Wiltshire’s Henry Edmunds is one of four farmers shortlisted for this year’s prestigious Nature of Farming Award.
Now in its fifth year, the Nature of Farming Award will see four regional finalists face the public vote throughout the summer. The national award is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph. The shortlisted farmers have strong environmental credentials and manage their farms with bird, plant, mammal and insect populations in mind while running commercially viable businesses.
Last year over 22,000 people were inspired to cast their vote in the awards that eventually crowned Carolyne and Somerset Charrington from Mull King and Queen of wildlife-friendly farming.
Henry, who owns and manages Cholderton Estate, has been shortlisted for his achievements in looking after wildlife and the environment while running a productive arable and sheep farm.
Tracé Williams, speaking for the RSPB in Wiltshire, said: “Cholderton Estate is an impressive example of what it’s possible to achieve for wildlife within a commercial farming system, and shows that conservation needn’t clash with profitability.”
Henry has spent over 30 years balancing modern agriculture and the preservation of the countryside. Hampshire Downs sheep graze the chalk grassland that is alive with flowers and buzzing with insects, including rare bumblebees, moths and butterflies. Corn bunting, lapwing and grey partridge thrive amongst the crops, alongside the diminutive harvest mice and rare arable plants such as cornflower and pheasant’s-eye. This abundance of wildlife sits neatly alongside food production where the harvest delivers a healthy landscape, economy and environment.
Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director of conservation and one of this year’s judges, said: “Across the UK, many farmers are putting passion and dedication into protecting the habitats of all kinds of native wildlife without having an impact on food production or commercial success. “It was a difficult task, but we've managed to choose four fantastic finalists from a record-breaking number of entries. As usual, the standard was exceptional. These farmers have shown themselves to be true guardians of the countryside, not just for the wildlife that shares their land, but also for the people that enjoy it and we should celebrate them all. “With the fate of some of the country’s most threatened flora and fauna in their hands, it’s encouraging to know that many farmers are providing important habitat and food. I’m excited to find out who the public deem to be the best in show this year.”
Dr Martin Warren – Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive and a competition judge, said: "Sensitive farming is vital for the survival of butterflies and moths. These four finalists have shown huge enthusiasm to demonstrate how good farming and wildlife conservation can go hand in hand. The vote will be very close this year."
Victoria Chester, Plantlife International’s Chief Executive, said: "Sustaining livelihoods, securing food sources and growing the natural capital of the farmed environment are three of the biggest challenges facing farmers today. I am therefore delighted that Plantlife has this opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those farmers who are demonstrating best practice in all three areas and as a result doing so much for farmland wildlife. Our cornfields, meadows and hedgerows are the arena in which farmers compete and the Nature of Farming Award is the medal ceremony where the 'best in show' gets to shine!"
People are invited to vote online, via The Telegraph by phone, post, or at various country shows. Information on how to vote can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote and everyone who votes in this year's competition will be entered into a prize draw to win a luxury break for two people at Ragdale Hall worth over £500. Votes can be cast until 5 September 2012 and the winner will be announced later that month.