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East Anglia: SAA Best Alternative Land Enterprise (BALE) Awards now open for entries

06:00 16 August 2014

Jason and Katharine Salisbury of Suffolk Farm House Cheeses, receiving the overall 2013 BALE Award from Jonathan Long, right, of Ashton KCJ.

Jason and Katharine Salisbury of Suffolk Farm House Cheeses, receiving the overall 2013 BALE Award from Jonathan Long, right, of Ashton KCJ.

© 2013 Stephen Waller

The Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA), in conjunction with sponsors Ashton KCJ, is inviting entries for the 2014 Best Alternative Land Enterprise (BALE) Awards.

The competition, now in its 23rd year, is open to all farm businesses throughout Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex and is the only one of its type in the region, recognising and rewarding imaginative and commercial alternative non-agricultural uses of land and buildings, and their positive effects on the local economy.

And it’s not difficult to enter, so potential entrants should not be deterred and make haste as the closing date is September 12.

Katharine Salisbury of last year’s winner, Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, said: “There are an awful lot of forms to fill in with farming. Having entered the award several times, I can honestly say this one is one of the best to enter and really not an arduous job.

“In fact we found it quite an enjoyable task and actually realised how much we had learned through entering. Completing the award entry makes you take stock and take pride in all you have achieved – and of course, have a good tidy up!”

This feeling is echoed by Nathan Nobbs, from Potsford Care Services, winner of the Best Newcomer Award in 2013, for its work as a care farm, at Letheringham, near Wickham Market.

“Preparing for the competition gave us a focus and an excuse to get the farm looking tidy and presentable for the judging,” he said. “It helped with staff morale and gave our co-farmers something to really aim for.”

This year’s judges, Jonathan Long, partner and head of agriculture and estates at law firm Ashton KCJ, Katharine Salisbury and SAA president Clare, Countess of Euston, will particularly be looking for the integration of green technologies, sustainability, recycling and environmental practices, when they visit the entrants on September 23 or 24.

For the winners, the first prize is the Ashton KCJ Challenge Cup and £2,000 of legal advice. The second prize winner and the Best Newcomer both receive £1,000 of legal advice and there is a £500 legal health check for “Best Green Practice”. All the winners will be announced during the SAA’s annual agricultural awards dinner to be held at Trinity Park on Thursday, October 23. All entrants receive two complimentary tickets to attend the event.

Jonathan Long said: “Ashton KCJ is delighted to be sponsoring the BALE Award once again this year and that it will be part of the annual agricultural awards dinner for the third year running, giving the award the profile it deserves.

“We have seen time and time again how bringing in professionals, such as solicitors, enables farmers and landowners to diversify and set up new and exciting ventures without taking anything away from their farming business. I am always astounded by the high quality and sheer variety of the entries we receive each year and look forward to this year’s judging process.”

Suffolk Show director Bill Baker added: ”The BALE Awards cause great excitement and amazement when the entries start coming in. The level of enterprise, imagination, creativity and understanding of market requirements and relevance is outstanding. The standard increases year on year and furthermore every year our winners say how significant this accolade above all others is to them and their businesses.”

Katharine Salisbury, who runs Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses with her husband, Jason, said: “It was a privilege for Jason and I to win last year. It was a lovely feeling to be acknowledged for what we had done and how far we had come. Awards like this are so positive for the profile of farming and helps incentivise others to be bold and set up new alternative businesses.”

Nathan Nobbs from Potsford Care Services, added: “The Best Newcomer was a great achievement for us as a relatively new and small business. Our business is quite unusual being a care farm as well as a working farm so we are always trying to let people know about the work we do and the benefits of farming and the countryside to those experiencing mental health problems and learning difficulties.

“As we are very new to farming, being part of the SAA gives us confidence that there are experts we can call upon when we get stuck or need some friendly advice. This is more often than not! The prize from Ashton KCJ has been so helpful. We were able to use one of their employment specialists, Anna, to guide and advise us on staff contracts. Her guidance has helped us to avoid employment pitfalls and to make sure we adhere to new legislation.”

Entrants should provide a written account of the business and complete the entry form, which can be downloaded at www.suffolkshow.co.uk/bale_awards, and send it, accompanied by a cheque for £20 per enterprise, to Sue Bennitt, SAA, Trinity Park, Felixstowe Road, Ipswich IP3 8UH. Entrants must be members of the SAA or apply for membership, at a cost of £55, at the time of entering.

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