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Natural England chairman Tony Juniper praises Westhorpe's EJ Baker & Sons' environmental efforts

Leading environmentalist Tony Juniper praised a farm in Westhorpe for ‘keeping wildlife healthy’ as well as operating as a business.

The Natural England chairman said family-run EJ Barker and Sons offered proof this dual role ‘can be done,’ on a visit to their Lodge Farm on Friday, July 12.

He said: “It was a great pleasure to visit and learn a little more about the government schemes that over the last few years have helped to bring wildlife back into the countryside.

Tony Juniper (white shirt) with Brian, Patrick and David Barker (13820938)
Tony Juniper (white shirt) with Brian, Patrick and David Barker (13820938)

“It is a real inspiration to be here to see some of the great work to see how you can have healthy wildlife populations and beautiful wildlife at the same time as producing healthy food.

“I think this is a great inspiration for the future in how we are going to design a new scheme that will be coming to enable more farmers to do more on this dual job of keeping our wildlife healthy at the same time as producing food.

“It can be done and we can see right here, how.”

Mr Juniper is a former Green Party candidate and has also led environmental organisation Friends of the Earth. He was appointed as chairman of Natural England earlier this year.

Natural England is sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) but is an independent body.

It has powers to define ancient woodland, award grants, designate Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and can also help shape government policy.

Mr Juniper was shown around by the 512 hectare farm by cousins Brian and Patrick Barker, who run day to day operations. The tour showed off several areas of interest, including the pollinator field, which is designed to bring ecological benefits from attracting bees.

Mr Juniper’s visit was also to promote Countryside Stewardship - a scheme which provides funding for farmers, woodland owners, foresters and land managers to make environmental improvements. Applications can be made until July 31.

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He continued: “The end of this month marks the deadline for schemes for 2020, we would encourage farmers to be thinking about how they can participate.

“One of the reasons, is that not only do they get benefits for the environment right away, but hopefully it can be helping farmers to build the bridge between the current scheme and whatever will come next. There is every good reason for them to participate now with an eye on the longer term.”

“The great inspiration here from what the Barkers have shown us in how you can do very business like farming in the same was as bringing back wildlife,” he added.

Brian Barker said: “Schemes like these are not all that hard to do and it is about getting the message out there to farmers to be mindful of their environmental impact.”

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