The original eight regional heat winners were whittled down to four finalists earlier in the competition and voting is now tight as the deadline looms on August 28. Voting slips have been handed out across the UK at some of the biggest shows in the countryside calendar and people have also been casting their votes online.
The latest figures show that Northern Ireland’s Michael Calvert is edging ahead with 29 per cent of the vote while Northern England regional winner Stephen Gibson follows close behind on 28 per cent. But Scottish farmer John Moir and Midlands region winner George Eaton are snapping at their heels and there’s everything to play for before the final ballots get counted and the winner is announced in September.
“The competition is still very close, so it could all come down to the votes cast in the final few days,” said Darren Moorcroft, head of conservation management at the RSPB.
“We’re extremely proud to support this fantastic award and the finalists are all eager to get their name on the trophy. They’ve been busy getting the message out to their local communities to vote for them and Northern Ireland finalist Michael Calvert has even won some celebrity endorsement from television chef Paul Rankin who was impressed by his produce and farming methods.
“But whoever wins the final public vote, there are four success stories here which prove how farmers can make a real difference to nature by implementing all kinds of methods from planting hedgerows and creating wetlands to sowing wildflowers and managing riverbanks.
“These finalists should be an inspiration to farmers everywhere who care about our countryside and the wildlife it supports – we wish them all the very best of luck.”
The four finalists competing for the 2009 Nature of Farming Award are:
George Eaton – Rectory Farm, Buckinghamshire
On his 150 acre mixed farm George has put in place a series of conservation measures including restoring old water meadows to encourage yellow rattle and white saxifrage flowers. He has also protected riverbanks on his land from livestock to help water voles and otters and has created a species rich hay meadow. Local children have benefited from his hard work with several local schools paying his farm a visit to see the wildlife.
John Moir – Cairness Home Farm, Aberdeenshire
On his 670 hectare commercial farm John has introduced many wildlife friendly agricultural measures including cutting grass late in the season, sowing unharvested crops and leaving buffer strips. By integrating these measures into the day to day running of his farm he has encouraged nesting corn buntings, pink footed geese and several other species whilst also remaining profitable and competitive in the marketplace.
Michael Calvert – Barnwell Farms, County Down
Michael joined the RSPB’s Yellowhammer Recovery Project in 2006 and since then has brought all kinds of plants and wildlife to his 80 hectare farm – from barn owls, bullfinches and snipe to smooth newt, Irish stoats, common-spotted orchids and marsh ragwort. He has achieved his remarkable results with a variety of measures including planting new hedgerow, limiting insecticide and herbicide use and creating new woodland using native tree species.
Stephen Gibson – Birkdale, Yorkshire
Stephen Gibson’s 120 hectare mixed arable and sheep farm has been so successful as a home to rare flowers, a wide variety of bird species and insect pondlife that he is regularly visited by university researchers and ecologists. Arable flowers on his land include venus’s-looking-glass, weasel’s snout and red hempnettle while more than 100 bird species have been recorded including turtle doves, grey partridge and spotted flycatchers.
To view the finalists’ profiles and cast your vote visit www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote
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