Earlier this year, Farmers Guardian launched the British Farming Awardsto celebrate creative thinking, innovative approaches and the relentless hard graft of farmers working across the industry. Following an outstanding level of entries, we have whittled down the entries and are proud to announce the finalists for the British Farming Awards 2013.
Interviews will take place over the forthcoming weeks, followed by a judging day where all of our 28 judges will come together to discuss the entries and reach a final decision, based on a selection of criteria.
Winners will be announced at the British Farming Awards to be held at the Sixways Stadium on November 5 as part of the Business of Farming event. Book your tickets now
The shortlisted candidates for the Business of Farming Arable Innovator of the Year category show a passion for innovation and diversification. Although all very different, each candidate demonstrates potential and ambition for a sustainable farming future.
The farm size of each of our finalists is varied- a breath of fresh air to those smaller businesses that are often given the impression large size is the key to success.
|Andrew Francis, Elveden Farms, Norfolk||WINNER: Michael Marriage, Dove Farm, Berkshire||Tom Sewell, Sewel Farms, Kent|
Elveden Farms, Thetford, Norfolk, uniquely combines a large scale business with an appetite for innovation and diversification, which can often be absent where there is a focus on exploiting economies of scale. Evidence of innovation is clear in terms of product and market development and the application of science and technical developments.
Farm manager Andrew Francis shows a passion for giving customers what they want and supplying fresh British food to the consumer.
Berkshire-based Dove Farm started out as an interest and has progressed into an original and innovative business.
Michael Marriage’s on farm mill has enabled them to produce niche products and introduce unusual, ancient crops into the modern market place.
They demonstrate a distinctive awareness of market opportunities and have developed from growing a few ancient varieties as a hobby to contracting growers to grow for them to meet a growing demand.
Sewell Farms, at the opposite end of the size scale demonstrates a commitment for seeking solutions.
Tom Sewell, who farms in Maidstone, Kent, sees the future is with a no tillage system and is travelling the world for ideas and trying them on his own farm.
Although his are not the easiest of soil types, Tom has achieved an excellent balance, allowing him to work with soil and the environment to ensure his crops are looked after correctly and produce the best returns.
FARMERS are increasingly turning their attentions to green energy in order to become more efficient and boost their bottom line.
Each entry showed tremendous innovation and drive, making it a difficult task to shortlist three farmers.
|Adam Twine, Colleymore Farm, Oxfordshire||WINNER: Mike Porter, Hillhouse Farm, Walpole||Richard Tomlinson, Lodge Farm, North Wales|
Adam Twine of Colleymore Farm, South Oxfordshire, is another successful entrepreneur whose grit and determination to succeed stood out in the face of adversity.
His solar and wind farms came up against massive hurdles but the farmer continued working for an incredibly arduous 12 years.
Intent on helping others improve their green credentials, Adam also set up an online tool to help farmers measure their farm emissions and improve their efficiency while doing the ‘right thing’ for the environment.
Mike Porter of Hillhouse Farm, Walpole, runs a 325-hectare (803-acre) arable farm. He turned to biomass to heat his grain drying facility.
A firm believer in the technology, Mike installed another boiler to heat his home and offices and has also submitted plans for a wind turbine which will solely generate electricity to be sold to the National Grid.
Richard Tomlinson of Lodge Farm, North Wales, is a dairy farmer and showed real entrepreneurial spirit by looking at the available anaerobic digestion plants on the market and then developing his own ‘improved’ product.
Richard truly believes in his product and wants to develop it further in the future while at the same time helping other farmers diversify profitably.
The patented technology is one to look out for in the future and could revolutionise the way waste is digested to make gas.
GETTING ahead in a farm business is one thing, but starting a business from scratch as a new entrant is quite another.
The determination, tenacity and resilience to fight challenge after challenge was at the forefront of one of our most popular categories – testament to the growing need to keep British farmers farming.
|WINNER: Jonathan Stanley, Dorset||Owen Ashton, Herefordshire||Tom Wentworth-Waite, Cumbria|
Jonathan Stanley from Shaftesbury, Dorset, has suffered his fair share of troubles – losing the family farm, applying for a farm tenancy of his own, building up a pedigree herd, losing 26 animals to TB and trying to stop a young business from going under.
But this is what he did and, although still under restriction, Jonathan runs an 81-cow Jersey herd which boasts the third highest milk from forage figure on the Kingshay Jersey costings service and the second highest margin figures of 28ppl.
With no direct links into farming, Owen Ashton has achieved a lot in a short space of time.
After pursuing agricultural studies and travelling to New Zealand to increase his livestock knowledge, he returned to the UK determined farm and stock ownership was on his future agenda.
Owen, who works as a herd manager in Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire, has already begun to make cost effective changes on farm, is exploring the share farming model with other farmers and is saving every spare bit of cash to continue buying his own cows.
Tom Wentworth-Waite turned his back on investment banking and returned to the place he had spent months working – the upland hills of Cumbria.
For several years he worked as an unpaid apprentice to a shepherd by day and worked shifts at a local pub at night to get to a position where he could begin his contracting business.
Winning funding though the Prince’s Trust Jason Kanabus Scheme, Tom pursued his idea of The Secret Garden Fine Meat Company, farming pigs and sheep on land he rents, which are then sold at various venues around Cumbria and beyond.
IN an industry where commercial beef units work alongside niche and diversified markets, the scope for innovation is vast.
Our finalists are farmers who, although they run very different individual businesses, all share a passion for the beef sector and demonstrate vision and determination to drive their business forward.
|Alison Eggert-Hobbs, Fulling Mill Farm, West Sussex||Chris Shipley, Manor Farm, East Yorkshire||WINNER: Paul Westaway, Melview Farming, Gloucestershire|
Alison Eggert-Hobbs did not follow the conventional route into farming, and in 2006 left her lucrative job in finance to take on her family farm, Fulling Mill, in West Sussex.
With the farm in need of heavy investment, Alison set out ambitious plans for a new beef housing unit,with a design which had never before been built by her manufacturers and a new feeting regime.
Savings in labour and vet and medicine costs, as well as improved conversion rates have been achieved, thanks to Alison’s gamble to invest in the latest building innovation.
Chris and Charlotte Shipley rear 150-head of British Blue, Belted Galloway and Limousing cross cattle near Bridlington, East Yorkshire, and market their produce under Manor Farm Beef.
With succession on the farm not a straightforward option, the couple have progressed their idea to develop another revenue stream for their family and sell direct to the public via their ‘Beef Boxes’ and pop up shops.
Paul Westaway, of Melview Farming, Gloucestershire, took on a 41-hectare (103-acre) tenancy in 2003, which has now grown to 68ha (170 acres) and 240-head of cattle.
But, with limited land for expansion, he has since built up several other beef-based businesses, including two global and UK-based AI companies, an embryo auctions website, an online steak and wine business and contract finishing enterprise for Blade Farming.
Paul now employes close to 30 peole and has been involved in on-farm trial work with McDonalds, British Seed Houses and Countrywide.
OUT of a very strong group of applicants we have chosen three innovative sheep farmers who are all, in their own right, driving the industry forward. Whether it be pioneering new genetic technologies, exploring new markets, or challenging our breeding strategies and management systems.
|Aubrey Andrews, Sudgrove House farm, Gloucestershire||WINNER: Robert Hodgkins, Locks Farm, West Sussex||Robyn Hulme, Pikesend Farm, Somerset|
Aubrey Andrews of Sudgrove House Farm, Stroud, Gloucestershire, not only has a passion for the Texel breed which is hard to compete with, he is also developing a business selling rams and breeding females across Europe.
As a director of the Texel Sheep Society, Aubrey has represented the breed at major events across the world and it was there he saw a demand for British Texel genetics overseas.
He now has established markets in five European countries.
Along with his family, Robert Hodgkins, of Locks Farm, runs WairereUK, a commercial sheep farm of 3,000 New Zealand Romney ewes in the West Sussex.
He has developed one of the largest ‘Signet’ recorded flocks in the country, recording abour 1,500 ewes plus progeny. All sheep are also recorded using the New Zealand (NZ) performance recording system (SIL).
The business typically sells 110 shearling rams and 1,000 breeding females a year.
In 2011, Robert was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship to study the application of genomic technology.
Robyn Hulme of Pikesend Farm, Somerset, has paved the way for the introduction of NZ Suffolk and Texel genetics in the UK. With more than 250 clients worldwide, he has built up a successful, and growing ram sale business, from selling 15 rams in 2007 to 180 rams in 2012.
Robyn works hard to promote his brand ‘Easy Rams’, as well as the NZ philosophy for breeding, managing and marketing rams, which he so passionately believes in.
ALL three Dairy Innovator finalists share a determination to survive in an industry which has had its fair share of troubles and are prepared to be progressive in the wa they go about positioning themselves for the future.
|Duncan Wallace, Balmangan Farm, Kirkcudbright||WINNER: Tim Gibson, Hunter Hill Farm, North Yorkshire||Tom Rowson, Evolution Farming, Lincolnshire|
Duncan Wallace is based at Balmangan Farm on the South West coast of Scotland near Kirkcudbright, and has no fear of the future - running six farms with 1,500 cows and plans to take this to 2,000.
His goal is to be as technically efficient as he can be in terms of cost per litre of production. If he can be in the top 10% he believes he will be able to survive any future cost/price squeeze, and provided he does not exceed a cow/acre believes he will be financially robust. Duncan is currently looking at installing a 72-point rotary to handle that number of cows.
Tim Gibson of Hunter Hill Farm in Bedale, North Yorkshire, has adopted robotic milkers and worked hard to make them acceptable in a climate when scepticism was rife.
He has doubled cow numbers to 200 and has now moved on to automatic feeding with all the advantages that brings in terms of reduced labour requirements and greater cow performance.
Tim has had to take responsibility for the farm’s development at an early age and stand by any decisions he makes.
Partners Tom Rowson and Oliver Hall of Evolution Farming in Lincolnshire have had to use their ingenuity to get a foothold in the industry as Tom admits three years ago they had nothing and now run 1,000 cows on three farms.
Careful costings ensure all projects tick a 10% return box before they are embarked upon and they are now focusing on awarding share milking contracts to keen youngsters.
This allows young people to get a foothold on the farming ladder, while at the same time the partnership benefits from their commitment an enthusiasm.
THEY say necessity is the mother of invention and when it comes to doing innovative things with machinery, you can always count on farmers.
Whether it is adapting a machine to suite or creating something from scratch, farmers are always coming up with ways to make life easier and businesses more profitable.
|WINNER: Tim Gibson, Hunters Hill Farm, North Yorkshire||Steffan Reed, Rhosygadair Fawr, Cardigan||John Stonehouse, May Farm, North Yorkshire|
Tim Gibson of Hunters Hill Farm, Bedale, farms a 142-hectare (350-acre) dairy and arable farm and has been milking his 200 cows by robots for 12 years. With a forward-thinking attitude,
Comprising a 23cu.m (812cu.ft) static diet feeder, once the feed is loaded and mixed, it is then dispensed via conveyors to troughs in the cow buildings. Tim says cow health has improved, milk yields have gone up and input costs have gone down.
Tackling the frustrating issue of hanging a gate by yourself, Harper Adams student and farmer’s son Steffan Reed of Rhosygadair Fawr, Cardigan, has come up with a solution.
Only the prototype exists at the moment, but he would like to develop it and possibly sell the idea on.
Not content with drain jetter nozzles currently offered on the market, mixed farmer John Stonehouse of May Farm, Scarborough, decided to make his own bespoke units which can cope better with deviations found in clay drainage tiles.
RETAIL no longer starts beyond the farm gate and more and more customers are supporting their local enterprises. Our three finalists in the Farm Retail Innovator of the Year category have grown their diversification from zero and demonstrated vision and creative flair to make their businesses stand out.
|Rod Garnham, Corkers Crisps, Willow Farm, Cambridgeshire||WINNER: Richard Simkin, Essington Fruit Farm, West Midlands||Celia Gaze, The Wellbeing Farm, Lancashire|
Corkers Crisps, started by Cambridgeshire farmer Ross Taylor and Rod Garnham, is unique as it produces crisps from potatoes grown only on the home farm.
The 200-hectare (500-acre) Willow Farm, Pymoor Common, near Ely, is on deep Fenland soils ideally suited to potato production.
Now, they only grow Naturalo potatoes.
The Simkin family set up Essington Fruit Farm in 1978 with 1ha (2.5 acres) of pick your own strawberries.
Today, the farm at Essington, near Wolverhampton, runs to 120ha (300 acres) and grows 30 different crops. Hereford beef and outdoor pigs are produced which are then sold in the butchery, shop and tearoom.
An ability to capitalise on issues such as the horsemeat scandal has seen the retailer increase business and attract free, positive publicity. Meat takings rose 40 per cent this spring and it has maintained 15-20 per cent growth on last year.
Celia Gaze set up The Wellbeing Farm at Edgworth, near Bolton, Lancashire, and opened for business in April this year.
A former high-flier in the NHS, Celia says she was motivated to set up the business as a location for people to destress and improve their wellbeing through appreciating where their food came from.
The previously run-down farm now hosts corporate meetings, family parties and training courses in many countryside skills.
AT the heart of many farms lie the families behind them who have helped secure the farm’s place for years to come. Our finalists in the Family Farming Business of the Year category are working as collective units to move forward with persistence and originality.
|WINNER: The Evans family, Cwmwythig, West Wales||Judith Hemming, Obelisk Farm, West Midlands||The Nicholson family, Cannon Hall Farm, South Yorkshire|
The Evans family from Cwmwythig, near Aberystwyth, comprises two grandparents, their three sons and families, including 11 grandchildren. Starting with one farm after getting married, Cynthia Evans says the family now farms six units in total.
The family’s main focus is dairying, running 750 cows, mainly undertaken with family labour, two full-time staff and some casual labour.
This business has grown rapidly and they now run 18 cottages, with plans to convert more, as well as offering bed and breakfast in two of their own homes. Hosting school visits features strongly in the family’s daily agenda.
The Hemming family from Obelisk Farm, near Solihull, has a particularly poignant story, after the untimely death of husband and father, Andrew, last December.
Their business, which had faced tough times since the BSE furore, was starting to turn a corner. In the last 10 months, the family has worked even more closely to push the business forward and is now starting to see the work come to fruition.
Judith, her sons Thomas and Edward, daughter Dianne and daughter-in-law Kim, run 200 Montbeliarde cows and 250 followers on 200 hectares (500 acres) of tenanted land. A move into the breed, started by Andrew and Edward, means the family are now actively sought-out for their freshly-calved heifers, as well as selling bull calves to private buyers for their bull beef systems.
The Nicholson family at Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley, South Yorkshire, were told in the late 1980s by their bank manager they should sell up and salvage what they could.
Roger, who farmed at the time, changed banks, opened the farm to the public and it is now one of the UK’s leading farm attractions, while remaining a working commercial farm.
The family – Roger and Cynthia, sons Richard, Robert and David, Robert’s wife Julie and David’s wife Anita, along with four grandchildren – are all involved on the farm.
About 150 people other people are also employed and the farm is visited by more than 250,000 guests a year.