Esther and Henry Rudge, Ballingham Court, Herefordshire
As custodians of the countryside, farmers play an essential role in the sustainable management of land, natural resources and wildlife habitats.
Protecting and enhancing the environment lie at the very heart of Esther and Henry Rudge’s family farm in Herefordshire, who farm together with son Monty.
The team have a strong focus on environmental enhancement on their 173ha mixed farm, where they aim to use regenerative agriculture techniques to improve their arable, beef, sheep and fruit farm’s ecosystem.
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Habitat management is a key objective for the farm, which is why the Rudges have planted 4ha of woodland, 1,700m of hedgerows and repaired a further 1,400m of hedgerows to promote wildlife populations.
In addition, 3ha of floral margins have been planted to reduce runoff and minimise flood risk, as the farm is located in the heart of the Wye Valley Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
A range of renewable energy sources have been deployed, with solar panels and an 80kw anaerobic digestion plant established on farm.
The sustainable closed-loop plant has significantly benefited the farm, promoting soil health through the application of digestate. This has saved £15,000 in fertiliser costs, as well as increasing crop yields.
A wood-fired kiln, using wood from the farm, enables 45m cubes of sustainable firewood to be sold each year. The family are also considering using excess heat from the kiln to diversify into a hydroponics enterprise.
Promoting beneficial insects
The couple aim to reduce their reliance on chemical pesticides as diverse biodiversity helps to deliver more resilient agriculture.
They keep the grass length taller between fruit trees in their orchard to encourage beneficial insects, which reduces pest numbers. This has cut chemical inputs for fruit production, particularly organophosphates to control red spider mites in apples.
5 things that make Esther and Henry Rudge 2020’s Farm Environmental Champions of the Year
- Protecting and enhancing the environment is core to the family’s farm management
- Actively looking for environmental and financial innovations to sustain their business
- The adoption of an anaerobic digestion has saved £15,000 in fertiliser costs
- Sell sustainable firewood from a wood-fired kiln, with potential for an hydroponics enterprise from excess heat
- Grass in orchards is kept taller to encourage beneficial insects, reducing the need for chemical pesticides
Other finalists were:
- Tim Parton
Brewood Park Farm, West Midlands
- James Waight
Enford Farm, Wiltshire
The Farmers Weekly 2020 Farm Environmental Champion of the Year is sponsored by Woodland Trust
“Esther and Henry Rudge show true commitment to the Wye Valley OANB. Integrating trees on their farm, alongside other environmental initiatives, has put the environment at the heart of a sustainable farm business, making them a very worthy winner.”
Darren Moorcroft, chief executive, Woodland Trust