A Norfolk farmer with a "forensic" approach to soil health has been crowned the nation's Sustainable Farmer of the Year.

Mark Means, of JS Means at Terrington near King's Lynn, won the title at the British Farming Awards.

He was praised for making soil improvement the main priority at his family's farm, and for integrating environmental management practices into its arable and vegetable production.

Eastern Daily Press: Mark Means (centre) from Terrington near King's Lynn, won the Sustainable Farmer of the Year title at the British Farming AwardsMark Means (centre) from Terrington near King's Lynn, won the Sustainable Farmer of the Year title at the British Farming Awards (Image: British Farming Awards)

“If I improve the soil and the environment, the farm will give back,” he said. “This asset is our income provider. Looking after this is my main priority with all my decisions.”

Efficiency is another key focus to reduce the carbon's footprint, and Mr Means added that incorporating more sustainable practices has helped boost both soil health and commercial profitability.

He was described as "an investigator" who is "always looking for new ideas to continue improving the farm but was careful not to jump on bandwagons, researching opportunities forensically before moving forward".

He is currently experimenting with cover crops in potato fields in a bid to suppress pests such as wireworm and slugs - but he is taking a cautious approach by trialling it on small areas first.

“I would rather have the science there,” he said.

The farm has held the Leaf Marque environmental certification since 2002, and carries out carbon auditing using the Cool Farm model.

“I want to see our efforts increase biodiversity," said Mr Means. "Tree sparrows, bumblebees and marsh harriers are all targets for our farm to encourage more.”

Alongside the farming operation, the farm has invested in energy generation and battery storage, which has paid dividends in a climate of escalating energy prices.

Awards judges said they were impressed by Mr Means’ passion for the farm and dedication to sustainability.

"Sustainability was clearly embedded throughout the business and he was using sustainability metrics to drive the business forward," they said.

The judges also praised his willingness to engage with the industry and share knowledge.

The awards were organised by Farmers Guardian magazine and sponsored by Morrisons supermarket.

After receiving his trophy, Mr Means said: "It’s an award for everyone who works for me and has a passion for the soil and crops."