Custodian of the soil harvests top award
A St Andrews vegetable farmer has been crowned as this year's winner of an inovation award at the prestigious M&S '˜Farming for the Future' awards, which took place at the Royal Highland Show on June 23.
Alan Steven was shortlisted for producing a range of high quality vegetables for M&S, including brussels sprouts and parsnips, as well as for his on-going commitment to preserving the local environment.
“With all things it is a gradual process,” said Alan. “But it is good to be recognised.
“The main thing we are trying to do is improve the Corn Buntings and bolster the bee population because without them we don’t have crops!”
Alan has played a key role in helping to increase Fife’s population of Corn Buntings; a small, sparrow like bird whose population has been in significant decline over recent years due to changes in agricultural practices such as the removal of hedgerows and use of pesticides.
The M&S judges were impressed by Alan’s commitment to increasing the bird population and his willingness to alter his farming practices to benefit local wildlife. He also impressed the judges with his high level of co-operation with the RSPB.
Alan’s vegetable growing enterprise operates alongside two other farms as part of Beley Farms Ltd, totalling 360 hectares of farmland. The coastal location of the farms make them ideally situated for producing brussels sprouts over the winter, as the risk of frost during key harvesting months is kept to a minimum.
M&S Farming for the Future is a programme which champions sustainability and innovation. The programme is designed to help farmers identify opportunities for improvement, increase their profitability and provide a sustainable supply chain that can continue to deliver quality and innovation for the long term.
Alan added: “We utilise bits of the farm that are not fully productive and that we don’t just want to throw chemicals at. They can be used for biodiversity without being wasted. It is up to us to look after the soil – we are here for a short term and must look after it for the long term as custodians of the countryside.”
Steve Mclean, M&S head of agriculture & fisheries, said: “I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Alan and his team for the forward thinking approach and dedication to farming excellence.”