The 2009 Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year is Nick Padwick, The Co-operative’s farm manager for Stoughton Estate in Leicestershire.

Mr Padwick received the unique gold-plated winner’s trophy from DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn at Farmers Weekly’s glittering awards night at the London Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane.

Hilary Benn, DEFRA secretary to state paid tribute to Nick’s outstanding achievement, saying: “Helping our young people to learn about where their food comes from and about all the hard work and expertise that goes into producing it is incredibly important. And that’s why Nick Padwick’s work with a generation of Leicestershire schoolchildren is so special.

“Nick has also shown his determination to improve the skills of the staff who work alongside him by introducing a training scheme. This is exactly the sort of thing we need to ensure that our farming inudstry has the skills it needs for the future.

“I applaud Nick for the great commitment he has shown to the future of our farming – as well as for the success he has had in managing a large arable estate where productivity and sustainability go hand in hand – and I wish him all the best for the future.”

FW editor Jane King added: “Nick’s achievements in managing the challenges of Stoughton Estate are immense.

“It’s remarkable that he’s also found time to drive forward his educational From Farm to Fork initiative. He is a fantastic advocate for the industry.”

Nick is a Hampshire farmer’s son. He joined The Co-operative Farms in 1988 as a craftsman. He quickly progressed to arable foreman and then assistant manager on a mixed dairy unit. In 2001, he was asked to manage one of the Co-op’s biggest arable estates.

On his arrival at Stoughton he discovered an aging, over-powered machinery fleet with high repair and maintenance costs.

He streamlined the arable rotation as well as creating a machinery pool with a sister estate to release capital to reinvest in more modern kit.

Nick is clearly passionate about his work and proud of the team that works with him.

“Nothing gives me more pleasure than viewing a good clean crop, meeting the best grades and having hedges and margins full of wildlife and birds,” he said.

And he said he got even more pleasure in being able to show local schoolchildren how farming supplied “wholesome food in a sustainable manner that left space for nature”.

Nick set up classroom visits to Stoughton. He also planted a “four-acre allotment” to grow a range of crops for visiting children.

The project has been so successful that it has been rolled out on seven other Co-op farms as the “From Farm to Fork” campaign, linking the Co-op’s retail business to farming.

And somehow Nick has found time to develop The Co-op’s Harvest Induction Training programme, which trains all of their casual harvest staff.

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KEY ACHIEVEMENTS

  • Devised machinery sharing plan
  • Delivers high quality cropping
  • Led the Co-op Farms’ From Farm to Fork initiative
  • Led the training of all Co-op Farms harvest staff

FARM FACTS

  • Natural England Demonstration Farm
  • 1565ha combinable crops
  • 170ha stewardship and ELS
  • 64ha grassland
  • 27ha trial plots
  • 351ha contract farmed
  • 26 ponds
  • Five full-time staff
  • Grade 3, heavy land