Farmers Weekly Awards 2023: Farming Champion of the Year

Andy and Lynda Eadon of Napton, Warwickshire, are the 2023 Farmers Weekly Farming Champion of the Year.

Andy and Lynda have made a profound difference to the way people in the countryside think about mental health and have raised a vast amount for charity. 

The Warwickshire farming couple began this work after their son Len – a talented and popular 22-year-old – took his own life on New Year’s Day 2022.

See also: The Farmers Weekly Awards 2022 Farming Champion of the Year

Despite finding themselves in an unimaginable situation, they decided to do everything in their power to prevent what happened to them happening to other families. 

With huge courage, drive and selflessness, they set about improving mental health awareness among young people and raising funds for three important charities:

  • Farming Community Network
  • Farm Safety Foundation (also known as Yellow Wellies)
  • Papyrus, the national charity for the prevention of young suicides. 

They received prime minister Rishi Sunak’s Points of Light award, recognising outstanding individual volunteers and those making a change in their community and inspiring others.

Among their many endeavours was launching a Five-a-Day mental health challenge, for which they created wallet-sized cards printed with advice such as encouraging people to talk openly. More than 18,000 of these cards have been distributed.

This summer, their efforts centred on an incredible tractor journey – travelling more than 2,000 miles from John O’Groats to Land’s End – to spotlight how mental health can affect those in rural communities, to help break down the stigma surrounding it and to share the message that no one need feel isolated or alone.

The tractor was fitted with a front-mounted beacon – and this inspired the name of their ongoing campaign, Len’s Light, which shines a light on mental health and suicide issues. 

Among the stop-off points were livestock markets, country shows, the Houses of Parliament, the Farmers’ Club and Harper Adams University where Len had studied.

“Our goal has always been to leave a legacy for Len, and we hope that Len’s Light will be more than an incredible spectacle, but prompt a wider, ongoing conversation around mental health in agriculture,” Andy said.

“If we can stop one family going through what we did, and are continuing to go through, then it will have been worth it,” he added. 

By the time the Eadons arrived in Cornwall, their campaign had raised more than £115,000, with more donations arriving daily through the summer.

They also encouraged thousands of people, who saw the relay as a “beacon of hope”, to start conversations with neighbours, friends or family members about mental health issues. 

Making a difference

“Initiatives like this by Lynda and Andy – under the most tragic of circumstances – really do make a difference,” said Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation.

Jude McCann, chief executive of the Farming Community Network, said: “Andy and Lynda and the Len’s Light campaign are carrying a vital message of support that is resonating with farmers and people living in rural communities across the UK.

“None of us should feel alone – we are part of a supportive community that is here to listen, support and help.”

The tractor relay concluded in Land’s End on 20 July but, as the Eadons pointed out, the journey did not end there. They vowed to keep working, in Len’s memory, on this vital cause. 

Lynda and Andy have dedicated their lives to generating greater mental health awareness among young people in farming – and will undoubtedly save lives. 

Their remarkable efforts are a fitting tribute to Len.

What makes the Eadons our winners

  • Helping reduce the stigma surrounding mental health 
  • Raising funds for important charities 
  • Selfless and courageous commitment 

The Farmers Weekly 2023 Farming Champion of the Year Award is sponsored by the NFU

“Despite many worthy contenders this year, there can be no better winners than Andy and Lynda Eadon.

“Few of us can imagine what they’ve been through, but their reaction to Leonard’s tragic passing has been incredible.

“They decided that their task was to do all they could in Len’s memory, to ensure that this didn’t happen to other farming families.

“Their tireless campaigning is testament to their selflessness, drive and bravery and is matched only by their compassion for their fellow farmers and their families. 

“They are truly extraordinary people, and the legacy of good they are building in Len’s memory will benefit countless others in our industry.”

Minette Batters, NFU president

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