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Organic food producer reaps reward for outstanding efforts to boost farm wildlife

PUBLISHED: 13:00 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:32 08 November 2019

Mill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured from left are farm manager Leigh Nobes, with Mary and Duncan MacGregor. Picture: Chris Hill

Mill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured from left are farm manager Leigh Nobes, with Mary and Duncan MacGregor. Picture: Chris Hill

Chris Hill

An organic food producer with an "outstanding commitment to conservation" has won an annual prize celebrating the best projects to integrate nature and wildlife within Norfolk farmland.

Mill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured: One of the farm's nature-rich wildlflower plots. Picture: Norfolk FWAGMill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured: One of the farm's nature-rich wildlflower plots. Picture: Norfolk FWAG

Duncan and Mary MacGregor, of Mill Farm, Great Witchingham, were presented with the Ian MacNicol Memorial Trophy after being named winners of the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG)

Their 1,000-acre mixed organic farm is located south of Whitwell and in the headwaters of the Blackwater river.

It has a seven-year arable rotation, with one third of the farm being in a fertility-building ley at any one time, and also runs a herd of pedigree Longhorn cattle and pedigree poll Dorset sheep.

Year-round seasonal food sources and habitats are provided for insects and birds on field margins and plots planted under the farm's Countryside Stewardship scheme. And judges were also impressed by the considerable work to improve soils, including worm counting, tillage technique experiments and the use of cover crops.

Mill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured: Duncan MacGregor with one of the farm's nature-rich wildflower plots. Picture: Norfolk FWAGMill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured: Duncan MacGregor with one of the farm's nature-rich wildflower plots. Picture: Norfolk FWAG

Mike Edwards, business manager for Norfolk FWAG, said: "The judges were particularly impressed by the integration of conservation measures into all aspects of the farming operations. There were deliberate and sensitive management decisions around farm habitat management that were allowing wildlife to thrive."

After accepting the trophy, Mr McGregor thanked the team at Mill Farm, particularly his wife Mary and farm manager Leigh Nobes, and paid tribute to the wider farm conservation community at Norfolk FWAG's AGM where the presentation was made.

"Thank you to everybody here," he said. "It is a fantastic group of like-minded people and FWAG brings everybody together.

"Everything on our farm starts with the insects, and we are trying to provide a habitat for them for 365 days a year. We can all provide lots of things when it is easy to do it, but at this time of year it is easy for us to destroy where these things are living. So we need to make sure it is there all year, not just some of the year."

Mill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured: Duncan MacGregor with one of the farm's nature-rich wildflower plots. Picture: Norfolk FWAGMill Farm at Great Witchingham has won the 2019 Farm Conservation Award run by the Norfolk Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). Pictured: Duncan MacGregor with one of the farm's nature-rich wildflower plots. Picture: Norfolk FWAG

The runner-up was Joe Martin of Ouse Bridge Farm, Downham Market, while the other highly commended finalist was James Mack of A L Shearing at Beighton.

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