Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2023: Meet the finalists

After battling it out in three regional qualifiers, the 31 Britain’s Fittest Farmer finalists for 2023 have been announced.

The selected competitors will go head to head at the final on 17 September at Tom Kemp’s Farm Fitness gym in Essex. 

See also: Find out more about Britain’s Fittest Farmer and the Farmwell Award

Women’s under-40s finalists

Rachel Urquhart

Age: 25

Location: Ross-shire 

Rachel Urquhart, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Rachel Urquhart © Joe Somerville

Rural surveyor Rachel, from Ross-shire in northern Scotland, grew up on the family farm where her father tends a flock of 150 sheep.

First starting her fitness journey after attending Glasgow University, Rachel admits she has got the CrossFit bug.

She says: “CrossFit just gives me focus and helps with my work/life balance. It’s a huge part of my routine every day, and going to the gym is something that is just for you.”

Emma Malcolm

Age: 24

Location: Strathkinnes 

Emma Malcolm, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Emma Malcolm © Joe Somerville

“This is the first competition I’ve ever done, and I was sent the details by another farmer who encouraged me to go for it after seeing it in Farmers Weekly,” says Scottish farmer’s daughter Emma. 

Working as a PE teacher, Emma leads an active lifestyle – something she is adamant has helped her mental wellbeing. 

Heidi Wilson

Age: 24

Location: Blackpool 

Heidi Wilson, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Heidi Wilson © Joe Somerville

“It is just the best competition ever,” says Heidi, who is returning to the competition for a second time. 

Juggling work on a dairy farm and going into her third year of studies as a veterinary student, she says that fitness brings a welcome balance to her life. 

“The reason that I got into fitness and CrossFit was because I’d started working on a farm, and had seen other women who were so strong, and I thought it was just awesome,” says Heidi.

“It has literally changed my life.”

Nia Jayne Harries

Age: 28

Location: Carmarthenshire

From Carmarthenshire in south-west Wales, farmer’s daughter Nia works as a qualified personal trainer, and is passionate about improving the physical and mental wellbeing of her clients.

“Getting out and running, walking or training really helps me to switch off. It’s like you open a door to go into a different room, but that room is your workout,” she says. 

“It takes you away from the other stresses in life.”

With a background in rugby and athletics, Nia has been incorporating elements of CrossFit and running into her routine to prepare for the final.

Katie Bleekman

Age: 30

Location: Devon

Katie Bleekman, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Katie Bleekman © Richard Stanton

Based in Devon on her family’s farm just outside of Cullompton, Katie runs her own business as a fitness coach, training equestrians.

“Many of my clients are vets, farmers, or full-time equestrians,” she says, “it’s about showing them how to balance fitness

into their lifestyle.”

Katie is also currently training for a triathlon.  

Christabel Blanch

Age: 30

Location: Wiltshire

Cristabel Blanch, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Cristabel Blanch © Richard Stanton

Celebrating the happy news of her recent engagement, Christabel says that the competition is the perfect opportunity to get in the best shape possible.

Working in sales exports across Africa at her family business, Alvan Blanch, which manufacturers grain driers, Christabel cycles to work every day, and also plays hockey for Cirencester. 

“I’m slightly daunted, but I’m using the final as a challenge to give myself some extra motivation,” she says.

Suzy Parker

Age: 26

Location: Yorkshire 

Suzy Parker, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Suzy Parker @ MAG/Colin Miller

Farming near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, Suzy works alongside her dad on the family’s arable farm, growing cereals and fodder beet.

She recently joined a CrossFit gym, and attends most mornings before starting work.

“Fitness-wise, I just try to maintain it all around farming. I’d not long started doing CrossFit before I went to the qualifier.”

Eleanor Durdy

Age: 28

Location: Yorkshire

Eleanor Durdy, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Eleanor Durdy © MAG/Colin Miller

Living and working on her family’s arable farm in South Yorkshire, when she’s not combining, Eleanor is a fully fledged blackbelt in taekwondo.

Currently in the middle of the busy harvest period, she says she is relying on “farm fitness”.

“When harvest is out the way by the end of August, I’ll be heading back to the gym,” she says.

“Exercise for me is a massive mental release. I’m a big advocate of getting some fresh air, whether it’s a walk, run, bike ride or going to the gym.

“Fresh air cures everything, like a cup of tea does for a Yorkshireman!”

Sophie Scott

Age: 31

Location: Somerset

Sophie Scott, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Sophie Scott © Richard Stanton

Keen runner Sophie from Crewkerne, Somerset, works on a farm rearing cattle and piglets, and is also a part-time personal trainer and running coach.

She said: “I find that running really helps to build me up and it’s such a nice community to be a part of.

“It’s always nice to meet like-minded people that share an interest in fitness and farming.”

Rebecca Dack

Age: 22

Location: Yorkshire

Rebecca Dack, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Rebecca Dack © MAG/Colin Miller

Returning competitor Rebecca, from Yorkshire, has been on an extensive fitness journey and is hoping to up the odds this year.

She says the focus has been “weight training three to six times a week along with lugging feedbags” when attending to her pigs and Wagyu herd.

“At least half of those workouts will end on cardio, whether it’s running, cycling or the rowing machine.”

Men’s under 40s finalists

John Carlisle

Age: 28

Location: Dumfriesshire

John Carlisle, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

John Carlisle © Joe Somerville

Seasoned BFF competitor John finished in second place last year.

He lives and works on the family farm, where they rear cattle and sheep and run their own abattoir.

Together with his brother, John has recently started a business selling nutritional meals to target the gym and fitness industry with their farm-to-fork message.

“It’s been going for four months now, and we’re already selling around 1,000 meals a week,” he says.

William Arden

Age: 27

Location: Lincolnshire

William Arden, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

William Arden © MAG/Colin Miller

“I’ve been training quite hard, and I’m a little bit nervous, but it’s more about trying to enjoy the day as much as possible,” says William, who works on his family’s arable and deer farm in Lincolnshire.

Now in his fourth year of competing at BFF, William is using his experience to tailor his training.

David Jones

Age: 32

Location: Shropshire

David Jones, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

David Jones © MAG/Colin Miller

“Me and an old friend from university entered at the same time as we were looking for something to plan and train for,” says David.

“As an arable farmer, it’s been a tricky one to train for, so there’s been some very early morning runs to try and keep as fit as possible, but it’s been a great challenge.”

Speaking of fitness generally, he says: “It definitely helps with the stresses and strains of farming.

“You have to force yourself to have a bit of time for yourself – it’s always easier to make time for the farm.”

Harry Twinberrow

Age: 27

Location: Worcestershire

Harry Twinberrow, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Harry Twinberrow © Joe Somerville

Harry works for Syngenta as a technical sales rep in veg seeds, but is always on hand to help on his family’s mixed farm in Worcestershire.

A regular gym goer, he says that exercise is essential after a busy day. “It really cleanses your mind and refocuses you.”

Edzus Smildzins

Age: 32

Location: Skipton

Edzus Smildzins, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Edzus Smildzins © MAG/Colin Miller

“I’ve tried for three years now, and finally made it through to the final,” says Edzus, who works full-time on a dairy farm near Skipton. “It was like a dream.”

Edzus has been doing CrossFit for two years, and has increased his training significantly.

“I’ve been mainly doing some PT sessions and some gymnastics training,” he says.

William Means

Age: 24

Location: Norfolk

William Means, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

William Means © MAG/Colin Miller

William has recently started a new London-based job in the sports sector.Having grown up on his family’s farm in Norfolk, he now plays a mixture of hockey, cricket and football to stay fit. 

In preparation for BFF, he says: “I’ve mainly been doing some strength based training, but I’m going to focus on more high-intensity exercises over the next few weeks.”

A keen runner, William also completed a marathon last year.

William Gardiner

Age: 24

Location: Berkshire

William Gardiner, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

William Gardiner © Richard Stanton

Young farmer Will Gardiner, from Windsor, Berkshire, works on a farm in Holyport managing cattle and producing hay and haylage for local equestrian yards.

It is his second time competing in BFF. “I’m more prepared than the last time I took part,” he says.

“All of the rain keeps putting a stop to things on the farm, but that has actually meant that I can train a bit more.”

Robert Strawbridge

Age: 37

Location: Dorset

Robert Strawbridge, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Robert Strawbridge © Richard Stanton

Dairy herd manager Robert is based on a farm in Dorset, which milks 500 cows three times a day.

“Farming keeps me fit as it is, but I try to get in my home gym to forget about the hustle and bustle of it all,” Robert says.

“I’m excited to be part of the finals. The message behind the event really struck a chord with me because it’s so important to bring farming and fitness together and support mental health.”

Andrew Corrigan

Age: 35

Location: East Yorkshire

Andrew Corrigan, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Andrew Corrigan © MAG/Colin Miller

Andrew works in his family’s farming business in East Yorkshire, where they predominantly rear pigs.

He attended the BFF finals last year, and is a keen advocate of the benefits that exercise can bring to farmers.

“It’s about having the time to yourself and a different focus – and also hopefully having a bit of success outside of work and in the gym.”

Eifion Roberts

Age: 27

Location: Anglesey

Eifion Roberts, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Eifion Roberts © Joe Somerville

Reigning BFF champion Eifion has been focusing on a combination of CrossFit, trail running and cycling.

“It’s such a great contest, it really promotes mental health among farmers. I’ve made so many friends through taking part,” he says.

Simon Graham

Age: 32

Location: Cumbria

Simon Graham, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Simon Graham © Joe Somerville

Simon from Cumbria works with cattle and sheep while juggling a full-time office job at NFU Mutual.

Simon explains that working out “is all about escapism, a mental reset and recharge to get away from the hectic day and business”.

Conor O’Boyle

Conor O'Boyle, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Conor O’Boyle © Joe Somerville

Age: 28

Ever the dedicated farmer, local Conor O’Boyle made it to the Royal Highland Show qualifiers, and is currently on harvest in Montana.

He will be winging his way back for the final in September.


Mixed over-40s finalists

Catriona McGahan

Age: 48

Location: Co Tyrone

Catorina McGahan, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Catorina McGahan © Joe Somerville

Hailing from Northern Ireland, Catriona works on her family’s beef farm on the weekends, but spends the week working as a reformer Pilates instructor in London.  

“Fitness is my chance to get outside of my head,” she says. “Farming can be a lonely game and there’s so many ups and downs with it – it’s not a straight line.”

Carl Whitaker

Age: 46

Location: Co Durham

Carl Whitaker, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Carl Whitaker © Joe Somerville

Farmer and contractor Carl was encouraged to enter the competition on a whim, after he and his family passed the Farmers Weekly stand at the Royal Highland show.

“It happened as a bit of a fluke,” he says, “and now I’m in the final!”

Carl started his fitness journey at 40: “I had never really stepped into a gym before that because I always thought I got enough physical work on the farm.

“I go to classes because it brings so many benefits to your mental health, and physically, as you get a bit older.”

Sonia Rabone

Age: 46

Location: Lincolnshire

Sonia Rabone, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Sonia Rabone © MAG/Colin Miller

Mum of two Sonia says that fitness is a regular part of her life.

When she’s not juggling kids and helping out on the family farm in Lincolnshire, she makes time to exercise, running regularly, attending classes, and going to the gym.

A first-time BFF competitor, she says: “I’ve been running a couple of times a week and fitting as much as I can around the childcare.

“It’s such a nice time to get out and about running now that the crops are off.”

Jennie Woodcock

Age: 46

Location: Nottinghamshire

Jennie Woodcock, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Jennie Woodcock © MAG/Colin Miller

“You’ve got to be physically fit to do every single job on the farm,” says Nottinghamshire beef and arable farmer Jennie Woodcock. 

“I go to the gym every morning, and it’s part of my mental health to keep me sane for the rest of the day.”

Alongside farmwork, Jennie also breeds reindeer and runs a toddler group. 

Abi Mason

Age: 45

Location: Scunthorpe

Abi Mason, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Abi Mason © MAG/Colin Miller

Gearing up for the competition final, livestock and arable farmer Abi has been gradually increasing her weight and running training.

“There was a lot of competition at the qualifiers and it was a tough round,” she says.

“I’m really impressed that I’ve done it and got this far. Having the opportunity to go down to Farm Fitness is just incredible. I’m really proud of myself.”

Anne Grindal

Age: 42

Location: Warwickshire

Anne Grindall, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Anne Grindall © MAG/Colin Miller

Juggling work as an equestrian coach and life on the family’s beef and arable farm in Warwickshire, mum-of-two Anne says that exercise is the key to managing a busy lifestyle.

“Fitness for me is something that has built up over the last five or six years – I’ve never been a fitness fanatic.

“I really got started for my mental health – I needed something that wasn’t work. Horses are fun, but they’re still work, and farming is work.

“I just love it – it clears my head big time.”

Simon Walker

Age: 45

Location: Somerset 

Simon Walker, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Simon Walker © Richard Stanton

“At 45, I wanted to be reasonably trim and feel good about myself, but also found that the endorphins from exercise were second to none,” says Simon, who is based on his family farm near Bridgwater, Somerset. 

Simon recently lost his father, Jeremy Walker, former national chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA), and exercise has since been an important part of his mental wellbeing. 

“Dad passed away on the farm, and working towards this challenge has been a huge part of my mental health.

“It is crucial, when there are traumas like this, to lean on people, speak to the FCN, and do more physical exercise because of how good it makes you feel.”

Richard Peck

Age: 40

Location: Suffolk 

Richard Peck, Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Richard Peck © MAG/Colin Miller

“I’ve always done team sports, so keeping fit has always been quite important to me,” says Suffolk livestock farmer Richard Peck.

Having recently started playing hockey and training for a weightlifting competition, Richard hopes his preparation will stand him in good stead for BFF.

Andrew Poole

Age: 51

Location: Devon 

Andrew Poole,Britain's Fittest Farmer 2023 finalist

Andrew Poole © Richard Stanton

“I try and keep my work routines a bit physical, so that keeps me in reasonable shape most of the time anyway, but I’m doing a bit of light training to top it up,” says livestock and arable farmer Andrew. 

Last year he competed in a charity boxing match, and BFF is his latest fitness challenge. 

“I need something as an incentive to keep myself fit and do a bit extra,” he says. “I’m looking forward to the final – it will be a nice day out after harvest.”

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