SOIL ASSOCIATION Scotland’s ‘Future Farming Scotland’ programme has won the ‘Food and Farming’ category of the RSPB’s Nature of Scotland Awards.

The Future Farming programme provides information sessions, DIY farm trials and resources for farmers, growers and crofters across Scotland, supporting them to explore techniques that are good for the environment as well as for their businesses.

The RSPB award was given in recognition of the partnership approach taken, and the impact on key areas, ranging from soil health and horticulture to grassland management, reaching hundreds of farmers each year.

Now in their fifth year, the awards celebrate the people, projects and organisations across the country working to protect Scotland’s internationally renowned wildlife and habitats. The Food and Farming Award was a new category for 2016, announced at the awards dinner on November 24, at Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh, in front of over 300 guests.

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said: “The judges had a tough job to do with such a high calibre of entries to this category, but the Future Farming Scotland project really stood out to us. Developing and promoting sustainable farming practices which work in harmony with nature, as this initiative does, is so important for delivering environmental benefits like clean air and water, as well as rich habitat for wildlife and of course good, healthy food for us to eat. Soil Association Scotland are very worthy winners this year and their success at these awards is truly deserved.”

For 2016, the judging panel was chaired by Mr Housden, and included Ross Martin from the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Ian Jardine from Scottish Natural Heritage, BBC Scotland’s Euan McIlwraith and the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Susan Davies.

Soil Association Scotland director Laura Stewart said: “We run the Future Farming Scotland programme in partnership with a range of organisations, and with the participation and support of farmers, crofters and growers from across Scotland. We are delighted that this award has recognised the hard work that we and all our partners put in, sharing and exploring sustainable farming techniques that are both great for business and great for the environment. It was wonderful to see such a range of exceptional work taking place on food and farming across the other initiatives shortlisted too – we are proud to be among such good company.”

Funding for this activity is made available through the SRDP Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (which is jointly funded by the Scottish Government and the European Union), with partner funding from Quality Meat Scotland, Forestry Commission Scotland, Innovative Farmers and The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation.

Lyn White of Soil Association Scotland and Emily Grant of Quality Meat Scotland accepted the award on behalf of the programme.