Royal Welsh Show: M&S Awards recognise England and Wales’ top farmers

England and Wales’ top farmers were recognised by M&S at its Select Farm Awards presentation on the first day of this year’s Royal Welsh Show.

Excellence Award

Dawn Talbot (pictured top) was named the winner of this year’s winner of the Excellence Award.

Talbot, works as the herd manager for J.F. Cobb and Sons at Northground Dairy, near Dorchester, a family farming partnership since 1928.

Under Dawn’s care, the Northground herd has won a number of prestigious dairy industry awards, including the NMR Gold Cup, and regularly achieve some of the best scores in terms of health and welfare standards.

“Dawn is a very modest and conscientious herd manager, who cares deeply about the welfare and performance of the cows in her herd,” explained Nick Bell, M&S herd health consultant, who nominated her for the award.

“The herd has picked up numerous accolades under Dawn’s management, and these awards reflect the hard work and attention to detail that Dawn puts into managing her cows to ensure that they perform to their optimum ability, have excellent genetics and good fertility.

Dawn’s biggest achievement has probably been to help reduce antibiotic use to record low levels on the farm, whilst simultaneously maintaining excellent cow health, comfort and performance.

“In order to achieve these low levels of antibiotic use, Dawn has had to demonstrate exceptional technical knowledge and ability, as well as a willingness to work closely with vets and embrace the use of new technology.”

Innovation Award

Innovation Award winner Ivalyo Kostadinov, celery production manager at G’s Fresh, in Barway, Cambridgeshire, has played a pivotal role in helping the business grow more efficiently while minimising waste.

“One of Ivalyo’s most recent projects has been to develop an automated celery harvesting machine,” explained Nick Hutter, technical manager at G’s Fresh.

“Traditionally, celery is harvested by hand and is incredibly labour intensive.

The new automated harvester can cut and transport celery to a mobile platform, where it is quickly packed into boxes, ready for further processing and storage in our factories; significantly improving the efficiency of harvesting and helping to mitigate against increasing labour costs.

“Ivalyo has also trialled growing new, longer varieties of celery which produce two lengths of stick-pack size celery, as opposed to one; significantly increasing the productivity of land used for celery cultivation.

“In order to successfully grow these long varieties of celery, Ivalyo developed drip irrigation systems that have not only dramatically reduced water and fertiliser requirements for growing celery crops, but also helped produce stronger crops that are more resistant to disease.”

Young Producer Award

Young Producer Award winner Alex Lee joined Capestone Organic Poultry in 2014 in a junior job role, but his enthusiasm and dedication has seen him quickly move on to take on a series of more senior positions, most recently culminating in his appointment as poultry manager.

“Alex has displayed an eagerness to learn and has seized any opportunity that he has been given to develop his knowledge and understanding of the poultry industry,” explained Viran Abeysena, from Capestone, who nominated Alex in the M&S awards.

“He has excelled whilst working as part of our broiler rearing team and was subsequently moved into a management position in 2017 and started an HNC qualification in Poultry Production at Scotland’s Rural College where he graduated just last week.

“Alex is now our poultry manager where as well as being responsible for rearing thousands of birds each year. He helps manage a large team of Capestone employees; guiding colleagues with great empathy and motivating them to develop their own skills.

Welsh Lamb Producer of the Year

Fourth-generation sheep farmer, Wynne Jerman, and his family were recognised with a special award to celebrate producers of Welsh lamb.

The Jerman family run around 1,250 breeding sheep on approximately 650ac in Llandiloes, Mid Wales.

Wynne is the fourth generation to farm the same land, which has been in the family for over 100 years. His three sons and daughter are now involved in the business too.

The farm is focussed on producing grass-fed lamb, more recently concentrating on using high-sugar grasses to produce a quality lamb on a more sustainable system.

Farm Resilience Award

Staffordshire pork producer Rob Mercer from Packington Pork won this year’s Farm Resilience Award – an accolade jointly awarded by the Prince’s Countryside Fund and M&S.

Richard Riley, from supplier, Cranswick, who nominated Rob for the award, said: “Rob is in charge of the pig operation within the Packington business and drives sustainable, high welfare farming.”

“Rob works closely with landowners and environment agencies to ensure that protecting the local environment – from soil structure to local watercourses – is a key priority and he is currently working towards making Packington Pork a carbon-neutral business.

“He is committed to engaging with consumers and explaining the work he and his colleagues do at Packington Pork; opening the farm every year for Open Farm Sunday and holding monthly visits for local school children.

“This openness, combined with his focus on improving sustainable farming practices and attention to animal welfare, all make Rob stand out as an excellent ambassador – not just within the pig sector, but in the wider agricultural industry.”

Steve McLean, head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S, added: “At M&S we are committed to producing food as sustainably as possible, with animal welfare being a key priority.

“It is wonderful to recognise the excellence in our supply base through our Select Farm Awards – this year’s finalists really demonstrate the breadth of forward-thinking activity taking place every day in UK agriculture.”