The Steven and Gill Bullock Award recognises those who, in the past 10 years, have used their learning from a Nuffield Farming Scholarship to develop their business, innovate and contribute to industry. Jane King reports on the 2013 shortlisted finalists
Organic Dales, Norwood, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Nuffield scholarship: Marketing of organic milk
Study tour: Germany, Denmark and America
The organic market has had tough times during the recession, but that has not stopped Steven Lofthouse realising his ambitions with the development of Organic Dales – a milk marketing and distribution business near Harrogate.
Steven buys in ready-made organic milk and dairy products from farmers in the Yorkshire Dales and then, direct from his van, supplies schools, restaurants, shops and health food stores around the region.
The business focuses on fair trade, traceability and reliability, and has acquired six new contracts in the past two months, including a Marriott Hotel.
It has evolved following Steven’s Nuffield Scholarship, which looked at the market for organics at home and overseas. Steven’s family were organic tenant farmers, but struggled to get the premium price required to thrive. Through his Nuffield experiences and a marketing qualification, Steven decided marketing and distribution of organics might be better than producing milk himself. He launched Organic Dales in 2005 and the family eventually withdrew from milking in 2009-10.
Steven has always been involved in supporting farmer organisations and is a former district chairman of the now defunct Dairy Farmers of Great Britain. He is chairman of Wharfedale NFU.
For more information on Steven’s firm see www.organicdales.co.uk
Castlehills Farm , Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland
Nuffield scholarship: Delivering consistency in beef quality
Study tour: Australia, America and UK
Australian beef producers are rewarded for yield and the taste of their meat so they breed and select for a certain quality. Scottish farmer Donald MacPherson was so motivated by the Australian model that he tried to adopt a similar approach to beef production in the UK.
While the UK beef market proved too fragmented, Donald did build consistency into his production methods and developed the Well Hung and Tender Aberdeen Angus beef brand.
Over the years this entrepreneur and his family have tried most avenues to market, including London restaurants, farmers’ markets and online transactions. Their biggest success has been event catering, which expanded from selling Well Hung and Tender burgers to other mobile kitchens selling coffee, Mexican food, doughnuts and pizzas.
The business has a substantial turnover and employs 140 casuals at different times for events ranging from the Edinburgh Fringe to the Highland Show and even the Adelaide Fringe Festival.
Donald describes the scholarship as “life-changing” because it opened his eyes to opportunities and built his confidence to experiment. While he admits he could not make enough money producing his own quality beef, he is still passionate about the need for the UK livestock sector to deliver beef that is “an unforgettable eating experience”.
For more information on Donald’s business see www.wellhungandtender.com
Precision Decisions , Shipton by Benningbrough, York
Nuffield scholarship: Integrating precision farming with environmental compliance
Study tour: America, Australia and Europe
Technology has always been a fascination for Clive Blacker, so when he had the opportunity to learn more about the benefits of precision-farming techniques through Nuffield, he seized the moment.
Clive worked on his family’s farm near York at the time of his scholarship, but on his return home in 2004 he was ready to set up his own business, Precision Decisions.
“The trip gave me confidence in the potential of the technology, but I was disappointed in some respects because I found the UK was further ahead in many areas than some of the countries I visited,” he said.
Clive identified a gap in the market – to provide tools and support for farmers interested in driving efficiency through greater accuracy in their field practices and agronomy.
Precision Decisions operates globally with partners such as Agco, Agrovista and Yara, and is particularly focused on work in Africa.
His business was one of the first to invest in yield mapping and the N Sensor and today offers variable seed rate services, nutrient sampling and soil type analysis.
The scope to expand is enormous, with only about quarter of all UK farmers competently using the precision technology they have on their machines.
For more information on Clive’s work see www.precisiondecisions.co.uk
The Steven and Gill Bullock Award for Nuffield Innovation was launched in memory of Steven Bullock who managed the Farmers Weekly farms from 1963-88 and then became a director of the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, playing a pivotal role in British agriculture. The 2013 judges were: Michael Jack, HSBC agriculture and food adviser; Stephen Fell, chairman of LEAF; and Jane King, Farmers Weekly editor. This year’s winner will receive a £1,000 cash prize and will be announced at the Nuffield Conference in Cardiff on 21-22 November.
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