Competition for the coveted title NFU Farming Champion is hotting up. NFU president Peter Kendall underlined the importance of this key category of the 2007 Farmers Weekly Awards this week.

“It’s never been more critical for the media and public to value the solutions and contributions farming offers today’s society and therefore the value of those who spend their time explaining Why Farming Matters is vital,” said Mr Kendall.

“The NFU Farming Champion Award is hugely significant in recognising the importance of such efforts to the whole industry which is why I personally and the NFU are pleased to be working with Farmer’s Weekly in finding a deserving winner.”

Five farming and food personalities are currently vying for top honours. Those are:

Alexia Robinson for directing British Food Fortnight – the annual celebration of food and drink which generates extra sales worth £15m every year
Ian Beecher Jones for his Taking Tractors to Schools initiative, which aims to help children better understand food and farming while encouraging the next generation of agricultural engineers
David Handley, chairman and founder of Farmers for Action, for his passionate defence of farmers’ interests.

 

Simon Hart, Countryside Alliance chief executive, for championing country sports and rural issues
Caroline Drummond for running LEAF with its emphasis on environmentally friendly farming and reaching out to the non-farming public.

 

Each is committed to promoting better understanding of British food and farming and have the passion, communication skills and determination to make sure their messages hit home.

According to Alexia Robinson:  “Our industry needs people who will fight for it and shout from the hilltops why it is great. Farming champions are there to inspire, not only in terms of giving the farming community hope, but more importantly the wider public.”

Mr Beecher Jones who now runs his own training and consultancy company said: “If farming is to have a brighter future, it needs champions to portray all forms of agriculture positively. Youngsters have a fantastic imagination and the ideas they get from tractors is inspiring.”
 
David Handley, who has twice been voted Farming Personality of the Year by Farmers Weekly readers, commented: “Every industry needs someone willing to stand up for it. I’m lucky that I’ve got a big mouth and I’m not afraid to use it.”

Dedicated to championing the countryside and its people – including the promotion and defence of farming, its heritage and its future, Simon Hart believes the real champions of British farming are outspoken, honest and unafraid of ruffling a few feathers at DEFRA and at Parliament. “This is exactly how it should be,” he said.

Caroline Drummond said: “Farming is full of heroes and it is important that they are able to tell their story. It’s everything I believe in.”

To nominate your 2007 NFU Farming Champion simply visit our farming awards website www.farmersweeklyawards.co.uk. Or you can contact our awards co-ordinator Jacqui Winn on 020 8652 4002 (Jacqui.winn@rbi.co.uk) either to support one of the nominees mentioned above or nominate news ones.

You may care to back Essex farmer and NFU council member Guy Smith for his work promoting British farming. Or Julia Evans who plays an active role in the West Midlands promoting farming and furthering the Why Farming Matters campaign.

Whoever gets your vote, make sure you do vote for the 2007 Farming Champion of the Year. There’s no better way to celebrate the very best of  British, rural, inspirational leadership.