Killyleagh couple Kelsie and David Erskine, whose farm is outside Killyleagh in Co Down, have won the ‘Conservation & Environment’ title at the Farming Life Awards.
This is the sixth year that RSPB NI has sponsored the award (previously the ‘Wildlife-Friendly Farmer of the Year’ category) and the Erskines won in a field that had seen a long list of applicants in the running. The couple received their award at the ceremony at the La Mon Hotel outside Belfast.
They have created a range of on-farm habitats through environmental farming schemes and self-funded projects. Their commitment to conservation practices is demonstrated through their work with local schools and environmental organisations to showcase good practice.
John Martin, Head of Policy and Advocacy at RSPB NI, said:
“Huge congratulations to Kelsie and David on this award win. They have clearly demonstrated a long-term commitment to managing their farm positively for nature and the environment. The thriving wildlife on their land has showcased that with the right support, farming can play a key role in giving nature a home.”
Farmer David Erskine added:
“It is an absolute pleasure to receive this award as we are only one of many wildlife-friendly farms in Co Down. We always strive to help nature on our land and we are currently looking forward to seeing what arrives into our new wild bird cover plot over the coming months.”
The Conservation & Environment award recognises farmers or farm businesses that enhance biodiversity and protect key species on their land. The two runners-up at the ceremony this year were Leslie Ballantine from Co Antrim and Lorna and Sam Robinson form Cloughbane Farm in Co Tyrone.
The Erskines graze cattle, cut silage and hay. They have a 50-acre farm with 8.5 acres of native trees planted 20 years ago and have recorded swans, herons and snipe.
With advice from RSPB NI, they have sown an acre of wild bird cover: a mixture of cereals and linseed with a wildflower cornfield mix. This attracted a huge number of bees, butterflies and other insects over the summer.
“All of these measures have definitely increased the birds we see on the farm, like tree sparrows, linnets, reed buntings, redpolls and long-tailed tits,” says David.
“A survey by RSPB NI showed that we have 33 different species of birds. We always enjoy working in close co-operation to improve biodiversity and we would love in future to attract yellowhammers to our farm.”