Winners of Agricultural Awards are announced

A cheese-making enterprise established just nine years ago with a small herd of Guernsey cows, which has developed into a small scale dairy farming business to include a veal herd and farm shop, scooped East Anglia’s top diversification award last night (Thurs Oct 24).

Jason and Katharine Salisbury of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses 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 Ashton KCJ. The winners were announced during the Suffolk Agricultural Association’s Agricultural Awards dinner run held at Trinity Park. 

He praised the couple from Whitegate Farm, Creeting St Mary saying: “It was a pleasure to have been involved in the judging process. 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.”

“Diversification has always been at our core,” said Katharine on their entry form. “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, reducing both cost of feed and disposal of the whey. The mature full-flavoured pork is sold at Snape Farmer’s market. With about 50 per cent of their calves born as male, 25 annually, they are reared in a high-welfare system and fed until slaughter at six months and sold as rose veal.

The farm gives employment to an EastonOtley student and hosts farm tours for visitors from across the UK and Europe. 

The runner up prize was presented to Sarah Robertson for Valley Farm Equestrian Centre 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 upto 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.”

View the full list of winners and sponsors.