Essex duo among the Best of British

TWO Essex farmers have scooped awards at a celebration of the best of British farming.

TWO Essex farmers have scooped awards at a celebration of the best of British farming.

Arable farmer David Sunnucks and poultry farmer Paul Kelly were among 13 farmers to pick up national accolades at the Farmers Weekly Agricultural Awards 2007, which took place at London's Grosvenor House Hotel.

Mr Sunnucks, of Maydays Farm, Mersea Island, scooped the Arable Farmer of the Year title, while Mr Kelly, of Springate Farm, Danbury, picked up the Poultry Farmer of the Year award.

The awards, hosted by impressionist Jon Culshaw, were aimed at honouring the very best of British farming in front of an invitation-only audience of more than 900 of the industry's movers and shakers.

Guests included Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

The overall winner and Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year was Cumbrian farmer John Geldard, who also took the title of Local Food Farmer of the Year.

Most Read

“The winners and finalists in this year's Farmers Weekly Awards have been outstanding,” said Farmers Weekly project development manager and awards organiser Debbie Beaton.

“It is awe-inspiring to find such innovation, entrepreneurship and dedication amongst UK farmers.”

Mr Sunnucks decided to make his arable farm profitable in its own right, after receiving a “reality check” in 2003 on a Worshipful Company of Farmers' advanced business management course at Wye College.

He completely revamped the all-arable business he runs on 566 hectares of rented land.

Judges were impressed by his passion, commitment and pragmatism, and his determination to follow through with some brave changes to the business. They also liked his full control of the whole arable operation from crop planning to marketing, and his concern for the environment via stewardship and conservation work.

Mr Kelly, managing director of Kelly Turkeys, took his first trial flock to be grown “wild” in the woods last Easter. He is rearing poults with puppies so that they bond at a young age and the dogs can defend the turkeys in the wild.

If the scheme is successful, he plans to completely change production from free-range to woodland.

Judges were impressed with his hands-on approach to running the business, his innovative ideas for rearing in woodland and marketing in the USA, his commitment to the industry and the way he has protected the business by spreading risks.