His Royal Highness created the Habitat Award Scheme in 1996 to encourage and recognise good conservation practices within farm management.
Every three years, farm tenants are invited to enter the Awards. Entrants must submit schemes which demonstrate management and husbandry practices that are particularly sensitive to the environment and which, at the same time, meet the tenets of good husbandry and financial viability.
Two criteria are used in considering the schemes. The first is the contribution each makes to the protection, conservation, preservation or enhancement of the environment, wildlife and visual amenity. The second is the originality and enterprise shown.
There are two rounds of judging which is carried out by specialists with expertise in environmental and agricultural matters.
In 2005 the judges awarded a Gold certificate to John and Jeremy Padfield at Church Farm, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, and two Silver certificates to Alistair Hardwick at Church Farm, Stanton Prior, and Min Cullum at Challacombe Farm, Dartmoor.
Since 2001, John and Jeremy Padfield have taken up many of the Countryside Stewardship options available to them and the results include a notable flock of tree sparrows and an excellent valley meadow with overgrown scrub full of birds. They have a good policy towards school visits and are also planning to supply meat into local schools; they are members of LEAF and have been accepted as a demonstration farm. John and Jeremy have diversified into a livery and are also providing a permissive bridleway. Eight per cent of their arable land is in wildlife friendly management. The targets for the following years are to move to a system of minimum cultivation as appropriate with further tree planting and hedge restoration.
Alistair Hardwick farms organically, rotating a variety of crops around the farm leading to considerable diversity. The lack of herbicides allows considerable plant diversity and he has used many Countryside Stewardship options, including skylark plots. His target is to establish a covey of grey partridge on the farm.
Min Cullum continues to develop the varied habitats on her farm which include unusual species such as wax caps and bog hoverfly. Because much of her farm is designated as an archaeological landscape, her “commercial” farming is limited and she has zoned the farm accordingly. She is sensitive to grazing pressure on the vegetation and is able to make adjustments to timing and areas where the cattle can be excluded. In recent years she has created two ponds. She allows free access to anyone who wants to study the wildlife and archaeology of the farm.