MANAGEMENT MATTERS: FARM WINS SILVER LAPWING TROPHY By Andrew Blake
A HIGH STANDARD of commercial, sustainable farming along with a clear approach to encouraging wildlife and enriching the countryside have helped Lincs farmer Chris Dowse win this year”s UK Silver Lapwing Trophy for the farm he manages.
Mr Dowse, who features in the farmers weekly Management Matters series of business articles, achieved the Farmcare-sponsored FWAG award for his work on the Sutton Estates” 2038ha (5036-acre) Hall Farm, near Market Rasen.
“The farming industry delivered cheap food when it was asked to,” says Mr Dowse. “Now we are called upon to deliver some of the environmental gains that have been lost over the past 50 years.
“I firmly believe that we can deliver wholesome food in an environmentally friendly manner provided we can do so profitably.”
The farm has a patchwork of winter and spring crops, mostly cereals, oilseeds and pulses plus vegetables and root crops. There is also an organic enterprise with a traditional Norfolk four-course rotation, Lincoln red cattle and sheep.
Countryside Stewardship schemes on the LEAF demonstration farm have been used to protect and improve the wildlife habitats offered by its woods, streams, lakes and ponds.
“I count the cost of our stewardship work as if it were a crop and look to achieve a gross margin which is at least as good, if not better than most other crops. So it makes good financial sense.
“On top of that, everyone on the estate gets real pleasure from contributing to an environment which is so attractive and rich in wildlife.”
Hedgerows, which Mr Dowse views as vitally important for conservation, are protected by well- sited field margins and gapped up and cut rotationally, and the non-commercial woodland is in a 20-year management plan, the award judges note.
Pheasant and partridge numbers are rising, and work to enhance a brown trout stream has just been completed.
Judging chairman and former English Nature director Eddie Idle commends Mr Dowse”s clear understanding of the contribution made by Hall Farm to the biodiversity of the surrounding Lincs Wolds.
“Mr Dowse is willing to seek, accept and follow conservation advice and to share with others information about farming and conservation.”