in this competition have proved that there is a real desire amongst many UK farmers to work their land in harmony with nature and they are setting a great example which we hope others will follow.”

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