Community and profit earn farm duo top sustainability award

Cambridgeshire farming brothers Matthew and Lloyd Smith have been crowned winners of the 2023 Rawcliffe Bridge Award for sustainability.

The award celebrates farming’s essential role in food production and environmental stewardship.

The brothers, from F Smith and Sons, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, were recognised for their impressive arable enterprise, which delivers for people, profit and the planet.

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They have also established a business venture growing and selling wild bird seeds to the public, and have a strong focus on community engagement.

The 450-acre farm has a wide rotation, growing 12 crops, including wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beet, beans, sunflowers, linseed and millet.

This supports their strategy to reduce blackgrass weed pressure, improve soil organic matter and enhance wildlife and biodiversity.

People and the environment

Reflecting on what sustainability means to him, Matthew said: “It’s about people, the environment and everything linked to it.

“It is about collaborations, building long-term connections and loyalty with our customers, local residents and industry.

“Most of all, sustainability is about developing the farm for the future.”

To build connections, the farm hosted a sunflower walk in 2022 welcoming nearly 600 visitors from the local area and raised £1000 for the Air Ambulance Trust.

Visitors had the opportunity to learn more about what happens on farm and why.

Over the past decade a significant increase in the number of birds on farm has been recorded – a credit to Matthew and Lloyd’s strong desire to promote wildlife populations.

“This sparked the idea for the farm’s diversification business, Spadger Bird Seeds, which sees the farm grow, package and sell bird food and engage with the local public,” said Matthew.

“Seed is the only crop we grow that we can use to interact with the public all year, and offers another opportunity for future generations to get involved in the business.

“Growing bird seeds also requires lower inputs, making the investment one that is supported by strong business viability.”

Their new business further adds to the Smith brother’s commitment to connect with the public, while ensuring financial sustainability for the farm.

The award was hosted by BASF, in partnership with Farm491 and the Institute of Agricultural Management.

The judges included representatives from each of the partners and the competition’s inaugural winner, Colin Chappell, who farms in North Lincolnshire.

Sustainability runner-up

The sustainability runner-up award went to Will Oliver from Swepstone Fields Farm, Leicestershire.

Farming with his father, the mixed enterprise includes arable, poultry, commercial lets, and a glamping business.

Will takes a zero tolerance to grassweeds, delays drilling to improve crop performance, uses renewable energy to reduce operating costs, and has introduced sheep into their rotation to graze cover crops.

He also integrates manure from his poultry enterprise into the arable rotation to cut back on artificial fertiliser use.

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