Suffolk farmer is named the best in the country
- Credit: Jason Bye
A Suffolk farm manager has been crowned the 2021 "Farmer of the Year" at a major national awards ceremony.
Edward Vipond, of Troston Farms in Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds, won the top accolade at the annual Farmers Weekly Awards.
He was praised for his "huge commitment" to the 1,500ha arable operation, and "consistent performance of crop yields" for the farm's wheat, barley, rye, beans, sunflowers and maize.
The judges said: "Edward manages all business risks extremely well, has an excellent understanding of financial matters and has led the farm through a period of rapid growth for him and his small team.
"He shows a huge commitment to the farms he manages and is not afraid of big decisions, with a forward thinking and realistic approach to the future of the business."
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Mr Vipond also won the Farm Manager of the Year category, which highlighted his success in an expanding business.
On joining six years ago, an extra 150ha of land was taken on, followed by 230ha in 2018 and 215ha this year.
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Awards judges said the main challenges on his arrival were a significant blackgrass weed issue and poor soil structure, with machinery and cropping ill-suited to the soil types.
"Edward’s wholesale changes to rotations have seen oilseed rape, sugar beet and forage rye removed from the light land, with sunflowers and milling rye replacing these to reduce risk," they said.
"He has also moved away from contract hire to hire purchase with extended warranty to secure the running costs of the main kit."
Meanwhile, he was praised for adding value to the farm's output through contracts with food manufacturers Ryvita and Warburton’s, as well as local pet food and bird feed suppliers, and anaerobic digestion feedstock customers.
The farm has two Mid Tier Countryside Stewardship schemes and is participating in the pilot for the new Sustainable Farming Incentive, as Mr Vipond is keen to be part of shaping future environmental policy.
He promotes farming both on and off the farm, stewarding at the Suffolk Show and the Suffolk Farm School Fair.
Close links with the local primary school include the annual “Tractors for Schools” day and a challenge to grow the tallest sunflower.
There were also successes across the border in Norfolk.
The Dairy Farmer of the Year award went to Mark Larwood of Oak House Farm in Larling, which milks 250 Holstein cows and calves all year round.
The judges said: "With a positive attitude and appetite to continue to drive improvements, he is a great advocate for the industry."
And the 2021 Pig Farmer of the Year is Richard Mellor, from Grange Farm in King’s Lynn, who produces animals for the the BQP/Pilgrims supply chain on a 145ha council farm that he secured seven years ago.
"Richard is making great strides to improve production in his 990-sow outdoor breeding unit to ensure the business is as self-sufficient as possible," said the judges.