Four young people who have taken over the running of the family farm after their father fell seriously ill with cancer have been given a Special Award in this year’s Devon Farm Business Awards.
They are Megan, Ross, Jack and Sam Broom, of Logshayne Farm, Colyton in East Devon, where they milk 350 Holstein cows. When their father Nigel Broom was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the stomach in November 2015, not only was it a massive blow to the family, but it also had potentially serious implications for the farm business.
But the three eldest children, Megan, Ross and Jack, who were then aged 21, 19 and 18 respectively, rose to the challenge of running what is by any standards a substantial farming business, and have since been joined by younger brother Sam.
They were nominated for the awards by vet Bridget Goscomb, of the Vale Veterinary Practice, after she had visited the farm to supervise TB testing, involving some 570 animals.
“I was astonished by how well they had organised everything and left with an overwhelming sense of admiration”, she said.
“You could not help but be inspired by them, and the way they combine running a large and complex business with great care for the countryside to support the continued balance of rural life. My colleagues with the Vale Veterinary Practice wholeheartedly share my enthusiasm for this nomination.”
Devon’s Farmer of the Year & Best Woman in Farming
Jacqui Lanning, of Devonshire Poultry, has been adjudged ‘Devon’s Farmer of the Year’ in the Devon Farm Business Awards, organised by the Addington Fund, the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) and leading regional solicitors Stephens Scown.
She is the first woman to have been crowned Farmer of the Year since the awards were launched, five years ago. Jacqui Lanning, who also took home the award for ‘Devon’s Best Woman in Farming’, is the co-owner and founder of Devonshire Poultry, a broiler chicken business encompassing six farms across three counties, based at Sheldon in the Blackdown Hills. She started the business with her husband Robert in 1991, and it now produces some 4.5 million table chickens a year, employing 11 people. Jacqui’s speciality is the unglamorous but vital work of ensuring compliance with the vast swathe of regulations to which a business on this scale is subject.
Lead judge for the Farmer of the Year award, Mole Valley Farmers’ Chairman, Graeme Cock, said: “Devonshire Poultry is a fantastic business which bases its entire marketing theme on Devon. Jacqui’s role in the business is absolutely vital, running as she does six very efficient and high welfare units across three counties from her Devon base. She is an outstanding winner.”
“Her focus and drive is obvious and she clearly loves her work”, observed judge Richard Townsend, who placed Jacqui top in the Best Woman in Farming category. “The future looks bright with a great team in place providing a solid foundation for future growth.”
Best Commercial Farmer
The award for Best Commercial Farmer went to the Verney family of Crosse Farm, Bishops Nympton near South Molton. This is very much a family farming business, in which the two generations, David and Dawn Verney and their two sons James and Edward, are working together and to each other’s strengths as a formidable team.
It is a mixed farm, in which each enterprise complements the others. There is an 800 head herd of milking goats, producing milk for Delamere Dairy, a free-range poultry unit, producing eggs for Waitrose, a flock of 400 ewes and a substantial arable acreage. Manure from the goats and poultry boosts yields from the arable land and avoids the need to purchase artificial fertilisers, whilst the fact that the different enterprises produce income at different times of year helps to even out the overall cash flow, as well as providing insurance against problems in any particular market.
Best Dairy Farmer
Devon’s Best Dairy Farmers for 2018 are the Williams family of Higher Hampton Farm, Shute, near Axminster, where they milk a 260 cow herd of home-bred Holstein Friesians. The cows are self-milked through four robots, enabling brothers Martin and Jon Williams and Jon’s son Ben, to focus on maximising cow health and welfare, and enabling them to boost yields to a remarkable average of 12200 per cow.
Robots are also used to keep the cows’ lying areas scraped and clean, and to measure and distribute feed for the cows. And besides all that, the main cattle building is temperature controlled, and there are even rotating brushes which the cows use when they need a scratch. It all adds up to a fine example of a modern dairy unit, making best use of technology, according to judge David Parish.
“This is a family business, striving for excellence”, he says. “All aspects of the development of the unit have been seriously thought through and it is immaculate, with bio-security measures in place”.
The CAAV John Neason Diversification Award
Christmas is the focus for the business which has won Lester and Helen Bowker this year’s CAAV John Neason Diversification Award. It was in 2004 that the husband and wife team decided to start planting Christmas trees to supplement their dairy, beef, arable and cider apple enterprises on the 290 ha Cotley Farm at Wimple in East Devon. The next stage was a Christmas Shop, through which not only the trees but a whole range of other Christmas merchandise and produce is now sold, providing seasonal employment for 25 people. There is even a small herd of reindeer which are available to hire for events in the run-up to Christmas!
Last Christmas, some 10,000 people visited the Bowkers’ shop, enabling them to donate thousands of pounds to charity. Lester and Helen told the judges: “We wanted to be a West Country-based niche business supporting other local businesses for local people whilst avoiding the feel of commerciality”.
Best Young Farmer
Devon’s Best Young Farmer for 2018 is Molly Westwood, who runs her Panda Holsteins dairy cow genetics business from the family farm at Molland on the edge of Exmoor. Although still only in her early 20s, she has acquired a formidable reputation for her knowledge of embryo transfer and related technology and her success in the show ring. In 2016, for example, one of her cattle made the top price at the prestigious Carlisle Black and White sale, while her heifers score consistently highly in the Holstein UK herdbook classification scheme. All of this is on top of her full-time job with Mastergen in Taunton, and she still finds time to teach other young cattle breeders the skills involved in breeding and showing cattle.
The judges’ verdict: “Molly has developed a strong business acumen. She exudes great passion for her cows and her business in general, and has a clear vision and strategy for taking her business forward over the next decade.”
Devon’s Farming Champion for 2018 will need no introduction to the hill farming community, not just in Devon, but across the whole of England. He is Robin Milton, of Higher Barton Farm, West Anstey on Exmoor, the recently retired Chairman of the NFU’s Uplands Forum and now Chairman of the Exmoor National Park Authority. During his six years as the NFU’s leading spokesman on hill farming he has acquired a national reputation for his advcocacy and dedication. And now that he has served the maximum term of office in that role, he has shifted his focus to Exmoor, having played a pivotal role in producing the policy document “Exmoor’s Ambition”, pointing the way forward for the National Park and its inhabitants in a post-Brexit world.
“Robin has done a sterling job representing upland farmers from across the country in his role as Chairman of the NFU Uplands Forum”, says judge Mark Weekes. “He has been a regular visitor to Defra and numerous other organisations in his quest for a profitable future for upland farmers, whilst “Exmoor’s Ambition” sets out a transformative plan to sustain and enhance Exmoor’s farmed landscape and community after Brexit.”
Lifetime Achievement Award
For the last 21 years Ollie Allen has made the county’s largest annual event happen; channelling, finessing and guiding the passion and commitment of hundreds of volunteers and a small, dedicated staff team, at the same time as attracting and nurturing trade stands, exhibitors and sponsors.
It hasn’t always been a smooth ride. The 2001 event had to be postponed until August because of Foot and Mouth – although what a symbol of recovery and renewal that belated event became! She went on to champion the food revolution which has helped to transform the quality and variety of locally-produced food and drink.
At the same time she became part of the wider events community, serving for 14 years as a Council member of the ASAO (Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations); there could have been no-one better qualified to take over the leadership of the show community, when she was elected chairman of the ASAO in 2013.
She has played a key role in creating one of the finest and best organised agricultural shows in the country. There is no-one more deserving of this lifetime achievement award than Devon County Show Secretary Ollie Allen; the entire farming community in Devon owes her a huge debt of gratitude.
The judges for this year’s Devon Farm Business Awards have had the difficult task of picking the winners from an outstanding short-list of entries.
The farm businesses which have made the shortlist represent a fascinating cross section of Devon farming as it is today, ranging as they do from highly intensive, large-scale businesses, through to small-scale organic producers supplying premium markets. Family farms are strongly represented, as you would expect in the county Devon, and there are plenty of younger farmers on the short-list, and not just in the Best Young Farmer category.
Now in their fifth year, the awards are organised by the Addington Fund, the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) and leading regional solicitors Stephens Scown. There are eight categories: Best Commercial Farmer, Best Dairy Farmer, Best Woman in Farming, Best Young Farmer, The CAAV John Neason Farm Diversification Award and Farming Champion, with the overall winner being crowned Devon’s Farmer of the Year. There is also a Lifetime Achievement Award which recognises someone who has given their all across the industry over a lifetime.
The awards will be announced and presented at a dinner on the eve of the Devon County Show by Susie Murray from Stephens Scown and category sponsors, with Minette Batters, the President of the National Farmers’ Union giving an after dinner speech.
Best Commercial Farmer
- Peter & James Coleman, Creedy Carver
- David, Dawn, James and Edward Verney, DCW & DA Verney & Son
- David Merrin, Hendham Farm
Best Dairy Farmer
- J & A Williams and sons, Higher Hampton
- Alan & Donna Webber, Hensley Farm Limited
- Nick & Kate Bowden, Higher Odham Farm
The CAAV John Neason Diversification Award
- Lester & Helen Bowker, Gateshayes Farm Partnership
- J&L Perkin, Dartington Dairy
- Vicki Lawrence, Knightstone Farm Glamping
Best Young Farmer
- Rob and Ben Yendell, Wood Barton
- Molly Westwood, Panda Holsteins
- James Banbury, Frankaborough
- Megan, Ross, Jack and Sam Broom, Logshayne Farm
Best Woman in Farming
- Jacqui Lanning, Devonshire Poultry Limited
- Danielle Preistley, St Boniface Veterinary Clinic
- Sarah Baker, Gnatts Farm
- Dudley & Frances Luxton, D Luxton & Partners
- John Varley, Clinton Estate
- Robin Milton, Higher Barton Farm
Additional Categories Awarded on the night;
Lifetime Achievement Award
Devon’s Farmer of the Year
We are grateful for the support that Barclays have given by match funding the auction/raffle that will be taking place
The search is on for excellence in Devon agriculture as the fifth Devon Farm Business Awards were launched this week (Monday, February 5, 2018).
The awards highlight the excellence and dynamism of farming in Devon at a time of great uncertainty within the agricultural sector and are organised by the Addington Fund, the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) and leading regional solicitors Stephens Scown.
Sheila Cole, Chairman of Trustees of the Addington Fund said: “The Devon Farm Business Awards are a wonderful opportunity to celebrate all that is great about Devon’s farmers. The Addington Fund is deeply committed to helping the farming community in Devon. Farmers are not great at singing their own praises, but these awards are a real chance for the county’s farmers to receive the recognition they so richly deserve. The trustees are very grateful for the ongoing support of Stephens Scown, Devon County Agricultural Association and all the sponsors, which has contributed greatly to the success of the Awards.”
Phil Reed, partner and head of rural services at Stephens Scown said: “Farmers are notoriously reluctant to shout about their success, but that is exactly what we need to do. The Devon Farm Business Awards is our way of saying thank you and celebrating success. Please take the time to put yourself forward, or nominate another farmer who is doing great things. We need to give the sector the recognition it deserves for the enormous contribution it makes to all of our lives.”
Mrs Mary Quicke MBE, Chairman of the DCAA, said: “The Devon Farm Business Awards provide so many inspiring examples of how family farming businesses are rising to the many challenges of today’s world. And that has never been more important, given the many uncertainties that still surround the Brexit process and its implications for farming. What we can be sure of, however, is that the best farming businesses, in terms not only of production efficiency, but also customer focus and environmental awareness, will survive and prosper whatever the future holds.
“By turning the spotlight on those businesses, and highlighting the lessons they provide, the awards have a key role in equipping us for that future. Not just the DCAA, but the industry as a whole in Devon and beyond, owes a great debt of gratitude to our sponsors for making the awards possible, with all the benefits they bring.”
Farmers and growers in Devon are invited to apply for one of the following categories:
Best Commercial Farmer
Best Dairy Farmer
The CAAV John Neason Diversification Award
Devon’s Best Young Farmer
Best Woman in Farming
Lifetime Achievement Award
Devon’s Farmer of the Year will be awarded from the category winners.
Entries close on March 16, 2018, with the winners being announced at a gala dinner to be held on the eve of the Devon County Show, on Wednesday, May 16 at the showground at Westpoint, Exeter
Please note all entries are now closed for 2018.
A farmer who has built up a thriving dairy farm from nothing, overcoming many challenges along the way, has been named Devon’s Farmer of the Year at the Devon Farm Business Awards. This tenacity and perseverance is echoed in several other winners, including a single mother who runs her tenanted farm by herself and a beef and sheep farmer who stepped up to help her dairy farming friends by persuading her local supermarket to stock pints of milk alongside fizzy drinks.
The awards, which are in their fourth year, are organised by Addington Fund, Stephens Scown LLP and Devon County Agricultural Association. Designed to celebrate and showcase the best farmers and farming businesses in Devon, the awards took place on Wednesday, 17 May – the eve of the Devon County Show.
Highlights of the awards dinner can be viewed here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVdmmLU0AiE&feature=youtu.be. Thanks to Sam Mole at Stephens Scown LLP for producing this video.
Ian Bell OBE, Chief Executive of the Addington Fund said: “The Devon Farm Business Awards are one of the highlights of my year. From reviewing the nominations to meeting the winners on the night – at every stage, I am struck by the quality of farming businesses we have here in Devon. As well as celebrating success, the awards help us to raise vital funds for the Addington Fund, which will be used to help provide housing for farming families who have to leave the industry through no fault of their own.”
Phil Reed, partner and head of rural services at Stephens Scown said: “Passion and perseverance are crucial ingredients in any farm, and tonight’s nominees and winners show what can be achieved with this attitude. Farming has long been woven into the way of life in Devon, and the farmers we are celebrating tonight show the valuable contribution that the sector continues to make to the success of the region as a whole. Hearing the stories of our nominees and winners it would be hard not to be impressed – they are doing Devon proud.”
Mary Quicke MBE, Chairman of Council of Devon County Agricultural Association said: “Once again, our Devon Farm Business Award winners are demonstrating that, for all the current uncertainties, farming remains an industry of enterprise and opportunity. They are an inspiration to their fellow farmers, and standard bearers for Devon farming to the wider world. The Devon County Agricultural Association is proud to have been able to help give these outstanding farming people and businesses the recognition they deserve.”
Colin Latham of Higher Stowford Farm near Ilfracombe was named Best Commercial Farmer, sponsored by PKF Francis Clark and went on to win the night’s biggest prize, Devon Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers. Colin, along with his wife Glenys, have built up a 4.5 million litre dairy unit from almost nothing and impressed the judges with their tenacity and ability to create opportunities out of adversity.
Colin worked on his father’s farm, but when it was sold, he was left unemployed and with no resources in his early 20s. Colin and Glenys managed to secure and make a success of Devon County Council farm tenancies in the 70s and 80s, and today, along with their sons Geoff and Ian, own around 300 acres and rent a further 600 acres – including one of their original tenant farms. At their first farm tenancy they built up a dairy herd of 45 – they now milk 540 cows.
Colin’s road to success has not been easy and he has overcome many challenges, turning them in to opportunities. He lost 3,000 animals to foot and mouth disease in 2001, but used the capital to help purchase more land. When he received a notice to quit his tenant farm he used it to help secure planning permission to build a family home and cattle shed at Higher Stowford. When one of his sons suffered a serious quad bike accident on a steep part of the farm, Colin decided to plant the area with trees. The woodland was eventually sold, releasing more capital to buy more productive land.
In Colin’s words: “I love the job and I love the challenge. If I was 24 again, I wouldn’t change a day.”
Lord Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon received the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Cornish Mutual in recognition of his major contribution to the agricultural industry – an influence that looks set to continue to shape the future of farming in Devon and beyond for many years to come.
A chartered surveyor, past Chairman of Devon CLA and past national President of CLA dealing with the turmoil of Foot and Mouth Disease, David has also held the position of Crown Commissioner, Board member of SWARDA, DEFRA’S SW Rural and farming network and James Dyson’s Beeswax farming company.
David’s Future of Farming Review has had a major impact on farming and will continue to do so. With a focus on the people behind the farms, and the importance of progression and encouraging new entrants in to farming, David has put his report into practice on his own estate, giving a young family an opportunity to farm.
The Best Dairy Farmer award, sponsored by Crediton Dairy went to Tim Rich of Broadley Farm near Honiton. Tim impressed the judges with his astute business sense. His passion for cows and natural ability as a stockman, along with his hard work and commitment has seen his farm turned around, with animal welfare his top priority.
Rachel Leonard of Northcott Barton Farm, Chumleigh was named the Best Woman in Farming, sponsored by NatWest. She does all of the work on this 190 acre beef holding on her own, as well as raising her daughter as a single parent.
A first generation tenant farmer, who has built her herd up gradually over the last 13 years, Rachel’s passion for her cows and the countryside are evident the moment you first meet her. Not only does she have an infectious enthusiasm for all that she does she passes this on to others, regularly helping to educate the guests staying in the farm’s holiday cottage.
When the Bartlett family took over their 400 acre rented farm in 2009 there was a small farm shop, but in the intervening years the family has developed Bartlett’s Farm Shop into a must visit local retail outlet, which employs five full time equivalent members of staff.
Run by Len and Angela’s daughters Rebecca and Nicola, with help from their son Daniel, the farm shop sells beef and lamb produced on the farm, as well as supporting 30 other local producers. The family opened a coffee shop in 2012 and during the quieter winter months provide breakfasts to a number of shoots. The business also has expansion prospects and the family is now investigating the possibility of setting up a small scale dairy processing business to sell products through the shop.
The winner of the Farming Champion award, sponsored by NFU and NFU Mutual, is Sylvia Crocker whose ‘milk and sarnies’ campaign has persuaded her local Tesco supermarket to display pints of milk as a convenience drink, alongside sandwiches and fizzy drinks. Although she runs a tenanted beef and sheep farm at East Raddon Farm near Okehampton, she was inspired to support her hard-pressed dairy farming colleagues.
Positive sales figures from her local supermarket have led to other stores in the South West and Swansea following suit, with the possibility that the idea may spread nationwide. Sylvia has also approached other supermarket chains with the idea.
Richard Tucker of Ditchett Farm near Tiverton won Devon’s Best Young Farmer award, sponsored by Savills. The judges described Richard as a “very impressive young man”. Having experienced various types of farming across the country, Richard returned to the family farm to concentrate on developing the dairy herd. Milking 240 Friesian/Jersey cross breeds his cows look fantastic and are performing well.
Richard’s ability and reputation are creating opportunities to take more land and, although a tenant, he is investing in better buildings and equipment but on a very ambitious repayment schedule to limit his long term exposure to debt.
The winners each received a hand made trophy created by local fused glass designers Mother and Daughter Glass from Plymouth.
Photographs by Julie Louise Sum LSWPP can be viewed here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1sb4hqt5bkj2og2/AACbMxB_Xg6KraROs78_Lxrna?dl=0
Farmers from across Devon have made it to the shortlist of the region’s premier agricultural awards, the Devon Farm Business Awards.
The awards, which are in their fourth year, are organised by Addington Fund, Stephens Scown LLP and Devon County Agricultural Association. Designed to celebrate and showcase the best farmers and farming businesses in Devon, the awards will take place on the eve of the Devon County Show, on 17 May.
The event’s organisers highlight the strength of the shortlist as a reason for optimism in the face of the challenges currently facing the farming sector.
Ian Bell, OBE, Chief Executive of the Addington Fund said: “As an industry, farming will have to adapt to the challenges of Brexit. The farmers shortlisted for our awards are already shaping their farming businesses to meet these challenges head-on. These are the dynamic men and women who will manage change to achieve the maximum benefit for their own farming enterprises and the industry as a whole.”
Phil Reed, partner and head of rural services at Stephens Scown adds: “We were involved in creating these awards, and have been blown away by the standard of the shortlist each year. Now more than ever, we need to pull together as an industry and shout about our success. These hardworking farmers show just what drive, determination and talent exists in Devon’s farming community.”
Mary Quicke, Chairman of Council of the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) said: “It’s an outstanding shortlist, which demonstrates the depth of talent that there is in Devon farming. The DCAA exists to promote excellence in farming, both within the industry and to the world outside, and the DFBA are at the heart of what we are. These farming businesses show, in practical, human terms what excellence means, and any one of them would be a worthy winner.”
The shortlist for the Best Commercial Farmer category, which is sponsored by PKF Francis Clark, is: the Lee family, who farm at Uppincott Farm, near Crediton; Colin Latham of Latham Partners, Illfracombe; Stuart and Lynette Luxton of North Alfordon, Okehampton; and Rodney Hooper of Lower Sessland Farm, Crediton.
The Best Dairy Farmer category, which is sponsored by Crediton Dairy, has a four-strong shortlist: Stewart and Ann Taylor of New Standon Farm, Okehampton; Lawrence Glanville of South Battisborough Farm, near Plymouth; Alan and Donna Webber of Hensley Farm, Crediton; and Tim Rich of Broadley Farm, Honiton.
The shortlist for the CAAV John Neason Diversification Award, which is sponsored by Devon County Council, County Farms Estate, are: Len and Angela Bartlett of Hayne Farm and Bartletts Farm Shop, Honiton; Andrew and Jenni Guy of Julian’s, Holsworthy; Janet and Andrew Verney of Verney’s Molton Ice, Bishops Nympton; and Lester and Helen Bowker of the Gateshayes Farm Partnership, Whimple.
The shortlist for the Best Young Farmer category, which is sponsored by Savills, is Richard Tucker of Ditchett Farm, Tiverton and Alex and Claire Wilson-North of Little Stone Farm, South Molton.
The other categories which will be announced on the night of the awards are: Best Woman in Farming (sponsored by NatWest); Farming Champion (sponsored by the NFU and NFU Mutual); Lifetime Achievement (sponsored by Cornish Mutual); and Devon’s Farmer of the Year (sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers).
Nominations have now closed for the Devon Farm Business Awards 2017 and we’re delighted with the number of entries we received. Our shortlisted nominees will now be visited by the judges prior to the winners being announced at the Awards dinner on Wednesday 17th May at Westpoint.
Could you follow in Gordon Davis’s footsteps to join the cream of the crop as Devon’s Farmer of the Year 2017?
Last year’s winner Gordon demonstrated that he is an outstandingly efficient dairy farmer, but also a great ambassador for the industry. He joins 2015 winners John and Clare Clapp from Halberton and 2014 winners Pete and Di Wastenage from East Budleigh.
Gordon says “I’m very proud of what our family business has achieved through hard work and determination. Being awarded Devon’s Best Dairy Farmer and then overall winner of the Devon Farm Business Awards in May recognised this achievement. It has been the highlight of my year, and I encourage all farmers in Devon to enter the 2017 awards”.
The Devon Farm Business Awards recognises and celebrates the hard work and dedication of farmers in Devon, and is organised by a partnership of the Addington Fund, Devon County Agricultural Association and Stephens Scown.
Nominations are now closed for:
- Best Commercial Farmer – sponsored by PKF Francis Clark
- Best Dairy Farmer – sponsored by Crediton Dairy
- Best Woman in Farming – sponsored by NatWest
- The John Neason Diversification Award – sponsored by Devon County Council, County Farms Estate
- Devon’s Farming Champion – sponsored by the NFU and NFU Mutual
- Devon’s Best Young Farmer – sponsored by Savills.
The shortlisted nominees will be invited to a black tie dinner held on the eve of the Devon County Show, on Wednesday 17th May, where the winners will be announced.
If you’re a tweeter then please follow us and tweet about the awards using @DFBA_2017.
Seven outstanding Devon farming businesses are celebrating tonight (Wednesday May 18) after picking up the top prizes in the 2016 Devon Farm Business Awards, organised by a partnership of the Devon County Agricultural Association, the Addington Fund and Stephens Scown.
The awards were presented at a dinner and awards ceremony held at Westpoint, home of the Devon County Show, attended by EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Affairs Phil Hogan.
Devon’s Farmer of the Year for 2016 and also Best Dairy Farmer is 52 year old Gordon Davis of Westcott Farm, Westleigh, near Tiverton, where he and his family milk some 200 pedigree Jersey dairy cows.
Chairman of the judges and Addington Fund Chief Executive, Ian Bell OBE, said that Mr Davis was not only an outstandingly efficient dairy farmer, but also a great ambassador for his industry.
“Standards on this farm are second to none”, he said. “The Rivermead herd is one of the finest Jersey herds in the country and the farm is a model of tidy efficiency, where attention to detail is everything.
“But over and above that is the work that Gordon does for his fellow farmers, in setting up his own dairy company to provide an outlet for his own and five other dairy farmers’ milk, and as an ambassador and educator for the dairy industry. Put all of that together and you have an outstanding Farmer of the Year.”
Westcott Farm is very much a family business. Gordon and his son Kevin work full time on the farm, with his wife Hazel and his other son, Mark, also much involved. The family’s Rivermead herd of Jerseys has won many top prizes at agricultural shows. Left without a milk contract when his processor closed earlier this year, Gordon Davis solved the problem by setting up his own dairy company, which now markets high quality Channel Island milk from his own farm, and five other former suppliers of the defunct processor, who might otherwise have had to quit dairying. He has established demand in London and the Midlands from companies manufacturing high end specialist products ranging from Indian desserts to cheese and butter.
The Davis family are great believers in helping urban consumers understand more about dairy farming, and have laid on many milking demonstrations, for children in particular, as well as being keen supporters of Devon County Council’s “Farm Wise” initiative, which will once again be featured at this year’s Devon County Show.
“A wonderful herd of high-yielding Jerseys with excellent conformation right through, superb udders, feet and legs, producing nearly 7000 litres per head at 5.6% butterfat and 4.1% protein, with a calving index of 372 days which is absolutely top class” said the judges.
The award for Devon’s Best Young Farmers went to Ian and Cath Ratcliffe, still in their early 30s, who milk 350 cows at West Webbery near Bideford, having moved themselves and their cows to Devon from Cheshire in order to grow their business. Ian is a former Farmers Weekly columnist and Cath was a dairy consultant, who is now putting theory into practice. She has set up bench-marking and grazing discussion groups to boost the efficiency not only of her own, but also of her neighbours’ dairy businesses.
“Their positive approach and individual complementary skill sets are enabling their business to grow at an impressive rate, whilst managing to retain a contented workforce and maintain an enviable work/life balance,” said the judges.
Another young couple, Marcus and Liz Warner, of Lower Henland Farm, Kentisbeare near Cullompton, went home with the CAAV* John Neason Farm Diversification Award, for their business selling quail eggs and duck eggs. They moved to Devon from Gloucestershire to take on the tenancy of a 180 acre Devon County Council farm, and needed to diversify to make the farm viable. They now have 15,000 quail on the farm, producing 9,500 eggs a day – 15 per cent of UK production! – as well as 2,000 free range egg-producing ducks.
Attention to detail and determination were the qualities that most impressed the judges. “This is a couple who are entrepreneurial, ambitious, and are developing a thriving business on a relatively small tenanted farm,” they said.
Diversification has also been the name of the game for Devon’s “Farming Champion” for 2016, Geoff Sayers.
His Carswell Group, based at Holbeton in the South Hams, is now one of the largest and most innovative farm-based businesses in the county, encompassing five grass-fed dairy herds producing 10 million litres of organic milk a year, the ‘Holy Cow’ range of organic dairy products, the ‘Well Hung Meat Company’ specialising in top quality meat and meat products, and a high-end farm holiday enterprise.
It was the example that Geoff Sayers has set on branding, provenance, quality and business management, as well as a ‘clear focus’ on staff training and progression that earned him the award. “The way in which the three pillars of the business – core farming, food processing and holiday lets – are combined to promote British farming and food is hugely impressive,” said the judges.
This year’s Best Woman in Farming is Bridget Cole, of Greenwell Farm near Yelverton on Dartmoor. Bridget farms what is very much a traditional family Dartmoor hill farm with her two sons Matthew and Neil. They run South Devon and Galloway suckler cows, as well as large flocks of Bluefaced Leicester and Dartmoor Whiteface ewes. However, it is for her work off the farm as well as on it, that Bridget has earned this award. She is an active member of the NFU, who makes her presence felt at national as well as regional level, and a hard-working member of the Dartmoor Commoners’ Council, which regulates grazing on the moor. She is also a leading protagonist in Dartmoor Farmers Ltd, the co-operate which was set up to market Dartmoor beef and lamb.
“Bridget has dedicated her life to farming on Dartmoor,” said the judges. “Her sons are the fourth generation working on the farm. Bridget is committed to the Dartmoor Commoners Council and will do everything she can to promote farming and Dartmoor in any way possible.”
The award for Devon’s Best Commercial Farmers went to Julian and Marianne Ayre, who have two farms near Tiverton – Westcott Farm and Stanterton Farm – on which they milk a total of 580 cows. The systems they use are based very much on New Zealand experience, not only in terms of reliance on grazed grass in order to keep costs as low as possible but also in the fact that both farms are run on a share-farming basis, one with their son, and the other with their daughter and son-in-law. This was after the pressure from trying to run the original dairy business on their own became so intense that their marriage cracked under the strain. Now, with work/life balance restored by the share-farming arrangements, they are happily married again!
The judges particularly liked the efficiency and the simplicity of Julian and Marianne’s approach to dairying. “They have a standard milk contract which means, in common with many other dairy farmers, a milk price of around 24p/litre at best. But what differentiates these farms in today’s market is the efficiency of the low overheads system.”
All of the awards were greeted enthusiastically by an audience which included the President of the DCAA, Lady Arran, and the President of the NFU, Meurig Raymond, as well as the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Phil Hogan.
But the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award: Edward Darke, of Kingsbridge, Chief Livestock Steward at the Devon County Show and a Vice-Chairman of the Devon County Agricultural Association.
Edward is the third of five generations of Darkes to farm Coleridge – his grandsons Matthew and Sam being the latest – which now extends to over 1,000 acres. The farming is still very much a traditional South Devon mix, with 250 dairy cows, beef cattle, a 400 ewe commercial lambing flock and – Edward’s pride and joy – a championship-winning flock of 60 pedigree Devon and Cornwall Longwool Sheep.
As the citation for award makes clear, Edward Darke has been “a champion for Devon agriculture and countryside all his life”. But it is his work and support on behalf of agricultural shows – not just the Devon County, but the Kingsbridge Show and many others – that is singled out for special praise.
“Edward has been a great supporter of agricultural shows, understanding their importance in spreading best practice and communicating the importance of agriculture and rural business to the general public.”
DCAA Chairman Mrs Mary Quicke MBE said: “This is the third year that we have worked with our partners to organise these awards, and whilst the economics of farming may have taken a big turn for the worse over that period, it is hugely reassuring to be able to say that the quality, not just of the winners, but of the nominees overall, is as high as ever. If confirmation was ever needed that we’ve got some world-beating farming businesses in Devon, then this year’s winners have certainly provided it.
“Naturally, as organisers of the Devon County Show, we are particularly happy about Edward Darke, our Chief Livestock Steward, and a stalwart of the show for many years, winning the Lifetime Achievement Award. But all of our winners deserve the warmest congratulations and thanks, for what they have achieved and the example that they set.”
For the Addington Fund, Chief Executive Ian Bell OBE, said that helping to judge the awards had once again been not just a pleasure, but an inspiration.
“The winners are living proof that a hostile economic climate need not be a barrier to running a successful farming business. The message which they send to other farmers, not just in Devon but across the country, is simple but powerful: ‘yes we can’.”
And Stephens Scown’s Phil Reed was equally impressed:
“This year’s nominations and winners cover the whole spectrum of Devon agriculture, from the uplands to the lowlands; from South Devon sticklers to quails, and show that there is still a positive side to farming and that the future of farming in Devon is in good hands.”
The Devon Farm Business Awards recognises and celebrates the hard work and dedication of farmers in Devon.
Once again, the short-list for the Devon Farm Business awards presents a fascinating cross-section of what is happening in farming in the West Country.
The common threads running through all of the farm businesses which are up for an award at the presentation evening on the eve of this year’s Devon County Show (May 19-21) are enterprise, innovation, market focus and family farming.
The awards are organised by a partnership of the Addington Fund, the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) and Stephens Scown Solicitors.
Despite the current rock-bottom prices for produce in most agriculture sectors, and the uncertainty being generated by the EU referendum, both the number and quality of entries is as high as ever.
“It really is encouraging to see how Devon farmers of all ages, in all sectors and of both genders are rising to the challenge of running a profitable farm business in a difficult economic environment”, said Mary Quicke MBE, DCAA Chairman of Council.
“We started these awards to highlight excellence and all of the short-listed entries have that in spades. But the other quality that comes through to me from the short-list is resilience, and that is just as important at times like these. There are examples here of innovation, good business practice and sheer hard work which just about every farmer in Devon can learn something from.”
Phil Reed, Head of Rural at Stephens Scown, added: “The quality of the entries this year is testament once again to the strength and vitality of farming in Devon. Times may be challenging for many in the sector, but farmers are finding ways to renew their businesses and weather the storm.
“There may be plenty of uncertainty around, not least with a Brexit vote looming, but one thing is certain – the awards evening in May will be quite an occasion when the great qualities of our farming industry in Devon will be proudly on show.”
For Ian Bell, Chief Executive of the Addington Fund, which provides homes for farming families forced out of the industry, it is the human stories behind the entries which are the most inspiring.
“There are young couples making a go of it on small farms by doing something different, like selling edible flowers via the internet, or specialising in quail production; there are dairy farmers using pasture-based systems to produce top quality milk at low cost; we’ve got a sheep farmer creating opportunities for new entrants through breeding flock replacements for him; and we have even got a dairy farmer whose marriage broke down because of the pressures of farm-work, but who has since reorganised his business so successfully that he’s re-married his wife!
“Judging the farms which were nominated for the awards has been a great pleasure and a huge eye-opener. It re-affirms one’s faith in the human spirit to see how these farming families are not just surviving but prospering, in a very difficult climate.
“Sorting out a final winner in each category is going to be incredibly difficult, because I can honestly say that every farm on the short-list is good enough to win an award.”
The winners of the Devon Farm Business Awards, including Devon’s Farmer of the Year, will be announced at a gala dinner on the eve of the Devon County Show on May 18.
Entry for the awards has now closed and we are delighted with the response we have received. The nominees for the six categories have been shortlisted and notified so that judging can commence. The successful nominees are:
Best Commercial Farmer, sponsored by Francis Clark Chartered Accountants
- Graham and Samantha Smaldon from Kingsland Barton
- Colin Gibbins from Feniton
- Julian Ayre from Stanterton
Best Dairy Farmer, sponsored by Crediton Dairy
- Adam Stanbury from Berry Down
- Gordon Davis from Westleigh
- Stuart Marshall from Noss Mayo
Best Woman in Farming, sponsored by Natwest
- Louise Moorhouse from Crockernwell
- Bridget Cole from Yelverton
- Cathy Case from Bigbury
CAAV John Neason Diversification, sponsored by CAAV
- Janice James from Silverton
- Marcus and Liz Warner from Kentisbeare
- Gill and Rebecca Bond from Monkton
- Mike Tewson from Denbury
- Andrew Freemantale from Clyst St. Mary
- Geoff Sayers from Holbeton
Best Young Farmer, sponsored by Savills
- Chris Creeper from Musbury
- Ian and Cath Ratcliffe from Webbery
- Martyn Mills from Down St. Mary
Sponsored by Cornish Mutual, a Lifetime Achievement award will also be presented.
A winner from one of these categories will then go on to win Devon Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers.
The awards will conclude with a black tie dinner using Devon produce at Westpoint on the eve of the Devon County Show on Wednesday 18th May 2016.
This will be the third Devon Farm Business Awards which is organised in conjunction with the DCAA and Stephens Scown LLP, and sponsors Natwest, NFU; NFU Mutual; Savills; Cornish Mutual; Mole Valley Farmers; Francis Clark Chartered Accountants and Crediton Dairy. We are most grateful for their continued involvement.
We joined forces with Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA) and award winning South West lawyers Stephens Scown LLP, to launch the Devon Farm Business Awards 2015, and the search has been on for the best and most inspiring farmers in Devon.
The aim is to highlight how innovative and vibrant farming in Devon has become, and to identify industry leaders who can serve as role models for other farmers to emulate in taking the industry forward.
The short-listed entries for this year’s Devon Farm Business Awards painted a fascinating picture of a dynamic industry being led by the younger generation through a process of rapid development and change.
Most of the potential winners were in their 20s and 30s. Many of the businesses were run by husband and wife teams as equal partners. And they were all, without exception, innovators, whether that be in new techniques, new products or new ways of doing business.
One of the strongest themes among the short-listed entries is that of younger farmers, coming back to the family farm after broadening their horizons through education and travel, and revolutionising the business. In one case, on a north Devon dairy farm, this involved increasing cow numbers from 180 to over 400. In another, in East Devon, the son of the family has overseen the process of completely re-imagining the family dairy enterprise, complete with new cubicle buildings, a new state of the art milking parlour, and even an entirely new dairy herd.
Meanwhile, near Tiverton, a farmer’s son and his wife had, in the space of little more than ten years, trebled the size of the farm, created an industrial estate from redundant farm buildings and set up a business growing thousands of acres of maize for local AD (anaerobic digestion) plants.
Diversification is still very much the name of the game in Devon farming, and not just among the short-listed entries for the CAAV John Neason Diversification Award. There are quails and ducks eggs, specialist goat meat production, organic vegetable boxes, wool in all its many forms, farm shops, restaurants and an ice cream parlour – plus a farmer who claimed to be the only one in Devon not just to rear, slaughter, butcher and retail his own cattle, but even to cook and serve them in his own on-farm café. That’s farm to fork, if you like!
When it comes to the differing styles of farming, the short-listed entries offered a good mix, particularly among the dairy farms, with both those using intensive methods to achieve very high levels of output, and those specialising in grazed grass in low cost systems, strongly represented. However, despite the recent slump in milk prices, the accent with all of the dairy farms on the list is very firmly on expansion.
Sustainability was another major theme. One of the short-listed farms is fully organic, but almost all have invested in renewable energy, wildlife and conservation features or farming and countryside education.
The Devon Farm Business Awards are organised jointly by the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA), the Addington Fund and Stephens Scown Solicitors. Richard Maunder, the Chief Executive of the DCAA, described the short-list as “a roll-call of farming excellence”.
“We started these awards last year to highlight the many good things that are happening in Devon farming, and to bust the myth that ours is a backward-looking industry run by old men. But I must admit that even I have been surprised by the sheer diversity of what is happening in farming at present, and the extent to which that is being driven by the younger generation.
“It is a great short-list, not just because it includes so many brilliant farming businesses, but because it covers so many different types, styles and sizes of farm. There are examples on it from which everyone can learn, and that’s what this awards scheme is all about.”
For the Addington Fund’s Chief Executive, Ian Bell, the short-list provides clear evidence of the resilience of Devon farming, in what has not been an easy year.
“We’ve seen falling prices for milk, corn and now beef. As we at the Addington Fund know only too well, there is real hardship out there. But what is striking about the farms which have made the short-list is that they have allowed for greater volatility in their business plans, they are determined not to be knocked out of their stride by short-term price movements and they remain confident about the future, both for their own businesses and for the industry as a whole. There are important and encouraging lessons there for everyone in farming.”
Phil Reed, partner and head of rural services at Stephens Scown solicitors, added.
“The standard of this year’s entries is very impressive and together with the innovation displayed highlights the level of talent here in Devon. Perhaps even more encouraging are the ages of those nominated, showing that farming has a future.”
Devon Farmer of the Year – John and Clare Clapp, Red Linhay, Halberton
Best Commercial Farmers, sponsored by Francis Clark – John and Clare Clapp
Dairy Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Stephens Scown – Gavin Fowler, Boode Farm, Braunton
Best Woman in Farming, sponsored by Natwest – Caroline Trude, Hoop Farm, Clyst Hydon
Devon’s Farming Champion, sponsored by the NFU – John Lee OBE FRAgS, Crediton
Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Cornish Mutual – Ranald Fowler, Boode Farm, Braunton
CAAV John Neason Award for Farm Diversification – John Coles, East Hill, Ottery St. Mary.
Please go to this link for more details http://www.addingtonfund.org.uk/devon-farm-business-awards-winners-announced/
Click here to view Devon Farm Business Awards 2015 photographs and to see footage from the event go to this link https://youtu.be/5v9y2F8GBgY