East Anglia: 2012 BALE Award now open for entries

THE 2012 Best Alternative Land Enterprise (BALE) Award 2012 to find the eastern region’s best farming diversification initiative is open for entries.

The BALE Award, run by the Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA) in partnership with Ashton KCJ Solicitors and now in its 21st year, recognises the entrepreneurial skills of East Anglia farmers in adapting to changes within agriculture by launches new businesses alongside their core farming activities.

It is open to farmers from across Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, with entries being judged on their commercial, creative and practical merits, as well as their contribution to the regional economy.

Recent winners have included a farm shop, a children’s play venue and farm park, a pets crematorium and cemetery, a wedding venue and a rare breeds meat supplier.

Martin Ritchie of The Reid Rooms wedding venue at Margaret Roding, near Great Dunmow, which won last year’s 20th anniversary “Champion of Champions” BALE Award, said: “We were all delighted to win this award which is, of course, a great morale boost to the whole team.

“I have always felt that the BALE Award is a brilliant competition. We can all gain ideas from other businesses that enter. It is both educational and inspirational and I always try to encourage others to enter.”

Mr Ritchie is among the judges of this year’s competition, together with John Carrick. the 2010 winner (for the conversion of a derelict barn at Swanton Morley, near Dereham, also as a wedding and function venue) and Jonathan Long, head of agriculture and estates at Ashton KCJ.

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As well as prizes for first and second place in the competition, there is also a special category for Best Newcomer – a business less than three years old – and a special award for the Best Green Practice. The overall winner receives the Ashton KCJ Challenge Cup and �2,000 worth of legal advice.

Christopher Bushby, executive director of the SAA, said: “The BALE Award is now regarded as the region’s premier farming diversification competition and it is an opportunity to publicly applaud the enormous entrepreneurial spirit and success of our region’s farmers.”

Jonathan Long added: “Our partnership with the SAA acknowledges the strong links that the firm has throughout the agricultural industry in East Anglia.

“The firm is extremely well placed to assist farmers on how to best enhance their business through diversification. Every year the judging panel is astounded by the high level of entries and I’m sure that this year will be no exception.”

The closing date for entries is Monday 24 September. For further information and to apply, visit www.suffolkshow.co.uk/saa_information and click on “Awards”.