5 minutes with… Farmer of the Year Craig Livingstone

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.

Hampshire winner Craig Livingstone scooped both Arable Farmer of the Year and Overall Farmer of the Year for his innovative work on the Lockerley Estate.

We caught up with him to find out what he has been doing since the Awards ceremony in October.

See also: Find out more about Craig’s winning ways

Farm facts

  • 800ha of arable cropping
  • Former agronomist
  • Leads highly skilled team

What’s your one tip for anyone entering to improve their chances of success?

Don’t just show the judges the good bits. I made a point of showing them a field of wheat where we were struggling to control sterile brome.

It’s a great way to demonstrate understanding of a problem, how you have tried to manage it to date with a range of control methods, and what you are proactively changing to minimise further issues.

There’s not a single farm business in the country that doesn’t have challenges, so opening up to the judges about how you’re tackling them is more effective than attempting to present a sanitised version.

Craig Livingstone

Craig Livingstone © Hugh Nutt

What’s new with your business since FW last caught up with you?

We have firmed up a partnership with local sheep grazier Tony Dawkins, and we have made a joint commitment to support each other’s businesses with mutual benefit.

Livestock play a big part in the estate’s ambition to widen the rotation and farm in a more sustainable manner, so we now have about 1,000 head across the farm as part of this.

We will plant a herbal ley in our arable rotation for the first time, which will be managed by the sheep flock along with our fodder/cover crops.

What’s the best bit of farming advice you’ve ever been given?

“You’re in business and happen to be farming; you’re not a farmer who happens to be in business.”

What is your ultimate farming goal?

I’m really lucky to be working for a first-class landowner, the Sainsbury family, with a brilliant team who embrace change really well.

The Sainsbury family has a really clear vision for their farming practices and a very strong commitment to sustainable agriculture and food production.

Working with organisations such as Leaf and making minor changes to our system is having a huge effect on our arable cropping and the wider estate.

For us, the sustainability of the business isn’t just about out-and-out profit. Of course we need to make a profit on the crop that’s in the ground today, but not at the expense of ensuring there is a profit in the future.

We’re trying to reduce the amount of chemicals and fertiliser we’re applying, maintaining or improving yields and investing in soils.

Quick-fire questions

Where have you put your Awards plaque? In the office.

Finish the sentence. Agriculture is… Resilient.

If you were Defra secretary for the day and had the power to make one decision, what would it be? Keep it simple.

The Farmers Weekly 2019 Arable Farmer of the Year Award is sponsored by KWS. Enter or nominate now at awards.fwi.co.uk

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