The awards are organised by a partnership of the Addington Fund, the Devon County Agricultural Association (DCAA), and Stephens Scown Solicitors.
Speaking at the launch, DCAA Chairman, Mary Quicke MBE, said that it was when prices were low and times were tough that the farming community most needed the new ideas and business excellence that the awards scheme is designed to highlight.
Mary Quicke said: “We have always said that we’ve got the best farmers in Britain here in Devon, and the fact that our inaugural Devon award winners, Di and Peter Wastenage, have recently been voted UK ‘Farmers of the Year’ in the prestigious Farmers Weekly awards, does rather confirm that!
“But these are tough times for even the best farmers. It looks very much as if volatile world commodity prices are here to stay, and it is no good looking to the politicians for solutions”, she said.
“It is down to us, as farmers, to develop new markets, reduce costs, add value, manage risk, innovate or, as John and Clare Clapp have done so spectacularly successfully on this farm, diversify. All over Devon there are examples of different types of farming businesses finding different ways to survive and prosper, even in the harshest economic climate.
“What this awards scheme is about, and why it is so important to the DCAA’s mission, is that by turning the spotlight on those businesses, it will provide inspiration, and all sorts of new ideas, which other farmers can learn from and which can help the whole industry to prosper.”
There are also very real benefits for the award-winning farmers, as John Clapp was able to confirm.
“Winning this award was a complete bolt from the blue, but it has given a huge boost to our confidence as a farming family and as a farming business,” he said. “It’s as if your business plan has been given a massive endorsement by your fellow farmers, and has made us even more determined to build on what we’ve achieved so far.
“Diversifying into the industrial estate released capital to invest in the farming side, and our involvement, first in providing feedstock for anaerobic digestion [AD] and now in being partners in operating an AD plant, has enabled us to add real value to the crops we grow and manage.
“My wife Clare, who is very much an equal partner in the business, is now concentrating on developing the livestock side of the farm, with her pedigree herd of Charolais beef cattle. She had a very successful show season with the cattle this summer and, without her support, the business would not be where it is today.
“My advice to any farmer who may be thinking about going in for these awards is simple: go for it! You’ll learn a lot just from taking part, and if you’re fortunate enough to win, it’s just a great feeling.”
Phil Reed from Stephens Scown said he was looking forward to the 2016 nominees which, he described, as like the ‘next crop of farming fantastics’: “The Awards continue the Devon County Show’s message to consumers of how important it is to know and understand where your food comes from, to look for good provenance and support local farming.”
Ian Bell, OBE, Addington Fund, said: “The Awards really get under the skin of farming in Devon.”
“The future is bright, we have some rough patches to go through, but we have some good farmers to provide inspiration,” he added.
Farmers and growers in Devon are encouraged to apply for one of eight award categories:
Best Commercial Farmer – sponsored by Francis Clark Chartered Accountants
Best Dairy Farmer
Best Woman in Farming – sponsored by Natwest
The John Neason Diversification Award – sponsored by The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers
Devon’s Farming Champion – sponsored by the NFU and NFU Mutual
Devon’s Best Young Farmer – sponsored by Savills
The application forms are available online: http://www.addingtonfund.org.uk/event-type/devon-farm-business-awards/
Entries close on February 26, with the winners being announced at a gala dinner to be held on the eve of the Devon County Show, on Wednesday, May 18.
A film of the 2015 awards presentations is available online: https://youtu.be/5v9y2F8GBgY
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