Following the lavish dinner at the annual Farmers Ball and Farming Awards, the winners of the Farming Awards, sponsored by South East Farmer, were unveiled. Growing in reputation, the awards received a record number of nominations this year and judges had their work cut out to select winners from the top nominees.

After the awards, guests took part in a charity auction and raffle, which raised an impressive total in excess of £3,000 for the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance, before heading to the popular photo booth or taking to the dance floor.

The 2019 winners

Taking a sustainable approach, with varied crop production, managed inputs and a wide rotation, the winner of the arable farmer of the year category was Tom Reynolds at S Salbstein.

Working alongside his uncle at Pent Farm, Postling, Tom was commended by judges for his outstanding ability to interpret scientific data “putting this into practice alongside a sound knowledge of landscape and countryside management”.

In the dairy farmer of the year category, judges said that all finalists had excellent results, in terms of yields and milk quality, with the winners SE Lane and Partners standing out for their enthusiasm and recent investment at White House Farm, Biddenden.

Judges said that: “new concrete, robotic milkers and new technology don’t make a winner on their own. The vision and focus displayed by Peter Sargent was impressive and it was great to meet a young farmer with such commitment and attention to detail that will pay dividends in the long term.”

Running a well-known herd of 40 pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows, producing around 20 high quality breeding bulls each year plus pedigree heifer sales, alongside a commercial flock of Romney and Romney x Suffolk ewes producing about 350 fat lambs per annum, the livestock farmer of the year award was presented to John Coultrip.

Commenting on the 160ha farm in Stalisfield, judges said that Wingfield Farm was “very well managed, showing above average physical performance from all enterprises which result in an above average financial performance”.

After an incredibly hard decision choosing between a stellar line-up on nominees, the family farming business of the year was award to the Glovers at Hartley Bottom Farm. Based in Longfield, the exceptional farming business includes a thriving butchers, a tack shop and a pony sanctuary, as well as an agricultural contracting business. Judges said that the family’s “knowledge and passion for farming was apparent in every aspect of their business and Roy Glover’s precise and phenomenal recollection of the development of his farm is both commendable and fascinating”.

Having received a record number of nominations for the family farming business category, which seemingly covers many different aspects of agriculture, a new award was introduced for 2019 to acknowledge the farm diversification of the year. Winner Kingcott Dairy is a small yet thriving company producing milk and cheese. Owned and run by Steve and Karen Reynolds and their two sons Frank and Archie, judges commended the farm diversification for its award-winning produce and ability to keep “family set at the heart of the business”.

Another new category for 2019, the best agricultural show of the year was awarded to the Heathfield and District Agricultural Show. The one-day event welcomed nearly 19,000 visitors in May 2019 and has to date has donated in excess of a quarter of a million pounds to local and charitable causes over the past ten years.

Judges highlighted the support the show receives from over 1000 volunteers, and commented that it “has remained loyal to its roots as a truly agricultural event, and it is clear from the enthusiasm that comes from speaking to visitors and exhibitors that Heathfield Show is truly valued and respected as one of the must see events on the South East farming calendar”.

For the first time in the competition’s history, all top three finalists in the ‘vineyard/fruit farmer of the year’ category were viticulturists and so South East Farmer’s sister publication, Vineyard Magazine, was given the difficult task of choosing an overall winner.

All three finalists, Tillingham Wines in Peasmarsh, East Sussex, Redhill Estate Winery in Wateringbury, Kent and New House Vineyard in Bodiam, East Sussex showed clear passion and dedication to the English wine sector.

As featured in the August 2019 edition of Vineyard Magazine, Tillingham has successfully breathed a new lease of life into a tired farmstead. Alongside the 20-acres of vines, which are said to be farmed in the most sustainable way, founder Ben Walgate has established an experimental winery producing over 15 different wine blends. Most impressively, is the transformation of the farm’s collection of redundant, run down agricultural buildings into an inspirational, modern and unforgettable wine tourist destination.

Having become passionate about distilling while living and working in London, Henry Boorman returned to his family’s estate in Wateringbury, Kent to establish a hobby vineyard. With the site proving its capabilities, in 2012/13 the vineyard was expanded and today Redhill Estate’s 21-acre site includes a wide range of varieties. Over the years, Henry, who also makes his wines on-site, has found innovative ways to reach clients in London, one method of which has involved upcycling an old horse box.

The overall winner was presented to New House Farm Vineyard. The 30-acre site, which was first planted in 2006 by Mike Williams and is today managed by his nephew Paul Lorkin, was chosen for its authentic and agricultural approach to viticulture.

As well as seamlessly fitting in with the landowner’s wider mixed farming enterprise, instead of developing their own wine label, Mike and Paul are dedicated to growing Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot meunier and Bacchus under long-term contracts for some of the country’s leading producers, including Camel Valley and Ridgeview Wine Estate.

While viticulture is continuously seen as a lucrative sector for farmers with suitable sites to diversify into, building a winery or having wine made, aging it for a suitable length of time, developing and marketing a new brand, and getting the final product to market, is incredibly time and capital intensive.

By working in partnership with already established brands, however, these stresses and pressures disappear. As well as playing a vital role in the English wine industry, by facilitating the expansion of well-loved brands, this approach allows growers, such as New House Farm Vineyard, to focus all their attention on the vineyard; implementing the best possible viticultural practises.

Every year, Paul and the team of dedicated local workers strive to make improvements in the vineyard, priding themselves on the production of top-quality fruit. The grapes grown here year-on-year have gone on to help produce award-winning wines which are sold in prestigious locations around the world, have been served to HM The Queen on numerous occasions and have even received royal warrants.

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