Fruit trees and flowers grew and blossomedinto a nursery school, retail outlet, fencing company and contract hireswimming pool to become the pick of the bunch of East Anglias topdiversification projects.
EE Ulph & Co of Whites Farm, Colchester,run by Angus and Sally Scobie and established by his grandfather in 1937 as anapple and pear farm with four acres of peonies, beat off stiff diversificationcompetition from 10 other regional entrants to receive the BALE award fromsponsor and judge Jonathan Long, partner and Head of Agriculture and Estates atAshton KCJ. The winners were announced during the Suffolk AgriculturalAssociations Agricultural Awards dinner held at Trinity Park.
Fellow judge, along with the Associationspresident Clare, the Countess of Euston, and last years BALE winner KatharineSalisbury of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses said: We were all bowled over by thehigh standards of all the entries and the diversity of different projects, butWhites Farm stood out. They had not lost sight of their core businessestablished by the grandfather, but had diversified along such a differentroute which plays to their strengths a Nurseryschool in a barn, run by Sally, who has a background in Montessori, theswimming pool which is let to local groups and individuals, a woven willow fencingcompany, as well as a retail outlet for nursery products. The standard acrossall the businesses was incredibly high. As judges, we were struck by theirpassion which shone through everything they were doing, the obvious teamworkand their ability to seize the opportunities.
For the first time in the Awards 23 yearhistory, the standard of entries meant there were two joint runners up – Robertand Sally Beddows for Hollow Trees Farm and its year round programme ofentertainment and education and Nathan Nobbs for Potsford Care Farm.
The Best Newcomer Award was presented to The Catchpole Family for StowlangtoftHealthcare LLP, now one of East Anglias premier care facilities and taken overand successfully run by the family who bought it from the receivers when theoriginal owners went into receivership.
Judges said the choice of winners was alsoincredibly difficult due to the huge diversity of projects a care home, woodchip boiler business, events venues and care farm and decided that since mostof the enterprises were carrying out green practises and sustainability as amatter of course, not to award in this category.
The Suffolk Farm Business Competition wasjudged by members of the Hampshire Farmers Club in a reciprocal arrangement whowere evaluating on three criteria, the business management, and sustainabilityof the business and land occupation and the social/community involvement of theprojects in three categories by size of farm.
Winners of Class One Farm, up to 250hectares were last years winners, Jason and Katharine Salisbury of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses, Creeting, who werepresented with the F W Barker Perpetual Challenge Cup and Tankard for the bestfarm up to 250 hectares by Chris Seppings of sponsors Hutchinsons. The judges said the farm was veryinspirational. It was started from zero and now is a very successful businesswith a very clear business plan and very focussed management at all levels. Thecouple recognises the need to step back from business and get time away fromthe farm. Where now after your period of consolidation? Fantastic! they said.
Winners of the Class Two Farms – 251-500hectares – was Porters Farm (Walpole) Ltd, Hill House Farm, Walpole whoreceived the Cranworth Perpetual Challenge Cup and tankard from class sponsorBruce Masson from Baker Tilly. Judges praised the farm for its excellent conservation,very enterprising use of renewable energy projects and good use of capitalgrants. Plenty of machinery all well maintained and organised. A verywell run farm business with succession planning well in place.
Class Three winners, farms of more than 501hectares, and recipients of the King George VI Memorial Challenge Cup, were JohnBrown and Sons. Presented by from sponsors Larking Gowen, they were praised forExcellent overall business management and attention to detail. Crops lookedfantastic and grown with very efficient use of labour and machinery with a focuson getting the most out of every acre. Very impressive use of capital withclear vision for further expansion. Business clearly knows where it has comefrom what its strengths are and where it is going in the future.
The principle sponsor of the Suffolk FarmsBusiness Competition, for the third year running was Bunn Fertiliser.Certificates were presented to the second and third prize winners in each classas well as for the best crop, best conservation and best livestock enterprise,sponsored by Koch Advanced Nitrogen, Atlas Fram and Thurlow Nunn Standen,respectively.
For the second year runninga prize was awarded for the education competition Suffolks Farming School of theYear, which was launched in spring and judged at the Suffolk Show.
Claas general sales managerPaul Moss presented Sandy Rowe from Saxmundham Primary School, with an engravedtrophy that the school keeps for the year.
The event was hosted by former Suffolk Show directorPeter Over and about 250 people sat down to a three course dinner of seasonaland locally sourced food prepared by chef Ronnie Hayes and his team at TrinityPark Events.
Show director Bill Baker said: Both thenumber and standard of entries into the farm competition this year have beenincredible. The judges were impressed by the entrants attention to detail andprofessional approach towards all aspects of their business which stand them ingood stead for the future, especially as we move into a period of decliningcommodity prices. The 11 entries in the BALE award demonstrate the creative anddiversification skills in the industry. No two enterprises were the same, butall were maximising the opportunities to build and develop for a sustainablefuture.
A particular highlight for me this year waswatching the three schools in the final of the Farming School of the Yearcompetition meet HRH Prince Harry at the Suffolk Show. The SAA is very gratefulto all the sponsors who enable us to showcase the quality of farming in thisregion.