Cheshire dairy farmer Karen Halton has scooped this year’s prestigious Dairy Industry Woman of the Year award at the virtual Women in Dairy (WID) conference tonight (September 30).

Karen is the fourth woman to win the award, which is sponsored by HSBC UK, beating off stiff competition from finalists Abi Reader from Glamorganshire, and Hannah Lawrence from Haverfordwest.

The award aims to celebrate the achievements of women in the dairy sector and is presented to the individual who has demonstrated the core values of Women in Dairy.

The group aims to connect women, share knowledge, develop skills, and inspire by encouraging innovative thinking and vision for the future of UK dairy.

'An early adopter'

Karen is a partner in Halton Farms with her husband Tom. Together, they rent 550ac in Congleton and milk their 530 three-way cross all-year-round calving herd three times a day.

They also have a raw milk vending machine and, just this year, decided to expand the operation by pasteurising milk and selling it directly to customers.

Starting out in legal recruitment, Karen joined Tom dairy farming 11 years ago and, in that time, has been passionate about showcasing dairy farming.

She is not afraid to share her learnings - good and bad, and as an AHDB strategic farm, Halton Farms regularly opens its doors to both those within the industry as well as outside.

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Award judge and WID Patron Di Wastenage explained Karen was chosen as the winner as she is a "great all-round industry ambassador" giving a lot to the sector.

Wastenage said: “Karen is a passionate advocate for British farming who is an effective communicator at all levels and enjoys mentoring the next generation.

“She is an early adopter who brings new skills into our Industry and is happy to challenge, question, and lead change.

This year’s competition was the hardest one to judge yet and when you have this calibre of entrants in one competition, we know the future of our dairy industry is in good hands.

Other judges included HSBC UK’s regional agriculture director Grace O’Dwyer, and Rachel Bowcutt, RABDF operations and project manager, who remarked that all three shortlisted candidates are exceptional ambassadors for the industry.

O’Dwyer said: “All the candidates demonstrated fantastic commitment to their businesses making them as strong as they could be. In addition, the obvious drive to support the wider farming and rural community came across loud and clear.

“HSBC UK Agriculture has had a long association with the event which we believe demonstrates our commitment to the sector. It is a positive activity to be recognising individuals who push themselves and their businesses to achieve as well as be spokespeople for the dairy sector in our wider communities."

This year’s Women in Dairy virtual conference attracted 100 delegates and included sessions on the state of the dairy market, sustainability, animal health, and marketing.

Women in Dairy is an RABDF initiative, designed to bring women working in the dairy industry together through regional discussion group meetings.