Sally Bendall praised for people management skills as she scoops Local Food Farmer of the Year award

Sally Bendall.

Sally Bendall. - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk farmer was praised for her “great people management skills” as she scooped a national award.

Sally Bendall.

Sally Bendall. - Credit: Archant

Sally Bendall of Hollow Trees Farm was crowned Local Food Farmer of the Year at the Farmers Weekly Awards in London earlier this month.

“Sally Bendall is as impressive as her business. By embracing learning and other people, she has grown her farming enterprise into a highly professional outfit with 60 staff and a turnover in the region of £2million a year,” judges said.

“From the ashes of near bankruptcy, Sally and her husband Robert have turned their business from a roadside cart into a thriving farm shop, café and education destination.”

She and Robert run a farm shop, café, butchery, garden centre, farm trail and education barn which attract around 235,000 visitors a year on 54 hectare (ha) part-rented, part-owned site at Semer, near Hadleigh.

The Sentry Farming conference at the Rowley Mile Racecourse in Newmarket. Chairman David Richardson.

The Sentry Farming conference at the Rowley Mile Racecourse in Newmarket. Chairman David Richardson. - Credit: Archant

They produce vegetables, beef, pork, lamb, goatmeat, eggs and cereals and have encouraged wildlife through a number of measures including a wildllife pond, nectar flower mixes and bird boxes.

They have also installed 30kW of solar panels and plan to add a biomass boiler.

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“Sally’s understanding of people and passion for educating the public is paramount to the success of Hollow Trees Farm. She has an instinctive sense about how to attract customers and monetise different aspects of the business,” judges said.

They praised her “bright” farm shop which “offers a masterclass in farm retail” and said she understands every aspect of the business and displays great people management skills.

Her “knowledgeable and confident” staff did her most credit, they said.

“Many have been with the business for a decade or more and some of their children are now starting work there too. Sally openly shares trading figures with employees and works with divisional team managers to decide on targets, developments and promotions,” the panel added.

Sally and Robert, who work from a three-year business plan, investd more than £250,000 in the business in 2014-15, having started on just 5ha. David Richardson

Norfolk farmer, broadcaster and journalist David Richardson, a former chairman of Sentry’s annual East Anglian farming conference, received a lifetime achievement award at the same awards event.

He was praised for his wit and “insatiable appetite to learn”.

“He has used the knowledge he gained to inform, inspire new thinking and champion British farming for more than 50 years,” judges said. “His achievements within the industry make him one of the most recognisable figures in British farming.”