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Winner of the habitat category of the Marsdens/NGO Conservation Awards in 2023 was Hainey Farm in Cambridgeshire, home to a family-owned farm business growing fresh, field-grown salad and vegetables

The habitat award is made to an estate or shoot that has improved the habitat for game, or red- and amber-listed species. That habitat might be woodland, arable, wetland and moorland.

Hainey Farm Shoot operates and is responsible for all the non-cropped areas and biodiversity across more than 6,000 hectares of east Cambridgeshire. It runs a variety of private family sporting operations from released to wild bird shoots, deer stalking, and falconry.

The home farm shoot has over 20% of land dedicated to conservation with wetland SSSIs for breeding waders, lapwing plots, and breeding marsh harriers. It runs about 16 shoot days annually and operates a lead-free policy.

With over 11 miles of connected habitat, the shoot’s main function is to create harmony between intensive agriculture and nature conservation, being responsible for the management of four large stewardship agreements with over 80 hectares of wild bird mixes and a further 90 hectares of wildflower meadows. There is a hedgerow management plan which includes hedge laying operations each year.

Maize is combined and mixed with 16 tonnes of supplementary feed annually.

As a result of the management plans in place, the shoot has increased its red-listed bird populations.

The shoot has set up its own processing facility for all game shot on the farm. This is then sold and promoted including at demonstrations at local colleges.

Hainey Farm shoot is involved in a number of conservation and good practice initiatives, including having held a seat on the British Game Alliance panel. It is also part of the RSPB’s fair to nature project and is on the Ely nature-friendly farming zone committee. In addition, it is a LEAF demonstration farm; a Marks & Spencer indicator and innovator farm, one of five in the country using advanced monitoring techniques to evaluate habitat benefits. This monitoring found that during the summer of 2022, one Hainey Farm field had over a million pollinator visits a day.

Bats are also monitored annually, and 13 different species have been recorded across the game habitats. On average 18 barn owl chicks have been ringed annually.

The cover crops on the farm are established with minimum tillage and regenerative practices, using their own irrigation equipment and mixes that adhere to Natural England prescriptions.

In 2022, the farm won the FWAG east conservation award and in 2018, the Sainsburys environmental sustainability award.

The farm plays host to 9,000 visitors to open farm Sunday, at which the environment is the farm’s main focus.

On the shoot, pheasants and partridges are released and roam the insect-rich habitat. They are also fed wheat and maize grown on the farm. The shoot is Assured (by BGA to date), demonstrating high standards through best practice in all areas, from animal welfare to game handling. 

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