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Public set to cast their vote on countryside heroes

From today members of the public are being asked to choose the UK’s most wildlife-friendly farmer.

July 20 2012

After months of deliberation, the judges for this year’s RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Award have selected four finalists to go through to a public vote to decide their fate.

The Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers who do wonderful things for nature and find the individual who has done the most on their land to help our special countryside wildlife. With MPs this week calling for targets to improve public engagement with nature and increase visits to the countryside to benefit the health of people in the UK , the RSPB thinks it is particularly important to reward farmers who work in an environmentally-friendly way.

"Sustaining livelihoods, securing food sources and growing the natural capital of the farmed environment are three of the biggest challenges facing farmers today" said Victoria Chester, Plantlife's Chief Exectutive. "I am therefore delighted that Plantlife has this opportunity to celebrate the achievements of those farmers who are demonstrating best practice in all three areas and as a result doing so much for farmland wildlife. Our cornfields, meadows and hedgrows are the arena in which farmers compete and the Nature of Farming Awards are the medal ceremony where the 'best in show' get to shine!"

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director of conservation and one of this year’s judges, said: “Across the UK, many farmers are putting passion and dedication into protecting the habitats of all kinds of native wildlife without having an impact on food production or commercial success.

“It was a difficult task, but we've managed to choose four fantastic finalists from a record-breaking number of entries. As usual, the standard was exceptional. These farmers have shown themselves to be true guardians of the countryside, not just for the wildlife that shares their land, but also for the people that enjoy it and we should celebrate them all. “With the fate of some of the country’s most threatened flora and fauna in their hands, it’s encouraging to know that many farmers are providing important habitat and food. I’m excited to find out who the public deem to be the best in show this year.”

Now in its fifth year, the Nature of Farming Award will see four regional finalists face the public vote throughout the summer. The national award is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph. The shortlisted farmers have strong environmental credentials and manage their farms with bird, plant, mammal and insect populations in mind while running commercially viable businesses. Last year over 22,000 people were inspired to cast their vote in the awards that eventually crowned Carolyne and Somerset Charrington from Mull King and Queen of wildlife-friendly farming.

Dr Martin Warren – Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive and a competition judge, said: "Sensitive farming is vital for the survival of butterflies and moths. These four finalists have shown huge enthusiasm to demonstrate how good farming and wildlife conservation can go hand in hand. The vote will be very close this year."

From today [20th July], people are invited to vote online, via The Telegraph by phone, post, or at various country shows. Information on how to vote can be found at http://www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote and everyone who votes in this year's competition will be entered into a prize draw to win a luxury break for two people at Ragdale Hall worth over £500. Votes can be cast until 5 September 2012 and the winner will be announced later that month.

The four finalists chosen for the 2012 Nature of Farming Award are:

  • Rob Allan from Oxfordshire farms sustainably, delivering food for us and for wildlife. He is passionate about the huge range of diverse habitats supporting wildlife on his estate such as barn owls, corn buntings, skylarks and tree sparrows.
  • Henry Edmunds from Wiltshire has spent over 30 years balancing agriculture and the preservation of the countryside. On his farm, corn buntings, lapwings and grey partridges thrive amongst the crops, alongside rare arable plants.
  • Jack Kelly from County Down successfully integrates conservation into the management of a small mixed farm, using traditional methods. Here, linnets, reed buntings, tree sparrows and yellowhammers all thrive.
  • Peter Knight from West Sussex runs a mixed farm that sees conservation at its core. Farming and conservation complement each other here, through an ethic of “more output, less impact”. Peter uses his knowledge and passion to affect lasting change.

For the second year running there is also be a highly commended category to recognise the efforts of farmers who have excelled in their support of farmland wildlife. This year 28 farmers from around the UK were awarded this accolade.

This year’s judging panel:

  • Martin Harper – RSPB Director of Conservation
  • Martin Warren – Butterfly Conservation Chief Executive
  • Victoria Chester – Plantlife International Chief Executive
  • Fergus Collins – Countryfile Magazine

The competition is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph. The Nature of Farming Award is funded by the EU Life+ programme, safeguarding the future of our farmland birds under the EU Birds Directive.

For more information visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote