Caroline Ayears Johnson of Watts Farms receiving the Emsden trophy from Paul Cobb of FWAG

Watts Farms, a Kent-based family business that grows a rainbow of crops, has won a prestigious award for its efforts to protect wildlife and plants on its land.

The farm, which produces over 60 kinds of fruits, vegetables, salads and herbs, was honoured with the Emsden Trophy by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) on Thursday evening (6 July).

The CLA represents hundreds of farmers, landowners and rural businesses in the county, and gives the award every year to recognise conservation and environmental achievements.

The ceremony and drinks reception took place at Romshed Farm near Sevenoaks, the home of last year’s winner, Fidelity Weston.

Watts Farms was nominated by Kent Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) for its work to create and enhance diverse habitats for birds, insects and plants.

The farm covers over 600 hectares of land, and supplies fresh produce to over 500 restaurants, major retailers and the NHS.

Joe Cottingham, Director at Watts Farms, said: “We are over the moon and very proud to receive this year’s Emsden trophy.

“We have been working hard to embed environmental values and practices in everything we do, both on the farm and in the production facility. Caring for our land and reducing our environmental impact is one of our core values, now and for the future.

“We see ourselves as guardians of the land we farm for future generations, and we always consider the consequences of our actions on the environment, to make sure we can pass on a healthy and thriving farm.”

Some of the projects that impressed the judges include improving soil structure and boosting pollinators by planting legume-rich mixes with flowers like phacelia and vetch, and collaborating with Farningham Woods nature reserve to improve habitats for the rare Deptford pink – an endangered plant.

The farm also has a wetland area that attracts dragonflies, which in turn draw birds such as the Hobby that live along the woodland edges. Nightjars have also returned to the farm in recent years.

Kent FWAG adviser Paul Cobb said: “Watts Farms is a shining example of a modern and efficient farm business that caters to a demanding market while devoting time and resources to conserving wildlife on its farms.

“The team at Watts Farms shows great interest and dedication in supporting and monitoring species that need conservation help, such as farmland birds and the rare Deptford pink. Their work is truly inspiring.”

CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “We are delighted to congratulate Watts Farms, a very deserving winner. The CLA is always happy to celebrate the conservation and environmental efforts of farmers, especially in these challenging times.

“Farmers and landowners in the Garden of England are not only feeding the nation, but also looking after the landscape. We are proud to acknowledge their work in this small way.

“Thank you to Fidelity for hosting this wonderful event, and we can’t wait to visit Watts next summer to see their impressive work for ourselves.”

The event is supported by BTF Partnership, and is held in memory of Brigadier Brian Emsden, who was the Kent and Sussex CLA Regional Secretary in the 1980s. He died of cancer while working for the CLA. He was very passionate about wildlife and conservation, hence the award named after him.

By Ed

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