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We have a winner!

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

FWAG East Farm Conservation Award 2023 winners, Zoe and Peter Mee of Mee Farmers (centre) with FWAG East Judges Shaun Dowman and Matt Doggett (Credit: Alice Clark FWAG East)

A sustainable, diversified family farm in Northamptonshire has won the 2023 FWAG East Farm Conservation Award. Mee Farmers fought off tough competition from two other nominees from the region to claim the award for their conservation-focused business.

Said FWAG East Chair and Award Judge Matt Doggett, “Zoe and Peter Mee at Nassington near Peterborough run a really interesting 700-acre family farm which stood out for encompassing a wide range of activities from commercial grain storage to bean processing to a significant blueberry production diversification.

“The arable farm is focused on sustainability and embraces regenerative practices. We were shown fantastic pollen and nectar mixes, wild bird seed plots, ancient trees and biodiverse ditches.”

Paying respects to a truly ancient oak on the Mees' farm at Nassington, Northants. Credit: Alice Clark, FWAG East

FWAG East Judge and Regen Ag specialist Shaun Dowman added, "I was impressed with the Mee’s whole farm approach towards farm sustainability, focusing on soil health and regenerative farming, IPM strategies, reducing waste, using renewable energies, and creating new conservation habitats.

"I was particularly impressed by the integration of habitat management to benefit pollinators within the blueberry crops where pollination is vital for the economic performance of the crop."

As a family the Mees are striving to reduce waste and now process so called ‘waste’ blueberries into new ventures such as blueberry drinks and direct sales. The enterprises also use ground source heat and solar panels schemes. The general public, farm groups, WI and inner-city schools are all regularly hosted.

Said the Mee family upon receipt of the award, “We feel extremely privileged to win this award. Hopefully this is a good reflection of the work we are putting in as a family to improve biodiversity and sustainability on the farm.

“Our goal has always been to achieve business sustainability for future generations, by promoting biodiversity alongside running a complex business, which includes our own arable farm, contract farming, third party storage, and diversification into growing blueberries. Long term we hope to continue our efforts by the introduction of:

-     More solar energy generation through on-roof PV.

-     Further food waste reduction through our food and drink product line which uses the berries that are too ripe for supermarket.

-     The generation of a local cluster group of farmers to share best practice and improve wildlife corridors between farms."

The winner was announced last night at a golden awards evening hosted by last years’ winner Cambs Farms Growers at G’s Fresh at Barway in the Cambridgeshire fens.

FWAG East members enjoyed a farm tour before the awards were announced. Here they are examining an array of invertebrates caught in a sweep net in one of the many meadows at Hainey Farm, Cambs. Credit: Alice Clark.

The three nominee farms with the FWAG East Judges, following the awards ceremony. Credit Alice Clark, FWAG East.

Three farms were judged for the competition in May this year and Judges Matt Doggett and Shaun Dowman of FWAG East were hard pressed to choose between them.

Said Matt, “We visited Kelvin and James German at Pidley. Kelvin is a long-term supporter of FWAG and a former committee member who can’t stop creating reservoirs and ponds! At Rookery Farm they work extremely hard to provide a succession of fishing and wildlife ponds with water being managed to provide a range of beautiful habitats for wildlife. The arable farming is contracted out as the business is focused on the wetland habitats. Another family farm with a good degree of community engagement."

One of several stunning freshwater habitats created at Rookery Farm, Cambs. Credit Alice Clark.

“Next we were hosted by Angus Crowther at Tuffon Hall, another diversified business with a magnificent vineyard, glamping pods, solar panels and of course the renovated traditional barn used for functions. The farm is a 1200 acre arable farm with a range of stewardship habitats from wild bird seed mixes to grass and wildflowers and pollen and nectar mixes. The woodlands and hedges are being expanded across the farm and are actively managed for wildlife with some cracking pond regeneration works being incorporated as we saw last year.”

Wild bird cover at Tuffon Hall. Credit: Angus Crowther

The Mee family have kindly agreed to host next years’ FWAG East Farm Conservation Award at Nassington in June 2024, which will give our members the opportunity to tour the farm and see for themselves what has been achieved for sustainable farming and conservation there.

We would like to thank Anglia Water for generously sponsoring the Awards Evening.

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