Guest post by Nicola Bell, Projects and Events Manager, RSPB Scotland

Are you a farmer or food business owner who’s committed to committed to nature conservation and environmental sustainability Scotland?

Image by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

RSPB Scotland will for a fourth year celebrate the significant contribution of the food and farming sector towards nature conservation in Scotland through the prestigious Nature of Scotland Awards. The Food & Farming Award will once again be sponsored by The James Hutton Institute enabling us to give each shortlisted entry two complimentary tickets to the Presentation Dinner in November. Entries open on 5 March.

Free to enter, over the years the award has recognised individuals, businesses and organisations that are taking steps to reduce their own environmental footprint whilst making it easier for customers to make good food choices.  We welcome entries from farmers and the wider food sector who are either working hard to conserve Scotland’s treasured species and habitats, or working towards a more sustainable future by reducing the environmental impact of their operations.

In 2018 the Food and Farming Award was presented to John Dalziel and his family who have farmed in East Ayrshire since the 1950s. Judges felt that the 180 hectare livestock farm provided a shining example of how to integrate conservation management into a successful upland farming system. The farm lies on the edge of internationally protected sites for blanket bog and upland birds, in a landscape characterised by a wet climate, peaty soils and a legacy of open cast coal mining.


 
Lapwing by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

These factors create a challenging farming environment. However, John Dalziel has turned them into opportunities that benefit both nature and his farm business.

Farm habitats include pastures, silage, peatlands, wetlands and species-rich grasslands. John also manages a suckler herd of 60 cows. Calves are born on the farm and during the summer months, they sensitively graze the various semi-natural habitats under agri-environment grazing plans.

John has supported local conservation projects, including the Coalfields Environment Initiative, which resulted in over 1,000 peat dams being installed to restore the farm’s peatlands.

He also cuts and grazes less productive areas to improve curlew nesting areas, and has created shallow pools and ponds for lapwing and snipe. The range of habitats John creates and manages helps to conserve the array of plants and animals found on the farm - everything from hen harriers and black grouse to dragonflies and bog cranberry.

We need your help to find the people working hard in Scotland’s food and farming sectors for the benefit of our precious natural heritage. Do you want to celebrate someone who runs a sustainable food business? Or make sure wildlife-friendly farmers get the recognition they deserve? Nominate a person, project or business dedicated to supporting our environment or submit your own project and tell us what you’re doing to support nature!

The Nature of Scotland Awards shortlist will be revealed at a Parliamentary Reception in September and the winners will be announced at our prestigious Presentation Dinner in late November at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh. Successfully shortlisted entries will receive two complimentary tickets to the dinner hosted by BBC Scotland’s presenter and wildlife expert Euan McIlwraith.

Find out more about the awards and submit your application by the 4 June by visiting rspb.org.uk/natureofscotland.

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