Creeting St Mary: Dairy farmer’s cheese diversification scoops regional accolade at prestigious BALE awards

Winners and sponsors of the Suffolk Farm Business Competition

Winners and sponsors of the Suffolk Farm Business Competition - Credit: Archant

Dairy farmers who diversified into cheesemaking have scooped a prestigious regional accolade.

The Barker family, winners of class three of the Suffolk Farm Business Competition (left to right) A

The Barker family, winners of class three of the Suffolk Farm Business Competition (left to right) Alan Gray from sponsor Bunn Fertiliser, David and Patrick Barker, Ian Webster from sponsor Larking Gowan, Brian and Roy Barker. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, a cheese-making enterprise established just nine years ago with a small herd of Guernsey cows, took the top diversification award at Suffolk Agricultural Association (SAA)’s Agricultural Awards event, which was held at Trinity Park, Ipswich, last night.

All winners of the Bale Award with sponsor Jonathan Long of Ashton KCJ

All winners of the Bale Award with sponsor Jonathan Long of Ashton KCJ - Credit: Archant

The small-scale dairy farming business, run by Jason and Katharine Salisbury and based at Creeting St Mary, near Needham Market, has developed to include a veal herd and farm shop.

An old Barker family photo of Patrick Barker, circa Christmas 1980, when he was about three months o

An old Barker family photo of Patrick Barker, circa Christmas 1980, when he was about three months old sitting inside the King George VI Memorial Challenge Cup. It was the last time the Barker family, based at Westhorpe, near Stowmarket, won the cup. - Credit: Archant

It beat off stiff diversification competition from nine other regional entrants to receive the BALE award from sponsor and judge Jonathan Long, partner and head of agriculture and estates at law firm Ashton KCJ.

“It was a pleasure to have been involved in the judging process,” he said.

“My fellow judges, SAA president Stephen Cobbald and last year’s BALE winner Peter Havers, were incredibly impressed by all of the entries. Our winners, Jason and Katherine epitomise the spirit of the BALE Award, running a farm and having an excellent diversification, spreading risks. From a difficult start they found a niche in the market and through hard work and determination, they have created a very successful business, producing a popular product in a sustainable way. They incredibly deserving winners.”

Katharine said diversification had always been at the core of their business.

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“Producing handmade artisan cheeses from our 40 Guernseys is our main purpose, but we have found other niche ways to make the farm sustainable.”

The couple supply milk to a local start up ice-cream venture, sell bottled milk from the farm and use whey, the bi-product from cheese-making, to feed to their herd of rare breed saddleback pigs.

The runner up prize went to Sarah Robertson for Valley Farm Equestrian Centre and was presented by Suffolk Show President Stephen Cobbald.

The award for the Best Green Practice was presented by Show director Bill Baker to Richard and Hazel Wrinch for Orwell View Barns and the Best Newcomer Award was presented to Nathan Nobbs of Potsford Care Farms, by Peter Havers.

Whitegate Farm also went on to win the Suffolk Farm Business Competition Class One prize the F W Barker Perpetual Challenge Cup and Tankard for the best farm up to 250 hectares, presented by Chris Seppings of sponsors Hutchinsons.

Judges, who all came through the East of England Agricultural Society, James Willmott and John Goodchild praised the choice of breed, judicious use of capital and complementary aspects of the management and said: “This shows what can be done with a small dairy farm. It is the value that is added and captured by producing and marketing Suffolk Gold that is the secret to the Salisbury’s success.”

Winners of the Class Two Farms - 251-500 hectares - were LW Rolph and Son of Grove Farm, Ufford, run by Nigel Rolph who received the Cranworth Perpetual Challenge Cup and tankard from class sponsor Bruce Masson from Baker Tilly. Judge David Knott said the farm had an outstanding educational facility run in conjunction with Suffolk Wildlife Trust, praised the oil seed rape crop and said they were impressed by the long term vision and strategy.

Class Three winners, farms of more than 501 hectares, and recipients of the King George VI Memorial Challenge Cup, were E J Barker & Sons, of Westhorpe. Presented by Ian Webster from sponsors Larking Gowen, they were praised as an excellently run family business. “The farm is run to a high standard that enhances wildlife and the environment as well as providing an educational background. Family delegation with teamwork results in sound management decision making process. Understandably there is a need to expand to support the growing family,” said judges Peter Bennett and Edward Stanton.

The principle sponsor of the Suffolk Farms Business Competition, for the second year running was Bunn Fertiliser. Certificates were presented to the second and third prize winners in each class as well as for the best crop, best conservation and best livestock enterprise, sponsored by Koch Advanced Nitrogen, Atlas Fram and Thurlow Nunn Standen, respectively.

For the first time a prize was awarded for the education competition Suffolk’s Farming School of the Year, which was launched in Spring and judged at the Suffolk Show. The Countess of Euston presented Cieran Dadds from Britannia Primary School, Ipswich, with an engraved trophy that the school keeps for the year.

The event was hosted by former Suffolk Show director Peter Over and about 300 people sat down to a three course dinner of seasonal and locally sourced food prepared by chef Steve Carroll and his team at Trinity Park Events.

Show director Bill Baker said: “Both the number and standard of entries into the farms competition this year have been incredible. In a year where the weather proved extremely challenging for crops grown in Suffolk, the judges were impressed by their quality as well as the overall farm management. The 10 entrants in the BALE award demonstrate the creative and diversification skills in the industry. No two enterprises were the same, but all were maximising the opportunities to build and develop for a sustainable future. The SAA is very grateful to all the sponsors who enable us to showcase the quality of farming in this region.”

THE WINNERS

The full list of winners and sponsors is: Class 1 - Farms up to 250 hectares: 1st Prize: the F W Barker Perpetual Challenge Cup and Tankard: J A & K E Salisbury, Whitegate Farm, Norwich Road, Creeting St Mary; 2nd Prize: Fletcher & Dunt, Park Farm, Charsfield, Woodbridge; 3rd Prize: J C Pirkis and Son, Keens Farm, Debach. Special Awards: Best Arable Crop, presented by Jim Holt from sponsors KOCH Advanced Nitrogen, to R Steward & Son, White House Farm, Dennington, (Hereford second wheat); Best Livestock Enterprise, presented by Adrian Brown of sponsors Thurlow Nunn Standen, to David and Sarah Robertson, Valley Farm, Wickham Market; Conservation, presented by Richard Anscombe from sponsors AtlasFram to Fletcher & Dunt, Park Farm, Charsfield, Woodbridge; Class 2 - Farms of 251-500 hectares: 1st Prize: and the Cranworth Perpetual Challenge Cup and Tankard; L W Rolph & Son, Grove Farm, Ufford, Woodbridge; 2nd Prize: D I Alston Ltd, The Cedars, Brockford, Stowmarket; 3rd Prize: Porters Farm (Walpole) Ltd, Hillhouse Farm, Walpole, Halesworth. Special Awards: Best Arable Crop presented by Simon Borthwick from sponsors KOCH L W Rolph & Son, Grove Farm, Ufford, Woodbridge (OSR); Conservation, presented by Richard Anscombe from sponsors AtlasFram to Messrs E Hudson Baker, Chapel Farm, Gipping, Stowmarket. Class 3 - Farms 501 hectares and over: 1st Prize: and the King George VI Memorial Challenge Cup; E J Barker & Sons, Westhorpe, Stowmarket; 2nd Prize: Wantisden Hall Farms, Wantisden, Woodbridge; 3rd Prize: John Brown & Sons, Church Farm, Hawstead, Bury St Edmunds; Special Awards: Best Arable Crop presented by Alan Gray of KOCH to James Foskett Farms Ltd, Low Farm, Bromeswell (hydroponic); Best Livestock Enterprise, presented by Adrian Brown, of sponsors Thurlow Nunn Standen Ltd to William Wrinch, Ness Farm, Erwarton; Conservation, presented by Richard Anscombe from sponsors Atlas Fram to E J Barker & Sons, Westhorpe, Stowmarket.

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