FOLLOWING the runaway success of its inaugural year, Country Week is today launching its search for the county’s Farmer of the Year 2016.
Culminating in a ceremony at the Great Yorkshire Show this summer, we will be celebrating the very best examples of farmers who go beyond the call of duty to engage with the public about what they do and why.
There are countless examples of farmers and farming families across Yorkshire who help educate others about the countryside and how it is managed to support wildlife and to feed the nation. And this important role has been maintained throughout what remain hugely challenging times for an industry that is being squeezed by tough global trading conditions and is constantly fighting for more supportive rules from government and fairer deals with processors, abattoirs and supermarkets.
A record £17.8bn was lent to farmers from banks last year as they came under financial pressure from retailers, late subsidy payments, flooding and volatile markets. Some have had little choice but to dip into pension pots to tide them over.
Farmers need the public’s support and British consumers want to support farmers. We are interested in where our food comes from like never before. Farm shops and farm attractions are flourishing. Industry surveys reveal growing sentiments for buying British produce at a fair price. Besides all this, we need to protect our future food supplies and our way of life in the countryside.
For many farmers, engagement with the public on social media is now second nature; a platform to explain the provenance of the food they produce. Others use their farm shops to open channels of communication. Some have developed educational mobile farms to take round schools or they invite the public onto their land for farm open days and accommodate visiting schoolchildren to give them lessons that would not have the same reasonance in the classroom.
Farmers deserve praise for going to new lengths to press home the importance of supporting British farming - agriculture is part of a food chain that employs one in eight people and contributes more than £100bn to the national economy.
It is for all these reasons that Country Week, in association with law firm Mills & Reeve LLP, is celebrating a farmer or farming family who have embraced the mission to educate the public about the process from field and fork.
For this award, we want farmers themselves to share what they have achieved in the last 12 months - how they have made a difference to the community despite all the threats the industry faces in the form of disease risk, trying weather conditions, price crashes and personal hurdles.
We will publicly recognise one farmer who can demonstrate their commitment to championing the industry to the public; a farming family that strives to consistently communicate with the community about where food comes from.
An industry panel of judges will help pick the most outstanding candidates before our shortlisted entrants are invited to the Great Yorkshire Show in July where the winner will be revealed.
Last year, the title was taken by Sheffield dairy farmer Eddie Andrew, the man behind the Our Cow Molly range of fresh milk and ice cream.
James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: “Our county’s farmers can rightly be proud of their contribution to the British way of life - from putting fantastic tasting food, reared to high welfare standards, on our plates every day, to the maintenance of our precious rural landscapes that, year after year, draw visitors to our region.
“But now more than ever we want to celebrate the role our farmers play as educators to the public about the food they consume. Farming has had another very difficult year but the hard work continues in the fields, pens and milking parlours, and the industry’s continued determination to engage with the public is most admirable.
“We look forward to celebrating the very best farmers in Yorkshire through our award this year.”
HOW TO ENTER
COUNTRY WEEK is keen to hear from farmers of all sizes and sectors who are located right across Yorkshire in its hunt for an outstanding farmer to be named its Farmer of the Year 2016.
To nominate your farming operation for the award, explain in 500 words what your farm has done to engage with the public in the last 12 months.
Include full contact details and send submissions in the post to: Ben Barnet, Country Week, The Yorkshire Post, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, LS12 1BE. Alternatively, please email entries to ben.barnet@ jpress.co.uk
The deadline for all award entries is 5pm on Thursday, June 16.