Farmers Weekly Awards 2019: Young Farmer of the Year

Sam Bailey is the 2019 Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year.

Sam has the impressive title of being both Staffordshire County Council’s youngest farm tenant and the youngest ever appointed when he successfully applied for 31ha Green Lane Farm.

Showing entrepreneurship from an early age, he started his farming business the year after leaving Reaseheath College by lambing 50 ewes in a 18x9m polytunnel at the bottom of his parents’ garden.

Undeterred by his limited resources and non-farming background, the flock grew to 470 ewes that were turned out on 40ha of rented ground.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards: Young Farmer finalists 2019

Sam Bailey standing in dairy parlour

Sam Bailey © Richard Stanton

Sam Bailey

Green Lane Farm, Staffordshire

Farm facts

  • Became Staffordshire County Council’s youngest ever tenant at age 21 in 2018
  • 10-year farm business tenancy
  • Supplies Muller
  • Farming 400ha of winter keep – grass and stubble crops
  • 31ha tenancy
  • 140 cattle
  • 250 breeding ewes

Since moving to the council dairy farm in January 2018 at 21, Sam made the sensible decision to reduce his flock to 250 in order to build up his herd and is currently milking 140 Holstein and Jersey cows.

Despite experiencing a lot of negativity from the farming community, Sam submitted a comprehensive and impressive application, and was chosen over 104 other applicants.

His business plan in particular was praised and described as excellent. Going the extra mile to back up his application with letters of support from HSBC, Muller and Dunbia, as well as accounts and a five-year business plan, was both inspired and inspirational.

Current business
Now 23, Sam has invested in improving the tenanted farm by modernising the sheds, doubling the capacity of the parlour, and adding a 4,500-litre tank and 14t-capacity silo.

He uses his own skills to care for his animals, as well as understanding the importance of consulting and working with professionals to achieve the best results.

Keen to continue learning about the sector and how he can improve his own business, Sam regularly visits other farms as part of Muller’s three-year Next Generation programme, which also allows him to benchmark his results among his peers.

Working alone, apart from a relief milker two afternoons a week, aids Sam’s margins, but also means he has to make day-to-day and big-picture decisions without any help.

Planning his lambing period to begin when the cattle would be out was successful this year, and his Texel and Suffolk cross Mules achieved a lambing percentage of 207%.

He is willing and able to make changes in his farming approach to find the best method. Creeping lambs born after April, which he thought he would never do, has resulted in fitter lambs that move on quicker and more money to put back into the business.

Sam also finds time in his busy workload to welcome a group of teenage students from a school specialising in behavioural issues on farm to learn about food and its production.

Looking ahead
He has ambitious goals and a sensible approach to reaching them, supported by a considered business plan.

Taking on his first staff member and learning management skills will be a big challenge, and will allow him to pay more attention to the business as a whole, rather than the day-to-day labour.

Sam also plans to move on from the security of his tenanted farm to a larger holding with more shed space within a few years in order to increase his herd size.

Winning ways

  • Exceptionally driven and hard-working
  • Highly ambition from young age
  • Achieves top 25% performance figures
  • Great business acumen
  • Runs high-performance farm
  • Demonstrates clear, long-term business aims
  • Invests sensibly
  • Takes huge risk without support network
  • Shares knowledge and tips with others
  • Achieves good level of profit from standing start

A word from our independent judge

“Sam has demonstrated sheer grit, determination and hard graft from a very young age. This, combined with business acumen and a willingness to learn and try new things, has enabled him to achieve something that very few of his age have. I have no doubt Sam will have a highly successful farming career.”

Hannah Moule, owner of Moule&Co and The Business Barn

The Farmers Weekly 2019 Young Farmer of the Year is sponsored by Innovation for Agriculture

The other finalists were:

  • Alex Saunders
    Cranley Hall, Suffolk
  • Jonathan Sloss
    Druminard Farm, Cookstown, Northern Ireland