Video: Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020 champions crowned at grand final

A young farmer from Somerset and a Hertfordshire woman have been named Britain’s Fittest Farmers (BFF) 2020, at the thrilling climax of the competition’s grand finale.

James Arney, 25, from near Frome in Somerset, and Emma Ashley, 31, from Hertford in Hertfordshire, took home the trophies for top male and female competitors, along with the cash prize of £1,000 each.

The BFF final was held on Saturday (17 October) at Farm Fitness, an outdoor gym run by farmer’s son Tom Kemp on his family’s arable unit in Essex.

See also: Meet the 2020 Britain’s Fittest Farmer Finalists 

The nine male and nine final finalists tackled a variety of punishing physical tasks designed to push their speed, strength and stamina to the limit.

Winner of Britain's Fittest Farmer 2020 James Arney © Colin Miller/MAG

Male champion James Arney (centre) on the podium with Alex Gormley (far left) and Will Arden in joint second, and third-placed Ben Andrews (right) © MAG/Colin Miller

Female winner Emma Ashley (centre), with second-placed Ellen White (left) and Fiona Penfold (right), who came third. © MAG/Colin Miller

The challenges included cross-country sprinting, lugging straw bales around, blasts on assault bikes, throwing heavy sandbags over walls, lifting up to 100kg above their heads and deadlifting as much as 120kg as many times as they could manage.

Co-judge Tom Kemp said: “It’s great to see so many farmers and people from the agricultural industry homing in on their fitness and looking after themselves. 

“Their resilience and work rate is top-drawer, and they’re willing to take on any challenge and just get it done.”

Watch the video highlights of the Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020 final.

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.

Prior to the final, each of the contestants took part in an interview with Jude McCann, chief executive of the Farming Community Network (FCN) and Farmers Weekly‘s community editor Oli Hill.

Britain's fittest Farmer 2020 winner Emma Ashley leaps over a bale © Colin Miller/MAG

Winner Emma Ashley leaps over a bale © MAG/Colin Miller

The interview stage focused on the finalists’ awareness of mental health issues and their ideas on how to address the problems faced by those working in the agricultural industry, including removing the stigma and supporting farmers to talk more openly about their struggles.

Scores from this round were then combined with the finalists’ performances at Saturday’s final to reveal one farming man and woman who make outstanding ambassadors for championing physical health and mental wellbeing in agriculture.

James Arney jumps a wall in the final leg of the competition © Colin Miller/MAG

James Arney jumps a wall in the final leg of the competition © MAG/Colin Miller

FCN head of operations Philip Wilson was at the final to present the charity’s FarmWell Award to Somerset beef farmer Fiona Penfold. The award recognised her fantastic attitude towards wellbeing matters.

“[At FCN] we really do emphasise the importance of physical wellbeing leads to much better mental wellbeing – the two are inextricably linked and that’s why we’re here at the final,” said Philip.

Essential exercise

On being awarded the top prize, young farmer James Arney said: “It’s a great achievement – I came here to win it, and thankfully I did.

“Today was tougher than I expected. After the first cycle and run today, my legs felt a bit heavy.” 

He trains five or six times a week, focusing on functional fitness, including running and cycling.

Winner of Britain's Fittest Farmer 2020 James Arney © MAG/Colin Miller

Winner of Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020 James Arney © MAG/Colin Miller

“Working and living at home sometimes can be quite tough just because it can be full on. So it’s quite nice to go to the gym, speak to other people and there’s a great community.

“For me, exercise is a great way to left some steam off and is good for my mental health.”

James’ family farm, in Rode, near Frome, contract-rears about 350 heifers after its dairy herd was sold three years ago.

Winner of Britain's Fittest Farmer 2020 Emma Ashley © Colin Miller/MAG

Winner of Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020 Emma Ashley © Colin Miller/MAG

Farming single-mum Emma Ashley said she couldn’t believe that she had won this year’s competition.

“It feels amazing; I’m very overwhelmed and still shaking from the workouts. It was hard but I loved every second of it.”

Emma runs the shoot and manages the conservation of wild meadows on her family’s 100ha arable farm just south of Hertford. She introduced a wellbeing policy for the farm staff during the coronavirus lockdown.

Living and working on a relatively small farm has led Emma to find part-time work as a personal trainer, running a bootcamp for local farmers at home. 

“I do a lot of CrossFit and during lockdown I’ve done a lot of running, so I feel that’s really helped with my endurance for today.

“When I exercise I feel so much better in myself, and I think even if you go for a walk, it helps with mental health – 100%.”

Full interview with the winners of Britain’s Fittest Farmer 2020 will be published next week.

Britain’s Fittest Farmer: Our sponsor and partners

Grenadier: Sponsor
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.