After a long, hard summer of toil, farmers, rural business owners, community volunteers and countryside professionals came together on Thursday evening for the grand finale of the awards at Pavilions of Harrogate at the Great Yorkshire Showground.
It really was some night, with BBC broadcasting legend Harry Gration expertly hosting a fine evening of food, celebration and heartwarming stories of incredible perseverance and unerring dedication.
Rural Yorkshire had the floor and so too some of the finest individuals behind the region’s countryside successes, and our winners are documented here.
An honourable mention and hearty well done too to our highly commended entries: Matthew Donald of West Rounton (Young Farmer of the Year), the World of James Herriot (Rural Tourist Attraction of the Year), Bert’s Barrow (Farm Shop of the Year), Hovingham Village Market (Community Group of the Year), Pot House Hamlet (Rural High Street or Rural Retailer) and Breckenholme (both in the Diversification and Farming Business of the Year categories).
A huge thank you to everyone who backed our awards this year - sponsors, entrants, readers, all.
Here at The Yorkshire Post we will continue, with your help, to champion the value and importance of our countryside communities and the contribution they make to our region.
Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Bishop Burton College - Rebecca & Richard Burniston of Fiddlers Green Farm
Rebecca and Richard Burniston’s dedication to telling the story of British farming has stood the test of time - and this award is recognition for going beyond the call of duty to educate people about food production.
Based out of Fiddlers Green Farm at Hartwith, they have run a mobile petting farm for nine years. It sees them educate schoolchildren and disabled people by visiting schools, often once or twice a week during term times. Their mobile farm is also often found at agricultural shows where visitors can learn about different breeds.
As Open Farm Sunday hosts they have also welcomed the public onto their farm, and all the while, the couple have increasingly established their commercial farming outfit in its own right, having moved to Fiddlers Green Farm last year to accommodate more livestock.
Young Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Rural Insurance - Georgina Fort of EJ Fort
Georgina Fort, 28, farms with her family at Silsden. A working mum, she has blogged about farming life as a new mother.
An advocate for trying new things before a career in farming, she first studied for a degree in theatre and performance studies which led her to work on Emmerdale as a background artist.
A return to the family farm beckoned though and she assists with the 250-head dairy herd.
Georgina’s unstinting passion for the industry, and willingness to give up her time as an ambassador for farming stands out.
She has been involved in Young Farmers since she was 10, serving as chairman of her district and at county level, and she is vice-chairman of Yorkshire Young Farmers where she has worked tirelessly in developing members by offering training and creating training guides.
Rural Tourist Attraction of the Year, sponsored by FG Adamson & Son - Wensleydale Creamery
This is an attraction that plays an absolutely vital economic role in the Yorkshire countryside, employing 249 people across two manufacturing sites and contributing Â£12m to the local economy through milk payments, wages and purchases.
Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes works with 40 local dairy farms and operates a visitor centre that attracts a staggering 3000,000 visitors every year - all enticed by the unique flavour of its very special food products.
Offering more than just its delicious range of iconic cheeses, the creamery’s restaurant and coffee shop offers a wide variety of food, all homemade and freshly prepared daily.As part of its recently enhanced visitor centre, it seeks to connect young people to food production via games and activities such as driving a children’s milk tanker.
Farm Shop of the Year, sponsored by the Campaign to Protect Rural England - Farmer Copleys
Established in 2003, Farmer Copleys of Pontefract started as a small farm shop based around a butchery. Quickly realising that this wasn’t big enough to satisfy local demand, the shop expanded, trebling in size.
A cafe was added and such has been its success that the Moo Cafe is now in its own building thanks to a Â£1.25m investment. That switch around has allowed the Copleys to convert the old cafe into more retail space and extra room for making their own products.
The shop stocks lamb, asparagus, fruit, liquorice, eggs, rhubarb, kale and more, all grown on the farm, and the deli sells homemade pies, confectionery, breads, jams, gelato and honey.
With its stated values being “cheeky, friendly, trusted, welcoming and above all else, honest”, you just don’t get much more Yorkshire than that.
Student/Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by Yorkshire Agricultural Society - Daniel Duerden of Craven College
Daniel Duerden is an apprentice from Craven College and works on his family beef and sheep farm alongside his father. A keen stocksman, he has his own Longhorn-Cross cows and a flock of Cheviot sheep.
He started a Level 2 agricultural apprenticeship in 2015, working at Dyneley Farm where he showed a great work ethic. Leaving the family farm was a step out of his comfort zone, but he grasped the chance to gain experience and learn new skills which he could take back home.
Having completed Level 2, his parents encouraged him to give the advanced apprenticeship in agriculture a go. Daniel lacked confidence when he started this next step but through sheer hard work, he has almost come to the end of this with all of the theory work and practical assessment completed to a very high standard.
Diversification Award, sponsored by Wilkin Chapman Solicitors - Moss Valley Fine Meats
Run by Karen and Stephen Thompson, this is a business that produces its own pork, bacon, ham and sausages from pigs bred and reared on the farm, that are fed with the cereal and oilseed crops that are grown there.
A diversification borne out of dire pig prices more than a decade ago, they now process 15 pigs a week, employing three butchers, and supply around 60 outlets a week - including more than half of all restaurants in the Sheffield area - not least Joro, which only this month was awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin - as well as Chatsworth House.
Commendably, all its butchery pigs are reared free of antibiotics. The diversification of the farm into the butchery business has helped the long term future of the whole farm and the Thompsons have now set their sights on exporting ‘Made in Sheffield’ branded sausages around the world.
Professional Services to the Community, sponsored by Ryedale Auctioneers - Lowe Maintenance
Lowe Maintenance are a husband and wife team based in Settle, where they set up a training centre six years ago to offer a range of land-based courses to individuals and companies in order to promote professional excellence in the rural economy.
Demelza and Phill have trained and certified more than 1,200 people in over 33 qualifications, from forestry and arboriculture to land based machinery and rural crafts, as well as in the use of pesticides and pest control. Linking up with local freelance experts, they also offer other training, such as in walling and hedge laying.
Their expertise is held in high regard, having delivered training to the likes of Natural England, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, the National Trust, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, as well as councils and smaller businesses across the country.
Show Volunteer - David Ford of Wensleydale Show
A farmer's son, born and bred in Wensleydale, David Ford has been involved with Wensleydale Show since he was a boy and since the 1950s he has shown cattle, sheep, ponies and hens at the annual event.
As a lad he helped his father knock in posts and put up ropes before the show and when the show had to move because the field was to be quarried, the Ford family stepped forward and with a neighbouring farmer have hosted the show on their land for the last 20 years.
David has been a show committee member for more than 30 years, and while the usual period for a chairman is two years, he insisted on being chairman for four years in order to hold the reins for the special show centenary year in 2014.
He has been the show field organiser since 2007 and is hailed as a true professional.
Community Group of the Year, sponsored by the Robert E Fuller Gallery - Tadcrafters CIC
Tadcrafters CIC is a community group based in Tadcaster that meet up to make all sorts of crafty things to give away to worthy causes.
Members make a point of reusing and recycling as much as possible to create items that benefit different types of people, at the same time as developing a social network for people from the town and nearby villages.
The group was set up after the town was devastated by flood and the collapse of its bridge in December 2015. Lots of local people turned out for the clear-up and group founder Su Morgan said she wanted to harness that community spirit by getting people together to make bunting that would cheer people up.
The group has made hundreds of metres of bunting since, including to celebrate the opening of a much-needed temporary footbridge, the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations and the 2016 Tour de Yorkshire.
Rural High Street or Rural Retailer - Fodder
Fodder is a shopping experience and cafe unlike any other in the country. It is the only food shop and cafe in the UK where all profits go to a farming charity – the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
Every purchase, be it one of its 67 different Yorkshire cheeses or a carton of milk produced in the Yorkshire Dales, helps pay for schoolchildren to enjoy free trips to the Society’s annual countryside days or for a farmer to have a potentially life-saving health check.
Led by managing director Heather Parry, Fodder now supports more than 350 farmers and producers, and for some, the shop is their largest single retail customer, making it critical to their long-term sustainability. Some 85 per cent of what is sold is from Yorkshire.
Fodder is based at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate and has become a Â£3m turnover operation, employing 62 local people.
Vet of the Year, sponsored by Kettlewell Fuels - Gemma Thwaites
Gemma Thwaites, of Garth Pig Practice in Beeford near Driffield, specialises in pig medicine.
After joining the mixed practice in 2007, she made a difference immediately, quickly becoming a respected and popular member of the team with staff and clients.
Her work ethic is hailed as “unsurpassed”. Even on holidays, Gemma has made herself contactable by her clients.
She is said to bring a real passion for the British pig industry and is credited by her colleagues as being a great educator and accomplished lecturer who generously shares her knowledge.
Gemma has written, developed and delivered industry recognised farm courses which have been running for the past eight years, and her peers say she tirelessly promotes farming as a real career option.
Farming Business of the Year, sponsored by Silk Family Law - Yummy Yorkshire
Run by Jeremy and Louise Holmes from their working farm in Denby Dale, Yummy Yorkshire is a business that was devised in response to plummeting milk prices.
Over a 10-year period, the couple have created a hugely successful ice cream parlour and 80-seater restaurant, turning their farm into a destination location.
Ice cream is made on the farm just metres from the milking parlour where 120 Friesians are milked twice a day, while six professional chefs are employed to work in the restaurant kitchen where they use locally sourced ingredients to serve homemade dishes.
An underused barn has been converted into a wedding venue which also provides space for markets to be staged.
The business employs 30 people and annually raises more than Â£2,500 for nominated charity, Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Cundalls - Bill Cowling
Leeds-born Bill Cowling has farmed near Harrogate since 1972 and specialises in beef, sheep and arable alongside his two sons.
An association with the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) began in the 1960s when he showed dairy cattle at the Great Yorkshire Show. In 1978 he began stewarding the show’s cattle section, going on to become chief cattle steward in 1995.
Ten years later, he became the society’s show director – a position he served with distinction, obvious pride and a gentle, encouraging touch for a full decade.
Appointed Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire in 2014, he has also been an active member of groups concerned with farming, including the National Trust Regional Committee, Weeton Show, the Yorkshire Friesian Breeders and Otley Cattle Market.
His term as YAS president ended this year.