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North-east finalists celebrate the role farmers play in keeping the country fed and protecting the countryside

By David Porter

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The British Farming Awards 2021 has welcomed a record number of nominations this year as industry professionals, colleagues and peers recognise the innovative work being done on farms from all sectors throughout Britain.

Sixty individuals will now battle it out for the 15 categories up for grabs which highlight the diversity and diligence of UK agriculture including

five from the north-east.

Alongside farming’s core sectors including dairy, beef, sheep, arable and machinery, there is also a celebration of new entrants coming into the industry, the wealth of diversification businesses and family farms and recognition to the evolving presence of agri technology within agriculture.

New to this year is the Sustainability Innovator of the Year award, which has seen outstanding entries from dedicated farmers whose passion for enhancing and protecting the environment are commendable.

Now entering its ninth year, the British Farming Awards is a nationally recognised event which has celebrated, showcased and rewarded hundreds of British farmers who have successfully introduced innovation to drive their business forward, despite ever-increasing challenges

John McCullock
John McCullock

In the Agricultural Student of the Year is John McCulloch, a student at Scotland’s Rural College

John dreamt of studying and working in Scotland so when his mum and dad left to pursue new opportunities in Yorkshire, Johns stayed behind and was offered a job in Dumfries and Galloway on a pedigree Aberdeen Angus and Beef Shorthorn farm.

He then went on to study at SRUC and secured a new job on another farm balancing work and studies.

Since then John has gone on to pursue travel opportunties with Young Farmers, become actively involved in the Agri and Rural Affairs committee where he traveled to Westminster to talk with MPs and Defra secretary about the issues facing farmers in Scotland.

His list of achievements is exhaustive and include chairman of Stewartry Young Farmers, a member of SAYFC council, former chair of agri and rural affairs committee, member of the NFU Scotland Next Gen group and many more.

A keen showman of beef cattle he has won 60 young handler competitions and has made a name for himself at national shows. Hardworking, passionate, adaptable and skilled.

He commented: "I'm extremely honoured and humbled to be shortlisted for the Agricultural Student of the Year category at the British Farming Awards. I never expected to be nominated, let alone shortlisted.

"It makes all the hard work feel worthwhile."

Shona Marshall and Family
Shona Marshall and Family

There is a finalist nomination for Shona Marshall of Marshall Farms and Farm Shop.

She is nominated for Diversification Innovator of the Year (Large).

The diversification has seen her come a long way from a portacabin at each side of the A96 dual carriageway to a purpose-built farm shop and cafe.

Employing 15 staff, they are looking to expand and will open a restaurant capable of seating 120 covers at any one time.

Other diversifications include a refurbished offering for second-hand machinery and conversion of farming buildings to residential homes and the first drive through farm shop eatery in Scotland.

Her wider family, parents Kenneth and Moira who farm alongside their daughters, Christine, Julie and Shona, are nominated as finalists for Family Farming Business of the Year

Farming and family are at the heart of what they do and together they have turned a traditional farming business into a thriving retail enterprise, representing the best of modern Scottish farming.

They have reversed the challenges of Covid to their advantage and placed themselves firmly as a vital place within the community.

Shona said: "We have a strong passion for our business and we are delighted to be shortlisted for these awards. It’s a great achievement in itself for our continuous diversification to be recognised in this way. It acknowledges our determination and encourages us to keep growing our family business."

Chloe Shorten
Chloe Shorten

Farm Worker of the Year sees a nomination for Chloe Shorten from Keith who works for, J C Innes and Son

Chloe works on a 1140 indoor sow unit and at just aged 21 was offered manager position to oversee the daily running of the business, which spans 1600 hectares.

With a glowing reference from her employers, Chloe aims to make the business thrive and is a keen advocate for pig farming, she regualrly works to educate others about the industry and combat the negative backlash experienced by fellow pig farmers.

The business is changing their breed of pig which has proved challenging in areas of fertility and disease but Chloe has researched and counteracted the problems and offer creative solutions.

Alongside her full time position she is studying a degree in agriculture and is very much utilising her learning into her job.

It is very clear to see her contributions to this farming enterprise and the rewards which they have subsequently. She cares about her job, the animals, her employers and is a credit to the sector.

She commented: I have been working with pigs for about five years.

"I got the Unit Manager job of a 1100 indoor sow unit for J C Innes, Huntly.

"I absolutely love pigs and this is my passion.

"I am truely dedicated to the job and very particular about the way the job is done to ensure the highest of welfare standards.

"I have also been told earlier this week that i am a finalist for the National Pig Awards - Young Pig Farmer of the Year 2021.

"I was so happy to hear about this one too as its industry focussed and I was so grateful to be recognised as a successful candiate when there is so many competition."

Martin Dillon
Martin Dillon

Machinery Innovator of the Year has a finalist nomination for Martin Dillon for the Tilting Bale Spike

Martin runs a dairy beef calves and fattens them up and grows wheat and barley.

The bale spike picks up a bale, tilts upwards to then be able to pick up a second.

After researching the market, Martin couldn't find a piece of kit that moved bales with a spike.

He has since moved around 3000 bales of silage and 2000 bales of straw and has improved time efficiency and manual labour on his farm.

He commented: "I moved to Aberdeenshire back in 1991 with Mum Dad and sister.

"I farm in partnership with my wife Jennifer 299 acres with bits of help from sons Tim 10 and Craig 15.

"I am always looking for ways to speed up/ make efficiencies.

"Sometimes it is buying a new bit of kit, sometimes it is something simple like a gate, sometimes it is a modification to a bit of machinery.

"The design means you can spike your first bale and then spike the second bale without having to put down and place the first bale and it works in silage hay or straw.

"It is a bit of kit that can help get the work done a bit quicker, helping towards the farm life / home life balance."

Clarke Hibberd
Clarke Hibberd

The New Entrants Award: Against the Odds sees a nomination for Clarke Hibberd of Sittyton Farm.

Clarke began his business four years ago after working on a mixed livestock and stable farm for seven years and a cattle farm previously.

He began contract shepherding across Aberdeenshire while building up his own sheep flock on rented land.

Against the odds, Clarke finally managed to secure a five-year farm tenancy with no support from any grants and coming in as a new entrant.

He now runs around 250 acres with 500 owned ewes and 500 hoggs on contract.

He also runs a bed and breakfast service for 300 pigs.

He has gone to be a NSA ambassador and is now a committe member of the NSA Scotland branch. Clarke demonstrates what the agricultural industry needs from new entrants coming in and that is determination, passion, resilience and adaptability and not afraid to take risks to achieve better outcomes.

For more information about the awards evening on Thursday, October 21 visit www.britishfarmingawards.co.uk/awards-night

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