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Only one week left to vote for East Midlands farmers in the UK's biggest farm wildlife competition

Last modified: 23 August 2013

Barn owl hovering

Image: Nigel Blake

People across the East Midlands are being urged not to miss out on the chance of choosing their favourite wildlife-friendly farmer as the UK’s biggest farm wildlife competition goes into its final week with voting closing at midnight on 31 August.

Eight farmers from across the UK, including East Midlands Leicestershire farmers, are through to the final of the Nature of Farming Award with people voting to decide who they think should come out on top.

Richard and Inger Mee in Leicestershire have farmed organically since 1998. Growing wheat, fruit and salad vegetables, and raising beef cattle, pigs, sheep and laying hens. They supply Waitrose and local butchers, and their on-site farm cafe – promoting local, organic food and running events to encourage the local community to visit and learn more about wildlife friendly and organic farming.

Nectar flower strips, beetle banks, wild bird seed mixtures have created diverse habitats around the farm, buffering the neighbouring SSSI wood and enhancing wildlife corridors along well established hedgerows. Formerly ploughed land by the river has been reverted to extensive grassland.

The farm now throngs to the sounds of skylarks, lapwings and reed buntings. It provides a home to brown hares and barn owls, purple hairstreaks and bats; whilst trefoils, clovers and chicory provide food for both wildlife and livestock.

In addition they've made good use of support and advice from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG), Natural England and the Woodland Trust.

Bill Bacon of Butterfly Conservation visited Richard and Inger’s farm, he said: “It is clear that they derive contentment from their chosen way of life - I am convinced that the couple’s organic farming and sympathetic approach for wildlife stems from their fundamental conviction that it is the right thing to do”

Richard and Inger Mee speaking about their farm, they say: “We are convinced that organic farming, hand-in-hand with protecting wildlife, is the right thing for us to do. It is very rewarding to see an increase in the abundance and diversity of wildlife.” Now in its sixth year, the Nature of Farming Award celebrates farmers who do wonderful things for nature, finding the one who’s done the most on their land to help our threatened countryside wildlife. The competition is run by the RSPB, supported by Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife, and sponsored by The Telegraph. The award was set up to help share wildlife-friendly farming practice and encourage public awareness of the important role we need farmers to play in conservation. It celebrates farmers who work hardest to help threatened countryside wildlife, such as skylarks, brown hares, bees, butterflies and plants. Martin Harper, the RSPB’s director of conservation and Nature of Farming Award judge, said: “The Nature of Farming Award is our annual celebration of all farmers who give nature a home on their land and every vote cast helps to support wildlife-friendly farming. “These farmers are real wildlife heroes, but they need our support and we need more of them. Governments in the UK and Europe need to better support nature-friendly farming and consumers can help by looking out for brands which are truly better for the environment” People are invited to vote online, by phone or post up until midnight on Saturday 31 August 2013.  Information on how to vote can be found at rspb.org.uk/farmvote Everyone who votes will be automatically entered into a free prize draw for a luxury break for two people with Millennium Hotels.  Votes can be cast until 31 August 2013 and the winner will be announced in September.

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 www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote, http://www.facebook.com/RSPBMidlands, @RSPBMidlands.

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