For some farmers, less is most definitely more – and accordingly you don’t have to be a giant agribusiness to win a Farmers Weekly award.
Small and medium-sized farmers practicing sustainable agriculture and running efficient businesses have enjoyed notable successes at previous awards ceremonies.
Finding a niche at a small family farm with a sustainable future can score highly with our judges – so don’t talk yourself out of entering the 2012 Farmers Weekly Awards if your farming business isn’t the biggest.
Just ask Steve and Heather Tucker, owners of White Row Country Foods, near Frome, Somerset, who scooped the 2009 Local Food Farmer of the Year award.
At the time, they were farming 90ha (220 acres) of arable crops, vegetables and grass and rearing pigs and hens to sell as much produce as possible in their farm shop.
They have since extended their café and increased its opening hours, opened a gift and a flower shop, a fish and chip shop and a fishmonger and seafood delicatessen.
“Winning the award was very exciting,” said Heather. “It instilled confidence in what we were doing, gave us the feel-good factor and encouraged us to try bigger things.
“It was a great award to win and it gave us national recognition. It has certainly helped our business to go in the right direction.”
She urged farmers of every business size to have a go at entering the awards this year.
“As long as you have got something to offer and are running an efficient business, you should consider entering the Farmers Weekly Awards,” she said.
“I would recommend taking time to put in a good application to catch the judges’ eyes. You must try to make yours stand out.”
Norfolk farmer Stephen Temple won the 2010 Farmers Weekly Green Energy Award for his work setting up an anaerobic digestion plant.
“The award was tremendous to win and we have received good publicity,” Stephen said. “We have had a steady stream of visitors and it’s also given us a bit of kudos.”
Stephen, who runs a 230ha arable and dairy farm near Wells-Next-the-Sea, believes winning could also bring commercial benefits to his contracting work in the long term.
“We have just bought a new forage harvester, which might bring us some benefits,” he said
“Also, we have just taken on a young engineer and we want to do a bit more for other anaerobic digesters in the area.”
As a past winner, to be given the opportunity to return to judge his category last year was an added bonus, he said.
“To be invited to visit other farmers and seeing what they are doing and judging them was interesting.”
However, it is not just the winning farmers who have seen the benefits.
Hefin Llwyd, 2009 Sheep Farmer of The Year finalist, said entering the awards has made a big difference to his business.
“I cannot put a price on it,” he said. “The returns and rewards have been unbelievable.”
Hefin was a tenant farmer managing a 700-strong flock of Mules, Lleyn x mules and Romneys near Okehampton, Devon. His business has since tripled in size.
“When I was shortlisted I was pleasantly surprised,” he said. “I was competing against some large-scale businesses, whereas I was restricted to 120 acres so I had to milk every last available supply of gross margin out of my flock.”
Although he was running a small-scale business, Hefin felt the judges were impressed by his attention to detail.
“My gross margins had to be spot on. Breeding management and how to produce breeding stock for sales and fattening rams all had to dovetail into the bigger picture, too.”
Being shortlisted also gained him some invaluable recognition within his industry, he said.
“I was asked to do after-dinner speeches. I have done countless young farmers meetings, held several farm walks and been involved in many farming committees and forums,” he added.
“I feel that rubbing shoulders with the great and the good at the time has done wonders for my business.”
How to enter
There are 15 categories spanning the full breadth of the farming industry, from contractor to countryside, sheep to arable and diversification to dairy.
Choose the category that most suits your business and your interests. You can either complete the entry form online by visiting http://awards.fwi.co.uk/enter/ or download a hard copy and send the completed form to the following address: Alma Watson, Farmers Weekly Awards, Quadrant House, The Quadrant, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5AS.
Deadline for entries is 30 April 2012. The awards night will be held on Thursday 4 October 2012.