Kentís Intercrop wins conservation award
AT THE KENT SHOW today (Friday, July 16), former Member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer Boel, presented the Emsden Cup for conservation to Shirley Goodsell and Justin Stock of Kentish agricultural business Intercrop.
The Emsden Cup was originally donated more than 20 years ago. At the time, Brigadier Brian Emsden, a keen conservationist, was the Regional Secretary of the CLA (Country Land and Business Association), and was instrumental in raising £15,000 of funds to help start Kent Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG). After Brigadier Emsden's death in post, the members of the Kent Branch of the CLA presented the Emsden Trophy in his memory, to be awarded by FWAG.
Intercrop was formed in 1991 and its farming operation has a long history of growing salads for major retailers. Crops include lettuce, endive, herbs, spinach, baby leaf lettuce and brassicas
Intercrop currently farms on 265 hectares over two contrasting locations and has been working to improve biodiversity on the farm, which is a challenge, as the prepared salad processors require crops that are free from weeds, insects and evidence of wildlife, in order to provide salads that are safe and ready to eat.
Environmental work carried out on the farm includes the removal from production of low yielding areas e.g. corners and edges of fields and thin topsoil chalky areas. These areas have been allowed to naturally regenerate or have been sown with species that are suited to the chalk environment and most recently some areas have been sown with pollen mixes to encourage butterflies and bees. The wide and extensive grass headlands that surround all of the cropped fields are managed to support a varied wildlife habitats and to provide a buffer to reduce the impact of the farming activities within the individual fields. Care is taken to minimise the risk of soil erosion by sowing green cover crops to 'over winter'. These prevent runoff, reduce nutrient leaching and improve organic matter in the soil. These techniques have been recognised by the Environment Agency in their recent publication of Best Farming Practices
Intercrop also have programme of hedge cutting and ditch clearing that takes into account the nesting periods for bird species and still provides natural habitat corridors for other species such as the water voles that can be found on the farm.
All Intercrop's staff are aware of the importance of protecting and enhancing the environment and are aware to adjust cultivations and operations where nesting birds such as Lapwings and Oyster catchers are seen in the cropped areas, leaving uncultivated nesting areas.
Large areas of the farm are left as natural dunes which provide important areas to encourage biodiversity value. Rare species of plants (Lizard Orchid) and reptiles (Sand Lizard) can be found within these areas.
Across the farm there is a network of footpaths and public rights of way, and Intercrop aims to inform the public of its operations and environmental plans with information boards at strategic places on the farm.
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