Farmers Weekly Awards 2015: Lifetime Achievement Award


David Richardson

Farmer, broadcaster and journalist

An enquiring mind, extraordinary memory and wit have entertained readers, listeners and viewers across the country – and globe.

David Richardson’s insatiable appetite to learn and meet new people has led him to all corners of the world and he has used the knowledge he gained to inform, inspire new thinking and champion British farming for more than 50 years.

Few writers could boast the consistency and commitment of David’s journalistic career as a columnist, broadcaster and reporter. Yet this has been achieved in tandem with building a successful farming business and representing the interests of the industry at a local and national level. His achievements within the industry make him one of the most recognisable figures in British farming.

“There are many heroes in farming – and then there are a few living legends. David has given so much of his life to further our industry. His boundless energy, enquiring mind and visionary approach that led to the development of Leaf, among many other achievements, make him a very worthy winner of this Lifetime Achievement Award”
Caroline Drummond

“I can think of no-one more deserving of this award than David, who through his TV programmes, articles, international tours and as co-founder of Leaf has been an inspiration to all in the industry”
Teresa Wickham

“The remarkable thing about David is the sheer number of people who know him and his instant recall of people and places – right down to the last answer they gave him at an interview”
Alan Alston, Norfolk farmer

He has written a Farmers Weekly column since the early 1990s, making him one of the longest-serving columnists in the publication’s history. His writing offers insight, analysis and entertainment and his loyal following of readers trust his judgement and expertise.

See all the winners and pictures from the night on our Farmers Weekly Awards page.

Over the past six decades he has also contributed to the Financial Times, Big Farm Weekly and Big Farm Management. He has twice been presented with the prestigious Netherthorpe Award for Communicator of the Year by the Guild of Agricultural Journalists.

David does not come from a traditional farming background. His father, “a talented speaker and singer”, recalls long-standing friend Alan Alston “kept pigs at the bottom of the garden”.

But when David was only in his 20s he leased a 140ha arable farm with his father west of Norwich. Over the years, by buying land, his family has built this up to a 400ha arable business with a livery enterprise alongside.

His communications skills were spotted at an early age when he was involved in his local Wymondham branch of the Young Farmers’ Club. He very quickly made a name for himself as a public speaker, which drew the attention of Gordon Moseley, who asked him to keep his agricultural countryside farming radio slot warm for six months. David took the opportunity and this proved to be the start of a golden period of presenting farming matters on radio and TV.

A natural in front of the microphone and camera, David has appeared in a wide range of programmes on food, farming and the countryside, including radio shows such as On your farm, TV programmes such as Anglia’s Country People and Farming Diary, as well as the iconic Sunday lunchtime TV show Farming.

Yet despite his talents as a communicator, David is still very much a farmer, and a pioneering one at that. In 1991 he co-founded Linking Environment and Farming (Leaf), which advocates “the integration of the production of safe food at affordable prices with care for the countryside and the enhancement of the environment”.

It was prompted in part by a visit to Germany, which convinced David UK farmers should emulate farmers there to embrace methods that would protect the countryside and environment. His role in promoting a new approach to managing the land was recognised in 2000 when he was awarded an OBE for services to integrated farming.

Learning about the agricultural industry through travel has been a feature of David’s career. Back in the 1970s he started to lead one or two farming tours a year to places “other tourists couldn’t reach”, such as China and Russia. He is still leading these agricultural expeditions with Field Farm Tours, often using his own contacts to compile the itinerary.

David is a man who has seized the opportunities presented to him and made the most of them. But he has also given back to the industry that has served him so well, particularly in his home county of Norfolk.

He is a past president of the Royal Norfolk Show, was the long-running chairman of the Sentry Farming Conference and is a former chairman of the buying group Loddon Farmers, which went on to become part of Anglia Farmers.

In 2007 he was one of the first people to sound a warning bell about the food security crisis facing the world as the population expands, producing a discussion paper for policymakers. He is also a trustee of the Henry Plumb Foundation, which offers grants to young farmers, showing his passion for helping the next generation.

But of course the most definitive account of David’s life is in his own biography, which he has just completed, titled In At The Deep End.

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