Seed sales sow success for nature conservation

Monday 17th August 2015

Nicholas Watts with Paul WilkinsonSeed sales sow success for nature conservation

Vine House Farm birdfood delivers £1m royalties for The Wildlife Trusts.

One man’s passion for the natural world has led to his family supporting UK wildlife conservation to the tune of GBP1,000,000, through feeding birds on a spectacular scale.

Nicholas Watts’ passion for birds has shaped his method of wildlife-friendly farming. He grows more than 400 acres of seeds for birds and is the largest grower of sunflowers in the UK. Since 2007 his award-winning business, Vine House Farm, has produced 13,000 tonnes of bird seed, enough to fill 26million garden feeders.

Through a partnership with The Wildlife Trusts, five per cent of bird food sales are donated to Vine House Farm customers’ local Wildlife Trust. Royalties will this month reach GBP1,000,000, supporting The Wildlife Trusts’ work to protect and restore areas for nature and inspire people to experience wildlife first-hand.

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, said: “We are delighted to have reached this milestone, thanks to a wonderful partnership with Vine House Farm. We are grateful to everyone who feeds the birds in their garden, not only does it bring us joy but it makes a genuine difference to the success of the UK’s bird populations. And Vine House Farm birdseed adds that bit more by supporting a wildlife-friendly farmer and the wider work of The Wildlife Trusts.

“Put together the UK’s gardens cover a great land mass but still more of our land is in the hands of landowners and farmers. Those who work to help wildlife thrive can make a massive difference. And Nicholas Watts does just that, channelling an astounding amount of passion and commitment in to his work. He and his family are an inspiration. By dedicating his life to conserving wildlife, Nicholas is leading the way in wildlife-friendly farming.

“The future of wildlife in the UK depends on us all taking responsibility in any way we can – whether by feeding the birds or by farming with wildlife in mind.”

Nicholas Watts MBE, said: “Farming this way is a way of life for us and it brings about great pleasure to see wildlife thriving. I have always enjoyed feeding birds and now I am feeding more than I could ever have imagined with the help of our customers!”

Fourth-generation farmer Nicholas has been working the land at Vine House Farm in Deeping St Nicholas, Lincolnshire, since he was a boy. His bird-watching hobby became part of his work in 1992, leading to an MBE - for his wildlife conservation work and wildlife-friendly farm management - and many other awards. Over the last 20 years, thanks to wildlife-friendly measures put in place at the farm, barn owl and whitethroat numbers have quadrupled and tree sparrow and lapwing numbers increased ten-fold. 

Vine House Farm, which has grown 87million sunflowers since 2000, is now one of the UK’s most successful wild bird-food businesses. In addition to sunflowers, Vine House Farm grows 240 acres of red millet, white millet, naked oats, oil seed rape and canary seed, all of which are delivered directly to customers across UK from the family-run farm. Nicholas’ daughter Lucy and son-in-law Robert now manage the business and 2,500 acre farm, which also grows potatoes and sugar beet.