A select group of farmers, agricultural workers and students from all corners of the UK are now one step closer to being crowned Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020.
This year’s finalists include a Welsh dairy farmer, a deer stockman in Lincolnshire, a beef farmer from Northern Ireland and a Devon-based shearer – all vying for the Britain’s Fittest Farmer title and the £1,000 cash prize.
The judges picked these 10 men and 10 women based on their online applications and performance at the qualifier weekend on 26 and 27 September.
Each finalist will take part in a round of interviews before heading to Farm Fitness in Essex for the final showdown on 17 October.
Name: James Arney
Location: Frome, Somerset
Third-generation farmer James works for a dairy unit rearing heifers and keeps a small flock of his own ewes.
His farming keeps him in good shape, but he enjoys hitting the gym and playing cricket and football, too.
“Fitness is the main way of managing my mental health,” he explains. “Farming is a 24/7 job and can often control your life, so having time off is a great way of relaxing.
“Living and working at home can be stressful, so managing time off is crucial and something I push for as the youngest partner in the business.”
Name: Victoria Hampton
Location: Midgham, Hampshire
Victoria spends most of her time on a micro dairy with a beef herd where she does the milking, stock management and some butchery.
She is also about to start her own beef suckler herd and breeds chicken and ducks in her spare time.
“I love being active and enjoy trail running with my dogs, but my favourite exercise is CrossFit. I try to fit in five times a week – nothing is better than seeing yourself get stronger and fitter,” she says.
“No matter how tired I am I always make sure I have a bit of time for me.”
Name: Isaac Francis
Location: Okehampton, Devon
Isaac hails from a small hill farm on the edge of Dartmoor and works shearing sheep in the UK and New Zealand.
Shearing combined with occasional fencing work keeps him fit, but he also goes to his local gym to work on strength and conditioning and enjoys running across the moors.
“A lot of farmers don’t have the time to drive to a gym, so running or a home gym can be a cheap, good option. My job helps with my fitness and the extra fitness helps with the job, so it’s a win-win.”
Name: Hannah Walters
Location: Kingsbridge, Devon
Hannah lives on her family’s farm and works as a physical activity support worker in a mental health hospital. She helps out on the farm TB-testing the cows, shearing and lambing.
She set up a gym in the barn, improvising with feed bags, and says sport is something that plays a vital role in keeping her healthy, both physically and mentally.
“I especially love running, often using my runs to check the sheep before work. If I’m struggling, I also use it to think about my problem as I find I am able to work things out in the open air.”
Name: Richard Kerry
Location: Dereham, Norfolk
Farmer’s son Richard grew up in rural Norfolk and today his family run a small arable and poultry enterprise.
He has kept fit by playing cricket and hockey for many years and more recently took up CrossFit, which he enjoys because he says it plays to his strengths as somebody who does a lot of manual work.
“I have always been very aware of my own shortcomings and try hard to talk about them with friends and relatives,” he says.
“I believe this is how we can stay on top of the mental issues that a very isolated lifestyle can create.”
Name: Holly Bishop
Location: Hockerton, Nottinghamshire
Rural chartered surveyor Holly exercises six times a week, mainly running or joining CrossFit classes.
She has run 10 marathons and one ultramarathon to raise money for charity, after she lost her brother to cancer.
“Exercise has helped me through a lot over the last few years, so I always take myself off for a run when things get difficult,” she says.
Talking to others about her problems is central to the way Holly manages her mental health. She also uses an app called Headspace, which offers everyday mindfulness and meditation to help with stress and anxiety.
Name: Henry Corp
Location: Chippenham, Wiltshire
Mechanical engineering graduate Henry grew up working on his family’s farm, carting grain and straw, and chasing beef cattle.
“I used to be quite an unfit child, but have always enjoyed playing rugby,” he says. “Around the age of 16, I worked on my fitness for the rugby season. Since then, I have always loved keeping fit, doing as many activities as I can.
“I find that writing a quick journal entry, when I am feeling down, is a very good way for me to focus on the positives of life.”
He enjoys training outside on the farm, with exercise helping him focus on matters other than his work.
Name: Fiona Penfold
Location: Whitchurch, Somerset
Our 2019 female Britain’s Fittest Farmer champion has made it to the final once again to defend her crown.
Fiona took over the 65ha farm on the fringe of Bristol after her dad retired, and runs a 50-head Hereford cross Friesian beef suckler herd.
“I’m re-entering the competition for the challenge, to have fun and to meet people, but also help champion the importance of physical and mental health,” she says.
“I do everything at home. Running, circuit training, but mainly my obstacle race training which involves monkey bars, rope climbing – anything where I’m having to carry my own body weight.”
Name: Ben Andrews
Location: Wellington, Herefordshire
Mixed farmer Ben works on the family farm producing organic vegetables and the family also finishes store cattle.
“Days in summer are mostly spent deadlifting cabbage or chasing cattle,” he says. “I like to maintain a good balance of fitness and strength.”
He does this through CrossFit sessions and going for a run or cycle at the weekends.
“My dad drummed the idea of ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ into me, but it wasn’t until I was working long hours milking and wasn’t able to exercise that I realised how important it was. Exercise helps clear my head and relieve any stress I have.”
Name: Isobel Brown
Location: Ashbourne, Derbyshire
After some time spent away from the family farm studying for a degree in sports science and competing as an international ski racer, farmer’s daughter Isobel has reconnected with her farming roots.
She’s currently working as a relief milker and hopes to go to veterinary school next year.
“I have an intense training regime for my skiing involving training twice a day, using things I find around the yard as well as lots of running and cycling,” she says.
Name: Gavin Davies
Location: Lampeter, Ceredigion
Dairy farmer Gavin has worked for the family business for the past 10 years.
He’s played a variety of sports in the past, including rugby, cricket and golf, but found a new passion in CrossFit.
“I train around six times a week, either at a gym or on the farm with the equipment I have. I still play golf just to relax and get away from the intensity,” he says.
“I make sure I leave the farm as often as I can to see friends, hit the gym or just get away from the work schedule.”
Name: Emma Jackson
Location: Fingest, Buckinghamshire
Emma lives on her family’s farm in the Chiltern Hills where they run about 600 sheep. Farming isn’t her full-time job, but she mucks in whenever she’s needed. She also spent two years working on farms in New Zealand.
She enjoys going on a morning 6k run three times each week and adapted her training, while gyms were closed during the coronavirus lockdown, using farm equipment.
Having struggled with her mental health in the past, she finds keeping active helps build a positive mindset.
Name: Will Arden
Location: Market Rasen, Lincolnshire
Will comes from a family arable farm where he works as a deer stockman for the farm’s venison enterprise. He has an MSc degree in engineering and is also a qualifier personal trainer.
Aside from farm work, he has always loved sport and keeping fit. “I regularly go to the gym, run and cycle. I really enjoy playing rugby and love to ski as well,” he says.
He keeps his mental health in check by exercising regularly, socialising with friends and sharing problems with his girlfriend.
Name: Erica Robison
Location: Carlisle, Cumbria
Keeping fit is a huge part of mum-of-three Erica’s life. Her family run a small suckler herd and sheep in the Scottish Borders, where she spends most of her evenings and weekends helping her dad.
She works part-time as a fitness instructor running spin, circuits and high-intensity interval training classes, is part of a running club and takes part in the occasional charity boxing match.
“Fitness is a massive factor in maintaining my mental health,” says Erica. “Being a single mum of three boys, aged two to nine, is challenging, so working out releases those happy endorphins.
“Being on the farm calms my mind; the animals are my tonic when my kids are in bed.”
Name: Josh Bramhill
Location: Eastoft, Lincolnshire
Young farmer Josh has grown up on his family’s arable farm and been properly hands-on in the industry since he was 16 years old.
He got into fitness while studying agriculture at Harper Adams University, training in the gym and playing rugby.
During the pandemic, he set up his own gym in one of the barns and spends a couple of hours a day training after a long day sat in the tractor.
“Working on the farm day in, day out affected me mentally, but training in the gym took me out of that negative headspace. Now my days on the farm are more productive, I feel more energetic.”
Name: Sarah Hughes
Location: Bicester, Oxfordshire
Farmer’s daughter Sarah has lived and worked on her family’s farm her whole life, producing and wholesaling horse feed.
A self-confessed rural pursuit and horse lover, she keeps eight ponies, plays polo and rides in the hunt.
Sarah describes herself as a happy person, but recently struggled with a tough relationship break up.
“I’m a strong believer in you make your life what it is, and if it isn’t making you happy, you need to do whatever it takes to change it. So, to look after my mental health, I guess I concentrate on looking after me.”
Name: Alex Gormley
Location: County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Beef farmer Alex has worked with his dad and helped on a neighbouring farm since returning from farming in New Zealand two years ago.
He’s incredibly sporty, getting stuck into activities such as football, cross-country running, table tennis, rowing, bouldering and, most successfully, rugby. He played the sport at a semi-professional level.
“Sport is a big factor in managing my mental health, I am a person who is happiest when active and always try to make time for physical activity not only to protect my body from the strain of the manual side of farming, but also my mind,” he says.
Name: Ellen White
Location: Stadhampton, Oxfordshire
Leeds University student Ellen spends her holidays helping out on her family farm with everything from harvest and lambing, to rearing and hand-finishing 700 turkeys for Christmas.
When not studying or donning her wellies, she works part time as a gym instructor and loves CrossFit training. She’s also part of her university hockey team, and enjoys a swim at the local pool or in the river at the bottom of the farm.
“I also value some time to myself. I love baking – giving myself an afternoon to make a mess and, hopefully, an edible cake always relaxes me.”
Name: Graeme Slater
Location: Preston, Lancashire
Graeme was born and raised on a dairy and sheep farm, and has worked on several farms since leaving school.
He now works as a cheesemaker at a local dairy during the week, but still enjoys working on the family farm as weekends.
“I find going to the gym really helps me stay in a positive frame of mind,” he says. “I hardly drink alcohol anymore because that used to make me feel down.”
Name: Emma Ashley
Location: Hertford, Hertfordshire
“Fitness has gone from childhood fun to a way to focus my mind,” says Emma, who runs the shoot and manages the conservation of wild meadows on her family’s arable farm.
Being part of a small farm means she needed to find part-time work elsewhere, so she trained as an accountant and a personal trainer.
“I run a weekly bootcamp for our tenants, recognising that living on a farm can be lonely for them too. I write training programmes and open up our farm gym to fellow farmers,” she says.
“Maintaining a life balance and a resilience is key to both physical and mental health.”
About Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020
Britain’s Fittest Farmer was launched by Farmers Weekly as a fun way of sparking a vital discussion about the physical and mental health of the nation’s farmers.
It’s more important than ever before to make sure Britain’s farmers are getting the exercise they need to stay fit and healthy.
Farming can also be a challenging and isolated job, which is why it is crucial for farmers to focus on their own mental health and wellbeing so that they can keep their business in tip-top condition too.
Watch the video highlights from the qualifier weekend.
Britain’s Fittest Farmer: Our sponsor and partners
Tough, rugged, agile – the new INEOS Grenadier 4X4 will share plenty of traits exhibited by the winner of Britain’s Fittest Farmer. That’s why we’re so pleased to be sponsoring this rural British physical challenge.
As an uncompromising, no frills, off-road vehicle, the Grenadier will provide all the capability, durability and reliability you need to tackle the toughest tasks on the farm. That’s why we see ourselves as the ideal partner for this true test of grit, endurance and strength.
For more information on Grenadier, pay a visit to their website.
Farm Fitness: Partner
Farm Fitness has rapidly become a burning beacon on the UK fitness scene, attracting spectators and participants from all over the country to come and take a swing at its almost alchemic blend of modified strongman, functional bodybuilding, calisthenics and blistering cardio efforts.
The gym, founded by farmer’s son Tom Kemp, was voted one of the best gyms in the world and ‘coolest outdoor space’ by Men’s Health (PDF)
Tom has blended his farming background with his love of training to create a raw and exciting outdoor environment for people of all strengths and abilities to get fit.
The Farming Community Network: Partner
The Farming Community Network (FCN) is a voluntary organisation and charity that supports farmers and families within the farming community through difficult times.
The charity has helped thousands of people deal with a variety of issues, including financial difficulties, animal disease, mental health and family disputes.
Volunteers provide free, confidential, pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help, regardless of whether the issue is personal or business-related. FCN also runs a confidential national helpline and e-helpline.