Despite being pitched against two other farmers with brilliant environmental credentials, Ian Waller was the category judges’ unanimous choice.
Why? Because his enthusiasm for all that he does was genuine and uplifting and swept the judges along like a warm wind. Where other farmers might see problems and drawbacks, Ian’s energy and relentlessly positive attitude means he powers through them.
He’s no part-time farmer either. With a big acreage to cover each minimal labour, he works hard, employs the best that modern technology offers and produces crops that any farmer would be proud of.
But he’s out there batting for nature, too, with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the mammals, plants and insects on his farm and a clear idea of how farm and wildlife work together.
He doesn’t just follow the best of current environmentally practices either – he tries them on his farm, adapts them and improves them. Like the best of scientists, he is happy to test new techniques, but judges success by what he sees with his own eyes.
His efforts to maintain the range of wild plants are unstinting. And his hard work has been rewarded with an extraordinary range of wild plants and animals across the farm, including crested newts, nationally-scarce butterflies like the marbled white and five species of mining bees.
All of this would be admirable enough if he did no more than beaver away and keep this skill, knowledge and enthusiasm to himself. But Ian is a true farming and environmental evangelist – he’s bursting to get the message across, both to other farmers and to the public, of what works for him and what doesn’t.
After all, how many other farmers spend more than 40 days a year hosting farm walks and talking to farmers, countryside organisations and the public?
With a few more environmental powerhouses like Ian around the country, the rural-urban divide would disappear within weeks.