• Sponsored by Claas
  • WINNER: Nick Padwick, Stoughton Estate, Leicestershire

Few people get to see the consequences of their actions influence an entire organisation. But Nick Padwick is such a man.

His vision – and passion – for educating Leicester’s urban children about how food is produced has culminated in the innovative Farm to Fork project, now in action across seven Co-Operative Group sites.

The Farm to Fork project was born in 2005 when Nick and his wife Michelle saw the gulf between children’s education and how food is produced.

A small 4-acre field has become an outdoor classroom showing school children and teachers examples of farm crops and operations, including ancient varieties of grains. Nick and Michelle’s inspiring project will see some 20,000 children experience the Farm to Fork trail.

This might sound like a full-time job. But it’s only a fraction of what Nick has achieved. The day job – which would be big enough for most – is running the 4300-acre Stoughton Estate, one of The Co-operative Group’s flagship farms, plus three contract-farming agreements with local landowners.

Part of Nick’s talent as a farm manager is not just to make the day job look very easy, it’s to quickly interpret emerging issues and understand how they will impact on the business he runs, hence the recent carbon audit of all Stoughton’s farming activities.

On his arrival at Stoughton, Nick’s radical plan to slash machinery costs meant the disposal of more than over 90% of the kit – but his rationalisation plan, which he called “the train”, led to a comprehensive review throughout the Co-operative Farms’ business. To do this meant persuading the Co-op’s board to release about £150,000 in capital.

But he doesn’t see his role ending at the farm gate. “The last few years have seen much greater links with the Co-operative Group’s retail activities. We grow milling wheat used for our own-brand plain and self-raising flour, sold throughout the UK. I am very proud when I see those bags on the shelf and know we have played an important part in promoting the Co-operative Farms.”

With Nick’s approachable style, it’s no surprise he enjoys teaching others – whether that’s with the zeal of someone passionate about educating others about farming, or patiently explaining how a machine is used safely.

Stoughton Estate is now the Co-operative Farms “nursery” for the 50-60 harvest staff who will be despatched throughout the group’s farms. “All our harvest staff go through a comprehensive residential training week, held at Stoughton, where they learn essential tractor-and-trailer skills and health and safety training.”

Nick-Padwick-main

FARM FACTS

  • 1565ha cropping plus 351ha contract farmed for others
  • LANTRA instructor
  • BASIS and FACTS qualified

WHAT MAKES HIM A WINNER?

  • Slashed machinery costs and simplified cropping rotation
  • Strong management and leadership skills
  • Led the Co-op Farms’ Farm to Fork initiative
  • Led the training of all Co-op Farms harvest staff

SPONSOR’S VIEW

  • Each of our finalists are inspirational characters, managing businesses with individual flair and imagination. All have tremendous drive and passion and recognise the importance of looking at the wider environment. Nick Padwick is a truly worthy winner. John Kneller, Claas UK

INDEPENDENT JUDGE

  • You’re immediately struck by Nick Padwick’s enthusiasm and motivation for what he does. This man is a high achiever with a can-do attitude. Adrian Cannon