Sowing the seed

GOING organic at Foxburrow Farm, Melton is today benefiting both wildlife and resident farmer Nigel Rolph - whose family have farmed Foxburrow alongside their adjoining farm for many years.

GOING organic at Foxburrow Farm, Melton is today benefiting both wildlife and resident farmer Nigel Rolph - whose family have farmed Foxburrow alongside their adjoining farm for many years.

Forty of the farm's 82 acres will be dedicated to organic farming, which uses no artificial fertilisers and no pesticides, is widely recognised as being better for wildlife than conventional farming. Research shows there are more insects for birds to feed on, and no man-made chemicals to find their way into watercourses and groundwater.

At Foxburrow the transition from conventional to organic farming has involved taking land out of production for two years. During this period the fields in conversion were sown with a grass and clover mix to maintain green cover, suppress weed growth and build up soil fertility.

When the conversion period ends, organic crops can be grown in rotation.

In addition to potatoes, Nigel is considering growing organic wheat because there is a good market for milling quality grain.

For many years Suffolk Wildlife Trust which owns Foxburrow, has worked closely with Nigel to enhance the wildlife value of the cultivated land. Each of the arable fields has a grass margin providing a habitat for small mammals and grassland butterflies and many of the hedges have been restored through coppicing and planting up.

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More recently the farm has been put into Defra's new entry level scheme which pays farmers for increasingly environmentally sensitive farm management including, amongst other things, less frequent hedge cutting and taking field corners out of production.

As another form of diversification, Nigel has experimented with his first crop of sunflowers.

These were grown to sell as bird food either mixed with other crops such as wheat, linseed and oil seed rape or as pure sunflower seed. Once bagged and labelled, the bird seed is sold to the public.

The results have been successful enough to encourage Nigel to grow sunflowers again this year and new outlets are being sought for the bird seed.

Farming in the UK is likely to remain economically challenging for the foreseeable future, but as Foxburrow Farm demonstrates, there are ways of combining farming and wildlife conservation to benefit both wildlife and the farmer.

Weblink: www.suffolkwildlife.co.uk

www.eveningstar.co.uk

Nigel's bird seed, sold under the 'Foxburrow Farmer' label can be purchased by calling 01394 380154 and delivered free in the Woodbridge area, or for a small charge further afield. In west Suffolk it can be bought from Lackford Lakes visitor centre near Bury St Edmunds.

Tues 10am to 2pm Outdoor Action. Practical conservation including orienteering and sun dial making for 11 to 15 year olds. Please book on 01394 380113.

Wed 2-4pm Summer Family Afternoon. Adults and children £2.50 each

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