Bury St Edmunds/Ipswich/Brentwood: Lackford grazier Justin Hammond among finalists in British Farming Awards

grazier justin hammond at lackford

grazier justin hammond at lackford - Credit: Archant

A livestock farmer who turned his life around to run his own conservation grazing herds of sheep and cattle will be among the contestants battling it out at a national farming awards event tonight.

Sheep and cattle farmer Justin Hammond

Sheep and cattle farmer Justin Hammond - Credit: Archant

Lackford grazier Justin Hammond, 37, who runs the Culford Flock at conservation sites across Suffolk and Norfolk, is one of five finalists in the New Entrants Awards: Against the Odds category at the British Farming Awards, which are being held at the Chateau Impney Hotel at Droitwich tonight.

Justin entered the industry from a non-farming background nearly 20 years ago, having grown up on a council estate in Bury St Edmunds.

In his teens, he “mixed with the wrong crowd”, he says, until he discovered farming through Bury St Edmunds livestock market and a nearby farm.

Now he farms on Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) including at Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve, various RSPB sites and Natural England reserves.

Sheep and cattle farmer Justin Hammond

Sheep and cattle farmer Justin Hammond - Credit: Archant

He started out from nothing to keep poultry initially before branching out into sheep and cattle, learning his trade on the job. He says he would like to pass on the practical skills he has learnt - he has even learnt to shear his own sheep - to youngsters interested in a career in farming.

He launched the Culford Flock about seven or eight years ago and keeps around 300 Jacob ewes. He also keeps around 70 or 80 Highlands crossed with Angus beef cattle which he has bred to suit the harsher conditions involved in year-round conservation grazing.

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He earns a living by selling beef and lamb from the animals he has reared at weekly farmers’ markets in Risby, Thurston, Rickinghall, Wickhambrook, Long Melford, Barrow, Sudbury, Mildenhall and Lavenham.

“Every day I’m at it,” he said. “We are marketing 24 lambs a month now.”

Justin, who will attend the awards event with partner Kim Hammond and a very close friend who has supported him, admitted that it had been tough setting up from scratch.

“I keep it going every week, 52 weeks of the year. I work really hard and I have built a nice customer base,” he said.

“It can be done if you are willing to put the time and effort in.”

Although financially always a challenge, he says he enjoys the rewards.

“I love getting up early in the mornings on a cold frosty morning and going for a walk and seeing the cows. I just find comfort in it. They relax me,” he said.

Also vying for an award at tonight’s event is East of England Co-operative’s Sourced Locally initiative, which is in the Farming Partnership of the Year category.

The Sourced Locally initiative is currently working with more than 140 local farmers and producers across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, who supply products to the Ipswich-based East of England Co-op.

Today more than 2,000 lines are stocked and the retailer says the initiative has put more than £20million back into the regional economy through payments to local producers, creating more than 300 local jobs.

Essex Young Farmers county vice-chairman Ed Ford is a finalist in the Farmers’ Guardian Farming Hero award category, along with Lincolnshire farmer Andrew Ward, and farm secretary Rebecca Horsington, of Somerset, for being at the forefront of the #forageaid initiative to help flood-stricken Somerset farmers.

Ed’s farm in Brentwood became a collection point for hundreds of tonnes of bedding and forage, and he rallied Essex Young Farmers into action to help in the clean-up operation once the water had receded.