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Insecticide-free Herts Farm Wins FWAG East Farm Conservation Award 2024

Nominees from left to right: Tobias Martin, Andrew Bott (winner), and Peter Lucas and Ali Papworth

A regenerative arable farmer from Hertfordhire has won the 2024 FWAG East Farm Conservation Award. Andrew Bott of Finches Farm, Benington, was recognised for his large-scale pond restoration project, ancient woodlands, hedgerows, grasslands, and decade-long commitment to direct drilling to enhance soil health.

The judges were particularly impressed with Andrew's dedication to protecting and enhancing wildlife areas on his farm, his commitment to regenerative farming principles, and his innovative approach to farming and land management, such as composting in windrows, agroforestry, and water flow management. Notably, Andrew has maintained an insecticide-free farm for many years, underscoring his commitment to sustainable agriculture.

On receipt of the award Andrew said “I was surprised to win the award (but really pleased) having been beaten into second place over 10 years ago. I would encourage everyone to join FWAG as they have a team who can support farmers in all aspects of farm conservation”.

The 2024 ceremony took place on a sunny afternoon at Mee Farmers' farm in Nassington, Northamptonshire, the winners of the 2023 award. The event, attended by around 45 farm conservation enthusiasts, celebrated the dedication of farmers to wildlife friendly, sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices.

Former winner Peter Mee shows FWAG East guests his sustainable arable and blueberry farm

The afternoon commenced with an enlightening tour of Mee Farmers' conservation habitats, including stewardship margins, ridge and furrow meadows, and a remarkable veteran oak. Nigel Russell from FWAG East highlighted the ecological importance of oak trees, noting that they can support up to 2,000 species, making them a cornerstone of native tree fauna. The tour also showcased the Mee's innovative regenerative farming system and extensive blueberry operation, with attendees enjoying ripe blueberries straight from the bush, followed by the opportunity to taste a range of products made from the blueberries themselves such as jams, wine and juice.

Following the tour, guests were treated to a delightful supper featuring British favourites prepared with homegrown British produce. The evening's culminated in the announcement and presentation of the 2024 Farm Conservation Award winner.

Three farmers were nominated from FWAG East's region, covering Essex, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Northamptonshire. This year's nominees were:

  • Andrew Bott, Finches Farm, Benington, Hertfordshire: An arable farmer recognised for his large-scale pond restoration project, ancient woodlands, hedgerows, grasslands, and a decade-long commitment to direct drilling to enhance soil health.

  • Clive and Tobias Martin, Bedlam Farm Organics, Cambridgeshire: A vegetable producer integrating wildlife into organic crops, complemented by a significant Willow Carr restoration project.

  • Peter Lucas, Park Lodge Farm, Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire: A sheep farmer celebrated for his farm's diverse habitats, including hedgerows, species-rich meadows, and ridge and furrow grasslands.

After much anticipation, Andrew Bott was announced as the 2024 FWAG East Farm Conservation Award winner. Our congratulations go to him and all of the nominees.

The evening was a resounding success, marked by perfect weather and a palpable sense of shared purpose in supporting British agriculture and conservation. FWAG East also took this opportunity to launch their presence in Northamptonshire, a county that had been without FWAG support for several years.

Shaun Dowman, Agroecology Lead Advisor for FWAG East, praised the exceptional efforts of FWAG East farmers in maintaining and enhancing wildlife habitats across the east of England. "It's vital to acknowledge and celebrate their hard work. The FWAG East farm conservation award highlights those farmers who go above and beyond in sustainable farming practices and creating space for wildlife. Tonight, we share their success with everyone. All three nominees have excelled within their farming systems, but Andrew Bott stood out with his holistic approach to farm and landscape management, his dedication to soil preservation, and his efforts to protect the local chalk stream, the River Beane."

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