Farmers Weekly Awards 2006
David Felce is the Environment Agency Countryside Farmer of the Year. Here’s why he won:
David Felce’s influence, and impact, on the countryside surpasses his own 96ha farm. It stretches to the 10,000ha that he provides crop management advice on and will also go much wider as he develops a new business entirely focused on environmental stewardship advice.
This impact on such a large area of countryside, and number of farms, along with his enormous enthusiasm and knowledge of the huge variety of flora, insects and birdlife that now thrive at Midloe Grange, Cambridgeshire, make him a compelling winner.
The all-arable farm is a haven for buzzards, hobbys and nightingales: At every step during the judges’ visit in June David’s enthusiasm for wildlife was evident – stopping to point out the songs of the whitethroat and corn bunting, bending down to reveal the star of Bethlehem or stopping to admire a dragonfly.
There are a range of environmentally sensitive areas on the farm, including ditches, hedgerows and field margins, seven ponds, a species-rich meadow and an SSSI ancient woodland. The species-rich meadow survived as permanent pasture through the intensification of the 1970s thanks to the foresight of David’s father: “The meadow has been in grass since 1630 and that’s how it will stay,” says David.
As a former winner of Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year, he knows how to deliver sprays efficiently and with minimum waste. David has built a dedicated spraying area, which can safely contain 1000gal and has already tackled the agricultural waste exemptions.
He successfully gained a Countryside Stewardship Scheme agreement for Midloe Farm and several neighbouring holdings and became a LEAF demonstration farm in 2000: “I wanted to deliver a joined-up approach to countryside management,” says David.
Make no mistake, this is a working arable farm and David has transformed the returns on his wheat, beans and rape rotation. Wheat yields have moved to 10t/ha and six years out of seven the crop reaches a top milling spec.
“My goal was to make this small arable unit viable and retain it for a third generation of Felces.” He has done this by creating a streamlined and competitive arable operation using inputs and natural resources carefully, spreading costs and time pressures via a contract arrangement with his neighbour and building new businesses. His strategy exemplifies the value of co-operation.
David is a Biodiversity and Environmental Training (BETA) trainer and is using that expertise, alongside his practical agronomy skills, to create a new business focused entirely on environmental stewardship advice for farmers.
• Martin Hole, Montague, East Sussex
Back to full Farmers Weekly Awards 2006 listing