Rural Yorkshire faces acute threats to its character, from an affordable housing shortage to austerity-hit services, but it speaks volumes about our great county’s characteristic resilience that there is plenty of fight among countryside communities to forge ahead and make a telling contribution to the region’s economic might.
Make no mistake, the rural vote was split on Britain’s future relationship with the European Union when the country went to the polls for last year’s referendum but with the Brexit decision having been taken, there is a determination from those living and working in the countryside to seize the opportunity and ensure the rural economy is properly recognised and effectively harnessed under a new era of British policy making post-2019.
As the National Farmers’ Union’s new Pride and Provenance campaign shows, Yorkshire’s agri-food and farming businesses already offer so much. The union’s campaign to champion the economic potential of rural Yorkshire is backed by more than 50 enterprises with a combined annual turnover of more than £2.5bn - and this is merely a snapshot of its true value.
Not only do our farmers produce the food that goes on our plates –from potatoes and carrots, to wheat for bread, crops for cereal, as well as meat, milk and eggs – to some of the very highest food safety and animal welfare standards in the world, they play a crucial guardianship role which means they effectively manage the countryside so that it looks as beautiful as it does today.
Farmers deserve recognition. Agriculture is part of a food chain that employs one in eight people and contributes more than £100bn to the national economy.
For too long this enormous contribution has not been appreciated and it is for this reason that The Yorkshire Post today launches its inaugural Rural Awards sponsored by Bishop Burton College near Beverley.
We want to shout about the exceptional qualities of rural Yorkshire from the rooftops.James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post
We want to celebrate the vital role that the rural and agricultural community plays in the economic success and profile of our region, and do so publicly in order to demonstrate on behalf of all our rural communities just how hard-working, forward-thinking and market-leading the county’s rural businesses are.
Our awards, which span 12 categories and will culminate in a grand celebration at Pavilions of Harrogate at the Great Yorkshire Showground on Thursday, October 12, are also designed to offer due recognition of some of the dedicated individuals who play such an important role in their communities.
At the heart of our thinking behind these awards is a desire to promote excellence in our rural communities, to inspire others to follow their lead, and to champion the heroes that make our rural communities what they are.
By holding these awards and talking about them, we also want to broaden people’s understanding of rural issues and how the countryside is managed.
James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: “There is so much to celebrate and cherish about Yorkshire’s countryside and the role of its resilient communities, whose importance we endeavour to reflect each and every day in our news coverage.
“From its world class landscapes managed by our farmers and landowners to attract and inspire millions of visitors every year, to the determination of families to eke out a living in ever more challenging circumstances, through these awards we want to shout about the exceptional qualities of rural Yorkshire from the rooftops.
“Yorkshire’s rural economy compares to the financial might of a city region, and while it is incumbent upon our politicians to recognise that, The Yorkshire Post will continue to take an active role so that those serving in Westminster do not forget just how much our rural communities have to offer and what they can contribute to this county and to the nation as a whole.
“Only by repeatedly championing our rural economy will those in Whitehall recognise its importance and ensure the political focus is not unfairly dominated by a stiflingly urban-led agenda.
“Now is the time to show the world just what rural Yorkshire is capable of, and indeed what it is already achieving in spades, but we need your help to do so. We really hope the nominations will flood in for our first ever Rural Awards so that The Yorkshire Post can give our county’s countryside communities the bright spotlight it so obviously deserves.”
Jeanette Dawson, chief executive and principal of the awards’ sponsor Bishop Burton College, said: “We are incredibly pleased and proud to sponsor The Yorkshire Post’s inaugural Rural Awards, to recognise the importance of agriculture and our rural communities.
“These awards will help raise the profile of agriculture across Yorkshire and highlight the outstanding work done by our farmers. In doing so, I also hope the Rural Awards inspire more young people to pursue a career in the sector, which is so crucial to the country’s economy.
“I would encourage as many people as possible to send in their nominations across the range of awards categories, to ensure people working in agriculture receive the recognition they deserve.”
Among our award sponsors is regional law firm, Wilkin Chapman, in the Diversification category.
Catherine Harris, partner and head of agriculture and food at the firm, said: “The past 10 years have seen a raft of changes with people embracing new technologies, renewable energy and the increase in tourism and leisure with a view to maximising the return on their land through various diversification projects. This has seen some very innovative concepts come to life and we have been very fortunate to have been a part of some of these ventures and support those involved.
“We welcome entries to the diversification category and look forward to seeing some very exciting initiatives that have successfully come to fruition.”
CATEGORIES IN FULL
Farmer of the Year: An inspiring farmer who has gone above and beyond the call of their working life to reconnect the public with how food is produced in Yorkshire.
Young Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Rural Insurance: A farmer aged 29 and under who has demonstrated excellence in agriculture that stands him or her out from their peers.
Rural Tourist Attraction: A valuable asset to the local community, this countryside- based attraction will be able to demonstrate its worth to the rural economy and its value in promoting the countryside.
Farm Shop: A food and drink retail outlet that started as a farm diversification project and can demonstrate outstanding success as a local employer, sourcing local food and drink and championing Yorkshire produce, and contributing to the rural economy.
Student/Apprentice: Whether excelling as part of their studies or whilst serving an apprenticeship, this individual shows they have a bright future in a countryside career.
Diversification, sponsored by Wilkin Chapman: A rural business that has grabbed their destiny with both hands and changed the course of their operations by embracing a diversification project that has benefit not only to themselves.
Professional Services to the Community, sponsored by Ryedale Auctioneers: Rural businesses need support to wade through the paper work, win planning approval and cope with legislation, this award celebrates the customer excellence in professional services within rural Yorkshire.
Show volunteer: Armies of people give up their time year after year to make sure their local show is a success, from manning the car parks and gates, to running whole livestock and equestrian sections, there are so many individuals who do so much. This award celebrates a volunteer whose contribution over the years is nothing short of outstanding.
Community Group of the Year, sponsored by the Robert Fuller Gallery: A rural- based group that has united a community for wide public benefit and can demonstrate tangible results.
Rural high street or rural retailer: A business or collection of businesses in rural Yorkshire that is a runaway success with locals and visitors alike and makes a vital impact to the local economy.
Vet of the Year, sponsored by Kettlewell Fuels: Outstanding service and a consummate professional, this is a vet that is held in high regard for his or her work and manner, whether on the farm or in the surgery.
Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Whole Crop Marketing: An individual who has dedicated decades of service to agriculture in Yorkshire and deserves recognition that goes beyond the ordinary.
HOW TO ENTER
The deadline for nominations for the 2017 Rural Awards is Friday, September 8.
A panel of judges will then whittle down the entries before a final shortlist is published to detail those who will go on to vie for the awards in each category.
To enter or to make a nomination, please send up to 500 words in support of your entry via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in a letter to Jayne Lownsbrough, Editorial, The Yorkshire Post, No. 1 Leeds, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, LS12 1BE. Alternatively, visit www.ypruralawards.co.uk