Farming and the food we eat is in the spotlight like never before.
Brexit and rising environmental concerns worldwide mean government ministers are now embroiled in a very public debate about how our domestic agricultural industry should be governed for the first time since 1972.
All the while, social media is seeing our dietary choices, methods of food production and traceability of what goes on our plates being discussed by the British public more intensely than ever before.
In most cases, whatever we choose to eat, we have our farmers to thank for providing it. Whether it is Yorkshire-grown potatoes, peas and rhubarb or meat and milk produced to some of the very best animal welfare and highest regulatory standards in the world, our farmers feed the nation and have an increasingly telling contribution to make as the UK’s population continues to grow.
As The Yorkshire Post’s recent ‘Dales in Crisis’ series showed, farming is part of a rich tapestry of rural life that is under huge pressures from Brexit uncertainty, austerity-hit local services and volatile, often breadline, market returns. So often it is diversification projects, such as on-farm visitor attractions, farm shops and holiday accommodation, that delivers any profitably to family-run farms.
We need your help to champion the rural voiceJames Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post
It is vital for these businesses to thrive. They are the backbone of the rural life and make countryside communities viable in the 21st century. Their spending power filters down among feed suppliers, agronomists, veterinarians and other rural businesses. They help sustain local high street businesses and their children help keep village schools open.
On top of that, our countryside is managed by farmers and other landowners in a style that supports a huge tourism industry and gives Yorkshire folk so much pride in our beautiful landscapes.
For all of these roles, our farmers, rural businesses, other professionals who support the agricultural sector and the resilience of the wider rural community deserve public recognition. To do just that, The Yorkshire Post is today launching its 2018 Rural Awards, sponsored by Bishop Burton College near Beverley.
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 will give due recognition to some of the dedicated individuals who play crucial roles in their communities. By holding these awards, we also hope to broaden people’s understanding of the countryside and how it is managed.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony at Pavilions of Harrogate at the Great Yorkshire Showground on Thursday, October 11.
James Mitchinson, editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: “Earlier this week, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and Business Secretary Greg Clark gave speeches at the National Farmers’ Union’s annual conference, acts which send out a message that, at long last, the immense value of this country’s - and indeed our county’s - food and farming industry is starting to be understood in the upper echelons of government.
“Whitehall’s attention is long overdue. We already know that farming and rural life are key component parts of Yorkshire’s DNA and that agriculture and our countryside communities play a phenomenal role in this region’s economic and social vibrancy.
“It is incumbent upon our politicians, now more than ever, to grasp that Yorkshire’s rural economy compares to the financial might of a city region. Through our daily news coverage in The Yorkshire Post we will continue to ensure that those serving in Westminster do not forget just how much our rural communities offer and what they can contribute to this county and to the nation as a whole with the right support.
“Perhaps Britain’s forthcoming exit from Europe makes this role more important than ever. 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.
“Let us seize this opportunity to demonstrate just what rural Yorkshire is already achieving and what rich potential it has to build on its success and deliver more for the economy, the environment and society as a whole.
“We need your help to champion the rural voice and so we really hope a huge number of entries will flood in to make a great success of this, our second annual Rural Awards.”
Building on last year’s awards, our 12 award categories include a new Farming Business of the Year award, sponsored by Silk Law. Also, in addition to the categories listed on this page, a Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Cundalls, will be awarded at the awards ceremony itself. This will be an individual, chosen by us, who has dedicated decades of service to agriculture in Yorkshire and deserves special recognition for their outstanding achievements.
Bill Meredith, acting chief executive and principal of overall awards sponsor, Bishop Burton College, said: “We are delighted to again be the main sponsor The Yorkshire Post’s Rural Awards.
“The inaugural awards ceremony in 2017 was a wonderful occasion, celebrating the fantastic contribution our farmers and associated workers make to communities across Yorkshire and beyond. This year promises to be even more special.
“Events like this are more important than ever to support the agriculture industry, particularly in the Brexit era.
“We need to inspire new generations of farmers to ensure the sector flourishes for decades to come and that is exactly what the Rural Awards will help to do.”