A third generation farmer who started sowing seeds of change for the benefit of wildlife more than 30 years ago is reaping rewards, most recently through recognition as “Countryside Farmer of the Year” in the Farmers Weekly Awards.
Nicholas Watts MBE grows arable crops, bird seed and organic vegetables on his 850 hectares at Vine House Farm in Lincolnshire. In the last 10 years, he has seen barn owl numbers quadruple, whitethroat numbers double, lapwing numbers increase from two to nine pairs and breeding tree sparrow pairs increase ten-fold.
The Wildlife Trusts, which recognise farmers hold a key to the well-being of our countryside and, in turn, the health of our wildlife, launched a partnership with conservation award-winning Vine House Farm in August 2007.
Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive for The Wildlife Trusts, said: "We are thrilled Nicholas has been recognised for his active commitment to conservation. His creation of habitat is vital to ensure wildlife has enough room to adapt to threats including climate change."
Nicholas Watts adds: "The Wildlife Trusts and Vine House Farm aim to reverse the decline of wildlife and enhance the variety of species in the UK. Through the conservation work it has undertaken, Vine House Farm is seeing increases in bird populations compared to national populations which are either static or declining."
Paul Learoyd, Chief Executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, said: "I would like to congratulate Nicholas on this well deserved award in recognition for his tireless work incorporating nature conservation in his farming. Vine House Farm is a fine example of how the needs of man and wildlife can be met in harmony. As a member of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Council and a long standing member Nicholas has shown a commitment to the community as well as wildlife and our partnership plays a valuable role in promoting the importance of nature conservation in this very important agricultural county."
The Farmers Weekly judging panel highlighted Nicholas’ profitable farming while promoting wildlife, his strong links with the local community, his role as a passionate ambassador for agriculture and being awarded an MBE for services to farming and conservation. The judges were Government adviser Sir Don Curry, NFU president Peter Kendall, Farmers Weekly editor Jane King, Farmer of the Year 2008 Adrian Ivory and Debbie Beaton, Farmers Weekly.
Independent judge Caroline Drummond said: "Nicholas Watts has worked hard to create an outstanding family business. He has shown profitable farming can go hand in hand with environmentally responsible practices – his passion shines through in everything he does."