Norfolk House Farm scoops prize for commitment to conservation

One of the UK's largest specialist salad producers has received the prestigious Silver Lapwing Award, run by the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), at a ceremony in the House of Commons.

FWAG gives advice on conservation to farmers and growers and its Silver Lapwing Award, now in its 33rd year, recognises long-term commitment to wildlife conservation by the farming community. The award was sponsored for the second year running by Waitrose, in association with organic milk producer Coombe Farm.

Norfolk House Farm, managed by Philip Hubbert and owned by JE Piccaver, won the award after a strong competition that saw two farms - Rod Smith of Beal Farm, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland, and Michael Astor of Hatley Park, Sandy, Bedfordshire - place joint second.

Hubbert was presented with the Silver Lapwing Trophy and a cheque for £1,000 by minister of state for agriculture and food James Paice MP during a ceremony at the House of Commons last week.

Norfolk House Farm is an 825ha holding, situated adjacent to the Wash in south Lincolnshire. The land comprises high-quality grade 1 silt soil that allows high yielding vegetables, salads, root crops and cereals to grow.

The Piccaver family has always farmed sympathetically with the environment since the business was established in 1947 and in recent years has embraced the environmental schemes that have been made available.

Hubbert, who has worked for the Piccaver family for 16 years, told Grower: "I am very pleased to win this award. FWAG's involvement in it makes it very prestigious.

"For many years now the business has been planting hedgerows and putting schemes in place before the Government was telling us that we had to. We have been using FWAG's advisers since the late 1990s so we were already making these decisions.

"Caring for the environment is a hobby for me - I bird watch, for example - and it has become more of a labour of love, rather than something that I struggle to keep up with. We have public access on some of our sites and have people who regularly bird watch in our huts. So it's also good for the local community."

He added: "I have tried to make sure that I have linked it to government schemes like entry-level stewardship and then higher-level stewardship so that we are getting funding and some payment towards taking these measures."

Jim Egan, one of the Silver Lapwing judges and FWAG's technical director, said: "It was fantastic to see highly-intensive food production managed innovatively with the environment in mind.

"Not only did we see integrated management of wildlife and farmed land but there were excellent examples of well managed resources such as fuel, fertilisers and pesticides. There was also a good understanding of climate change and carbon issues.

"Norfolk House Farm is an all-round excellent example of managing the large scale production of food effectively, alongside caring for the environment."

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