Delight for rural business owners at 'top of their game'

The Hollow Trees Farm team standing outside the farm shop

From left, Michele Bailey, Gina Hankins, Helen Beckett, Cat Mason, Lauren Stephens, Adam Faiers, Sally Bendall of Hollow Trees Farm Shop - Credit: Shan Bendall

Suffolk and north Essex business owners have expressed delight after scooping accolades at the Countryside Alliance Rural Business Awards.

Hollow Trees Farm Shop near Hadleigh (Local Food and Drink Award), Lavenham Butchers (Butcher) and Barn Farm Drinks at Manningtree (Rural Enterprise) were among five regional businesses recognised. They now go through to the national finals.

Judges said Lavenham Butchers were “at the top of their game”, Hollow Trees was a “must visit for all” and praised Barn Farm Drinks for providing habitat for pollinators and supporting the local community.

The annual awards — nicknamed the Rural Oscars and now in their 15th year — aim to celebrate British food and farming, enterprise and heritage.

Hollow Trees managing director Sally Bendall said they were delighted. “It is such an honour to be recognised for all the hard work that that all the Hollow Trees team have put in, especially over the past year.

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The fact that these prestigious awards are driven by nominations from the public makes it extra special. We cannot wait for the grand final to see if we take the national title.”

Barn Farm was founded in 2017 by soft fruit farmers Craig and Gail Williamson after they noticed a gap in the market for quality, farm-pressed fruit juices and decided to set up the business on the banks of the River Stour.

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“All of our pressed fruit waste is taken to an Anaerobic Digestion Plant at a nearby farm to be turned into electricity, plus we generate enough electricity for approximately 1400 homes through solar panels we have installed on land that is unsuitable for crops. We also harvest the rainwater from our factory roof to water our crops,” said operations director Jason Clench.

“We have newt houses in the reservoir, beetle banks, mammalian gates to the solar farm. We also have over 4.5km of Hedgerows around the Farm that we maintain to attract beneficial insects to act as predators. We also have 24 beehives at Barn Farm vital to help pollinate our Fruit plants, bushes and trees

Judging for the 2020 awards was postponed due to the pandemic but was judged virtually in the spring of 2021, with businesses showcasing  their talent and telling their  story over webcam instead.

Awards director Sarah Lee said the winners were “truly exceptional”, adding that they had been “overwhelmed” by nominations. 

“These awards provide a cause for celebration in a time of great uncertainty in the countryside. Our local produce is second to none and there are many community heroes and businesses worthy of national recognition,” she said.

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said: “I am absolutely delighted that these businesses have been recognised in the ‘Rural Oscars’. I would like to congratulate the teams at Hollow Trees and the Lavenham Butchers for all of their work supporting their local communities in this difficult year. Now more than ever, residents are appreciating the quality of local produce, and I am pleased to have such a wealth of excellent British food and farming businesses based in South Suffolk.”


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