Some 200 or so attendees were welcomed to the plush surrounds of Pavilions of Harrogate where they were joined by special guest Johanna Ropner, Lord Lieutenant for North Yorkshire.
The BBC’s Harry Gration was the perfect host on an evening of high excitement and touching moments.
Now, we can share with you all of our richly deserving winners.
Huge congratulations must go too, to our Highly Commended entries: Spirit of Yorkshire (Diversification and Rural Tourist Attraction); The Balloon Tree Farmshop and Cafe (Farm Shop); the Kilnsey Park Estate (Rural Tourist Attraction); Wold Top Brewery (Rural Business of the Year); Molly Cavell and Joe Stobbs (Student/Apprentice), and Open Country and wildlife artist Robert E Fuller (Rural Hero).
I would like to take this opportunity to repeat the sentiments expressed on stage on awards night: The Yorkshire Post is committed to being rural Yorkshire’s champion and critical eye, giving our communities a powerful voice, celebrating their achievements and helping to better inform the public at large about the countryside. An enormous thank you to everyone who contributed to our 2019 Rural Awards!
Here are our winners:
Diversification Award - Kilnsey Park Estate
Under the stewardship of Jamie Roberts, Kilnsey Park Estate has blossomed since it first diversified with the opening of a fish farm and fishing lakes in the late 1970s following a collapse in dairy prices.
A farm shop and cafe, and holiday accommodation has followed, and now the ambition is for the estate to become one of the UK’s greenest businesses. This mission is already underway.
Hydropower turbines, solar panels, heat pumps and a biomass boiler have been installed, making it a net exporter of green power.
The income from these activities means the farm has flourished. More than 500 acres of scientifically protected land is managed in harmony with nature, a red squirrel conservation programme has been launched and the estate has helped to reintroduce the UK’s rarest orchid.
Farm of the Year - Great Newsome Farm
By embracing diversification, the Hodgson family have seemingly future-proofed their core farm business for years to come.
Over 700 acres or so – wheat, oilseed rape, malting barley and vining peas form the basis of the farming enterprise, which also includes bed and breakfast.
Thirteen years ago, the family opened a brewery and earlier this year they set their sights on opening a new, larger one. They have won awards for their beers, which are on sale as far afield as Milan and they refuse to stand still. They have dipped into the holiday accommodation sector by opening a luxury shepherd’s hut and have bought and developed an environmentally friendly log business.
Applaudable too is the way they farm. To look after soil health they no longer use direct drilling or conventional tilling.
Lifetime Achievement Award - Helen Benson
Helen Benson is the Yorkshire co-ordinator for the Farming Community Network, a voluntary organisation and charity providing invaluable, free, confidential, pastoral and practical support for farmers and families in the farming community who face personal or business-related issues.
Helen, who has been with FCN since 2001, this year demonstrated her amazing commitment to the charity’s work and her passion for reaching out to people in rural communities by circumnavigating the whole of Yorkshire on her father’s restored vintage David Brown tractor.
Despite admitting some difficulties with GPS technology along the 400-mile route and being exposed to the elements without the protection of a tractor cab, she completed her quest in eight days and raised more than £4,200 for FCN’s work.
Professional Services to the Community Award - Lowe Maintenance
The judges were particularly taken with this team of two, husband and wife, Demelza and Phill, based in Settle, where they set up a training centre seven years ago.
Their business, Lowe Maintenance, has so far provided technical training to more than 1,500 people in more than 30 qualifications within the land-based sector, from tree climbing and pest control, to the use of machinery and pesticides.
Testament to their excellent customer service is the fact that some 80 per cent of its business involves returning candidates.
These customers are kept engaged by a monthly newsletter which updates them on relevant legislative changes and safety alerts.
Long after they have completed a course, Demelza and Phill prides themselves on offering their customers ongoing guidance.
Farm Shop of the Year - Minskip Farm Shop
Minskip Farm Shop is set on a high-welfare hen farm in Boroughbridge and owners Emma and Ben Mosey say it is their mission to change the face of farming by reconnecting the public with real food, fresh from the farm.
The couple have brought a different perspective to rural entrepreneurship, having travelled the world together – Ben as an exploration geologist and Emma as a published novelist.
Visitors to their farm shop can see the hens wandering around their paddock and an abundant market garden filled with seasonal produce. The eggs and veg are sold in the shop, where 50 per cent of its stock comes from within the surrounding 10 miles.
Since taking over in 2017, they have increased turnover by almost a third and they have a grand vision for the future, including the opening of a farm kitchen next year.
Rural High Street and Rural Retailer Award - Wensleydale Creamery
An iconic Yorkshire business, Wensleydale Creamery now has a £2.1m turnover in the heart of the Dales.
Its visitor experience in Hawes tells the story of cheese from farm milk through to tasting samples of more than 20 handcrafted varieties in its cheese shop. Local food and drink suppliers are encouraged to work up cheese pairings with their produce, such as Rosebud Preserves, who developed a bespoke range of chutneys. In addition to its popular gift shop, this spring saw the opening of its home-made fudge and ice-cream bar.
The creamery’s own fudge is made with its Yorkshire Butter and the ice cream is from nearby Brymor. It also takes part in the Dales Cheese Festival, hosts mobile milk-vending machine business The Home Farmer each week and in total contributes £13m to the local economy annually.
Rural Tourist Attraction - Wensleydale Creamery
The judges were blown away by Wensleydale Creamery’s economic impact and the fact that its annual visitor numbers continue to rise.
The number of people through its doors is up by 50,000 in the last year alone. Some 350,000 people now visit the Creamery each year.
Celebrating 25 years since opening and remaining under the same independent ownership throughout, the Creamery has continually invested in its Visitor Centre in Hawes. An £800,000 extension in 2009/10 tripled space with a bespoke cheese shop, coffee shop and enhanced shopping area and as part of a £5m development in 2015, a new interactive cheese-making viewing gallery was created.
A demonstration room, opened in April, explores Dales cheese-making history.
Rural Business of the Year - Farmyard Friends Day Nursery
Farmyard Friends, now 13 years old, started out as what co-owner Caroline Basham described as “the biggest risk in 23 years of marriage” with husband Mark.
The couple bought derelict Hill Top Farm at Mappleton in 2000 and spent every penny renovating the buildings as they set about realising their dream of owning a farm to raise their children on. When their two children, Rob and Catherine, came along, they were both working full-time elsewhere as well as running a bed and breakfast and pigs.
Family life made them refocus their efforts and after a long planning battle with their local authority, Caroline went on to open a day nursery on the farm that in 2016 was rated Outstanding in all areas by Ofsted.
It now employs 15 staff and has 85 children, while Mark has grown the farm’s pig business to 1,400 fattening stock.
Vet of the Year - Keith Dalby
Nominated by a farmer client, Mr Dalby of Aldgate Veterinary Practice in Driffield is credited with ensuring superb herd health, helping a local cattle farmer who has overcome years of frustrating herd health issues.
Described as a vet who is always there to offer help and advice, Mr Dalby cannot be praised enough by his client, Jonathan Walker, for whom Mr Dalby has firmly become his main point of call for his pedigree herd of 50 Limousin cattle.
In nominating his vet for this prestigious award, Mr Walker said: “His help with herd health has been superb and after years of battling with herd health issues, I finally feel as though we are reaching a point of good practice in health and biosecurity.
“I only wish I’d met him professionally years ago.”
Student/Apprentice of the Year - Ross Sadler
Ross Sadler has been undertaking a Level 3 apprenticeship in agriculture at Askham Bryan College and at Aireyholme Farm, Great Ayton with the help of Mark and Kath Phalp.The judges were taken aback by this focused self-starter.
Aged 19, Ross, who is not from a farming background, has launched his own shepherding business, Sadlers Shepherding, which he plans to grow while investing in his own flock, currently comprising of pedigree Blue Texels. A member of Young Farmers, he has also volunteered as a steward at agricultural shows. He was nominated by his college assessor because of his “skill, enthusiasm and passion” for the industry.
In his own words: “I’d like to think what I’ve achieved so far might be an example to inspire other young people who may be thinking about going into the industry.”
Young Farmer of the Year - Paul Irish
A first generation pig and beef farmer, when Paul first left school, he teamed up with a friend to set up an agricultural contracting business. Taking confidence from its success, he set up his own contracting outfit which soon grew.
He bought a tractor, a tanker, a mower and trailers, and expanded his services into tedding and ploughing, all to drive him closer to his goal of owning a farm of his own.
In 2016, at the age of 26, Paul and his wife Christy, 25, with no outside financial support, took on Yaud House Head Farm and the last two-and-half years have been transformative.
Paul converted the farm building into an indoor pig shed and now farms pigs on a bed and breakfast basis.
He currently has 16 cattle to keep as finishers – all alongside his own booming contracting enterprise.
Rural Hero - Anne Moore
The judges chose Anne because she selflessly gives of her time and because her contribution is integral to her community in Carperby.
Born in Swaledale and approaching her 80th birthday, Anne has served on her local parish council for a decade, is secretary and caretaker of the village institute and has played a leading role in preparing for Carperby’s annual open gardens event.
A former carer, Anne looks after the village war memorial and cleans the village bus shelter and, until its recent closure, volunteered at Aysgarth Chapel.
Anne has organised the institute’s monthly domino drive and for many years received prescription deliveries from Aysgarth surgery to deliver to local people.
According to Colin Gavin who nominated her, Anne is respected all around the Dales.
Special Achievement Award - Reeth Young Farmers’ Club
After the destructive flash floods in the Yorkshire Dales in July demolished walls, carried away livestock and swept winter fodder to ruin, young people rallied round to co-ordinate an incredible clean-up operation.
Georgia Hird, who chairs Reeth Young Farmers’ Club, worked with the Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs to organise a day of action in the badly-hit village of Reeth.
More than 100 Young Farmers from clubs across Yorkshire and County Durham turned out in force.
Reeth YFC made sure the volunteers were fed and equipped on the day as it planned and led the relief efforts.
According to Yorkshire federation chairman Georgina Fort, Reeth Young Farmers’ Club are a credit to Young Farmers, to the farming industry and to the community.