It’s been a whirlwind few months for the Farmers Weekly Award winners – 15 extraordinary farmers, advisers, contractors and farmworkers who last year received one of farming’s highest accolades recognising their fantastic business achievements.
We catch up with Beef Farmer of the Year, Andrew Laughton from Lincolnshire, to find out what he has been up to doing since the Awards ceremony in October.
- Finishes 6,000 cattle a year
- Outdoor finishing system on straw-bedded yards across 50ha
- Supplies cattle on deadweight contracts to abattoirs across the UK
How did you feel after hearing you were a winner?
Amazed, because there was so much talent in the room. It was an honour even to be a finalist.
What is the biggest challenge facing agriculture generally and how could it be rectified?
It’s how the public perceive farming. Generally, people have become distanced from food production and agriculture gets blamed for a multitude of problems.
The reality is, though, we’re feeding millions of people with healthy, nutritious food.
We need to listen to our customers and understand what they want, but we also need to refute some of the more outlandish misinformation that is sometimes bandied about.
We need to convey the truth about farming – it’s a progressive industry constantly striving to raise standards.
What’s the best bit of farming advice you’ve ever been given?
I like the saying: “Get on when it’s dry”. It’s important to follow that advice literally – but metaphorically, as well. You should take opportunities when they arise.
While it’s important to act swiftly, it’s also important not to act recklessly – but if you’ve done your research and your business plan, you should be off to a good start.
This is where another saying I like is also relevant: “If you’re going to do a job right, you’ve got to start it right”. It’s like when you make a bale stack – if you don’t get the first layer and the corners right, the rest won’t be stable.
In any business, getting the foundations right is critical.
What traits do you need to be a good farmer?
We need all the traditional skills, such as good stockmanship and crop husbandry, the willingness to work hard and a huge level of commitment, but increasingly people will have to have sound business acumen – to be able to spot opportunities and gaps in the market.
When the market is changing, you have to apply those traditional skills to new opportunities.
Direct subsidies offered an element of protection to some farmers, allowing them to not always focus as much as they should on the cost of production.
Once subsidies have disappeared, the option to keep doing what you’ve always done simply might not be there for some farmers.
Where have you put your Awards plaque?
In the office.
Finish the sentence. Agriculture is…
Bloody hard work!
If you were Defra secretary for the day and had the power to make one decision, what would it be?
After Brexit, I’d make sure imported food adheres to UK standards.
The Farmers Weekly 2019 Beef Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by ABP. Enter or nominate now at awards.fwi.co.uk