Vine House Farm at Deeping St Nicholas, have for well over 20 years been growing and selling bird seed. Farmer Nicholas Watts has a great love for wildlife and for 40 years has been recording the birds in the Deeping Fen. He soon identified a decline in the number of small birds and decided that the lack of winter feed was one of the problems and started feeding in the farmyard. They were soon attracting 500 birds at a time: sparrows, corn bunting, linnet and chaffinch. After hosting an open day for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, people were asking “what on earth are you feeding them on and can I have some!” – it was their own rapeseed and they started selling to local birders.

Nicholas visited Argentina and saw how popular the fields of sunflowers were with birds and decided to see if it was a viable crop in the UK. They started with five acres, began selling the black sunflower seeds and the business just snowballed from there. Sunflowers are not an easy crop. They don’t drill until May as they are very sensitive to frost. Unlike many seeds, a sunflower put its stem up first before the root, unfortunately the birds go mad for them and if they nip out the top the sunflower won’t be able to put a root down. So it has to be all hands to keeping the birds off.

Vine House Farm are one of the biggest growers of sunflowers in the UK; but also grow red and white millet, canary seed, naked oats, wheat and rapeseed. Their mail order customers are all over the UK, many of them have been with them from the start, since they began with their first advert in the RSPB magazine. Nicholas produces a regular newsletter which is definitely a recommended read.

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Vine House Farm

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