A Lincolnshire farm has raised £2m for wildlife conservation – by growing bird seed – including 40ha of sunflowers.
The black sunflower seeds are grown by Vine House Farm at Deeping St Nicholas, near Spalding. They are part of 160ha ha of bird seed crops, which go into wild bird food mixes, along with red millet, canary seed, oil seed rape and naked oats.
Thanks to farmer and award-winning conservationist Nicholas Watts, the farm is a haven for flocks of wild birds including tree sparrows, red-listed linnets and lapwing. Money raised over 14 years supports the conservation work of the Wildlife Trusts.
The farm is managed by Mr Watts’ daughter Lucy Taylor. “It’s been a proud time for me, my father and all our family to be able to reach the £2m milestone,” she said. “Now we look forward to the future and being able to eventually reach £5m and more.”
Wildlife Trusts chief executive Craig Bennett said the Watts family had enabled many other people to experience the joy of nature. “We are extremely grateful to Nicholas and his family for their support and look for- ward to working with them for years to come.”
Money raised is used top restore wildflower meadows, and wetlands, and enable more people to feel the health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature. Vine House Farm customers play an important part too, helping wildlife thrive.
Mr Watts said the Covid-19 pandemic had seen more customers than ever coming to the farm for expert advice and wild garden bird food. It was important to offer a range of feed so each bird was able to eat what it needed.
Although Vine House Farm is a commercial business supplying the general public, growing wild bird seed mixes will become increasingly important under the government’s forthcoming Environmental Land Management scheme.
The AB9 winter bird food option which currently pays £640/ha under mid-and higher-tier Countryside Stewardship provides important food resources (small seeds) for farmland birds, especially in autumn and winter. A similar option is set to be introduced under the ELM scheme, which is due to be up and running by 2024. The scheme is expected to be an important source of farm income following the phase-out of basic payments.