A Plumpton College student scooped one of the most prestigious young dairy farmer’s awards at the Farmers Club yesterday.
Luke Thompson, winner of this year’s RABDF/Dairy Crest Dairy Student of the Year Award, said the industry had a bit of an image problem that needed addressing and that it was up to farmers to change this.
“If continuous improvements were made in welfare standards, while demonstrating this to the public, a huge step would be made in raising dairying’s image.
“We shouldn’t be relying on others; it’s up to us as dairy farmers to be making a difference. Making the public more aware of costs of production and improving our image by promoting what we are good at, and also sharing how we are improving the bad bits, could help get us more support,” he says.
Luke, a student at Plumpton College, east Sussex, grew up on the outskirts of the capital and was drawn into dairying because of his love for the countryside and farming, despite going against his mother’s wishes.
“Farming is a career; you either love it or hate it. I always wanted to go into farming, but I remember at the time my mother wasn’t too happy. My dad, however, spent 32 years in a job he didn’t enjoy and told me to do something I’d like, even if the money wasn’t great.”
After his dad’s words of advice, Luke made his way through the industry spending time working on a beef farm as an apprentice stockman, as well as a dairy herdsman at Moulton College.
RABDF vice-chairman and one of the judges, David Cotton, said the competition was tough. “Luke gave the most complete answers and was looking at the whole picture. He was looking at how we can get welfare issues across to consumers, as well as staff training as a way of promoting best practice.”
Luke, who received £1000 for his win, said he will spend it on travelling to look at the wider farming industry. Plumpton College also received £500, which lecturer Izak van Heerden said they would spend on getting some cheese-making equipment.
“We wanted to buy something practical with the money and cheese-making equipment will help students get a better understanding of processing and about creating niche markets, too,” he said.
Runners up included Richard Edge, Harper Adams University College; Robert McConaghy, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise, Greenmount Campus; and Sam Pearson, University of Aberystwyth.