The Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers who work hardest to help threatened countryside wildlife, such as yellowhammer, hedgehog, bees, butterflies and plants. It’s run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph.
Farmer Jack Kelly from Ballyalton was awarded a fantastic second place last year, he said that his interest in wildlife meant he liked doing his bit and added, ‘We think that if you look after nature, nature will look after you.’
Hayley Sherwin, RSPB NI, said: ‘This Award has been going since 2008 and Northern Irish farmers have won this award twice which goes to show how much care our farmers take of nature in this part of the world. ‘
Applications for this year’s award will be accepted until the 18 April. There is always a high volume of entries with numbers increasing year on year and the charity hopes this year will be its best yet.
After the closing date, judges will select eight regional winners, and then a panel of experts will decide which four should go through to the national finals. There will also be a highly commended category, to recognise the efforts of farmers who have excelled in their support of farmland wildlife.
When the competition reaches its final stage, control will shift to the UK public, as they decide the overall winner. People can cast their votes online, over the phone, via The Telegraph, or at country shows throughout the summer.
RSPB Head of Conservation Management and one of this year’s judges, Nick Droy, said: “More and more farmers are recognising that running a profitable farm business and helping wildlife on your land can go hand in hand. The RSPB provides advice to help farmers do their bit for nature on their farm and we’ll support them every step of the way, but ultimately, it’s them and their local communities that do the hard work. They’re the real heroes.
“The recent EU Budget deal dealt a terrible hand to Europe’s wildlife, with potentially huge cuts to wildlife friendly farming schemes. But there is hope for the UK, a country which has led the way in investing in this field. If Owen Paterson and his colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show leadership and use their powers wisely to ensure that as much funding as possible will go towards those farmers and land managers who provide the greatest benefits for wildlife and the countryside, then all will not be lost.
“In excess of 30,000 RSPB supporters lobbied David Cameron to vote for Nature at the European Budget meeting by voting for a favourable outcome for wildlife. We hope the Prime Minister and his Environment Secretary have taken notice of this.”
All the details on how to enter can be found on the RSPB website at – www.rspb.org.uk/natureoffarming