WILTSHIRE farmers Richard and David Butler, of East Wick Farm, have been presented with the Barn Owl Award for 2018.

They beat four finalists to win the coveted Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West’s regional competition, which celebrates those farmers that go the extra mile to produce food sustainably and carefully manage and conserve farmland wildlife.

On January 25 more than 60 FWAG SouthWest members, advisers and friends gathered at the Hullavington Arms, Wiltshire.

Neil Harris, Kings, opened the day with a talk about farmland birds; identification and their decline, and discussed the methods and countryside stewardship options that farmers can implement to provide habitat for these species.

South West Farmer:

Sarah Wells, FWAG SouthWest Farm Conservation Adviser, introduced Gardners Farm, Barn Owl Winners for 2017, ahead of the Farm Walk.

Sarah highlighted the key features on the farm, the reasons as to why Gardners Farm was awarded the Barn Owl the previous year, as well as the work she has been overseeing on the farm on behalf of Waitrose.

The January sun shone for the lunch time walk and the group saw vast numbers of chaffinch, skylark, linnets and a snipe on our short tour of the farm.

Ashton Hawker of Gardners Farm, and Neil Harris, took the opportunity to show various areas of the farm, discussing the seed mixes and options on the farm. Guests then returned to the pub for a hearty lunch.

After Lunch, Gary Rumbold, FWAG SW General Manager, and Robert Jackson, FWAG SW chairman of Trustees, outlined FWAG SouthWest’s key charitable aims. Gary believes it is important to celebrate good farm environmental management and expressed that the FWAG SouthWest competitions are a key way of doing this.

It was then time for the presentations. David Butler was presented with the Barn Owl Trophy by Robert Jackson, and the lead judge, Richard Belding, in recognition of his fantastic conservation work at East Wick Farm, Wiltshire.

David Butler, on East Wick Farm winning the 2018 Barn Owl Award, said: “We were really honoured and delighted to win the Barn Owl Award 2019 and see it as a big responsibility to represent the SW region in the forthcoming Silver Lapwing competition. We are exploring lots of ideas / initiatives for this new challenge. With the government’s new declared intention for a ‘Green Brexit’ there is no better time to rebalance our objectives to improve on-farm habitats and biodiversity whilst simultaneously retaining sustainable commercial production results.”

East Wick Farm beat four finalists from across the South West; Chris and Janet Jones of Woodland Farm, Cornwall, Philip Short of Chubbs Farm, Devon, The Bentleys of Castle Fruit Farm, Gloucestershire and John and Charlotte Martin of Deverel Farm, Dorset.

The celebrations rounded off with the drawing of the raffle prizes, including bottles of local ale, donated by brewery Hall & Woodhouse for the event.

The FWAG SW regional and county competitions are now open for 2019. If you are a farmer that fancies your chances, or you know of a worthy farm that demonstrates good conservation practices alongside farming, use the online application to enter at www.fwagsw.org.uk/Event/fwag-south-west-county-competition-entry