Farmers Weekly Awards 2006
Ian Pigott is the NFU Farming Champion of the Year. Here’s why he won:
What is a farming champion? Someone who goes beyond the call of duty and their own business self interests to promote the values of farming to the public.
Ian Pigott did exactly that with Farm Sunday, which was staged on 11 June this year. Farm Sunday became Ian’s brainchild following a Nuffield scholarship looking at how to include agriculture within the school curriculum.
It was an enormous success and tempted thousands of people to visit 350 farms throughout Britain to learn about farming methods and the countryside.
“Farm Sunday was a brilliantly straightforward idea. All I did was get people to see the opportunity of a national farm open day as they do in Denmark. LEAF embraced the idea and it worked,” said Ian.
Polishing farming’s public relations message is no mere spin, but a vital means of winning and maintaining the public’s confidence. “Unless agriculture gets its PR in order, UK farming is in trouble. We are still regarded by many as a hard working and honest industry. But we are drifting towards the perception of a subsidy-driven and belly-aching industry.”
Communication is the key means of improving the public’s perception of farming. “Since I returned to the farm, I’m most proud of my communication work. I’ve done a lot of work helping to revitalise the Herts County Show. After nearly dying some years ago, it has been revamped to achieve the status of a new flagship farming showcase, which attracts up to 45,000 people over two days.”
He also harbours an ambitious plan to launch an on-farm classroom to enable inner city children to visit a working farm and enjoy learning in a natural farmyard.
Meanwhile, he has restructured the family farm. Nine years ago he traded his job as a high profile city commodity trader for the management of his family’s Hertfordshire farm.
He cites three resources that stand out as pivotal to the success of his diversified arable business – proximity to a wealthy population, willingness to communicate and an excellent working relationship with his father.
“I’m farming next door to 10m people.” In addition to letting buildings out for office space, the farm has a thriving horse livery business.
But the star in his business plan crown is a brave decision to convert 240ha (600 acres) of land to organic production. “The main driver is budgeting and analysis. Reducing support payments underlines the need to diversify income streams,” says Ian.
The farm’s soils are capable of averaging more than 8t/ha of wheat, 3.5-3.75t/ha of oilseed rape and up to 5t/ha of winter beans. But those yields are not enough to assure the farm’s financial security for future generations: “Unless you can average 10t/acre, you can’t compete in a global market-place. I want our arable enterprise to stand up in its own right, hence the conversion to organic production.”
Ian is passionate about farming and wants to share that passion with as many people new to farming as possible.
It is clear that whatever the future holds, Ian’s boundless enthusiasm for farming will find an outlet for introducing people to the industry he loves.
What makes him a winner?
The NFU Farming Champion of the Year is selected by Farmers Weekly and the NFU. It is an individual who has shown outstanding commitment to communicate farming to the public
Peter Kendall, President of the NFU, said:
“Ian is exactly the type of agriculture entrepreneur this industry should celebrate: A man dedicated to agriculture with a passion for communication and the determination to reach out beyond his own local community to make a real difference to the way thousands, perhaps millions of people think about UK farming.
“In Farm Sunday he has spawned one of UK farming’s single most successful public relations initiatives. It is vital the industry supports and acknowledge entrepreneurs like Ian, who recognise how important communications are to instilling public confidence in the role that agriculture plays in the community, countryside and for the consumer.”