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Champion milling wheat grower praised for supply chain working

StephenCraggs who farms at East Close Farm, Sedgefield, has won the 2013 nabim/HGCAMilling Wheat Challenge.  Stephen waspraised by the award’s judges for his commitment, attention to detail and hisvision.


Thecompetition result was announced at The Milling WheatChallenge awards dinner for finalists and their partners which was held at theRitz Hotel, London on the 24th October 2013. This was a very specialevent attended by representatives from all areas of the grain chain for acelebration of the country’s best milling wheat growers.


Theother two finalists were James Loder-Symonds of Denne Hill Farm, Womenswold,Kent and Nick & David Philip of Church Farm, Waltham St Laurence nearReading.


Thejudges for the 2013 award – Martin Savage from nabim,Pat Thornton from HGCA and Mark Ireland a Lincolnshire farmer – said thatselecting the winner was very difficult because all of the finalistsdemonstrated exceptional attention to detail and a strong commitment to themilling trade’s needs and processes.


MartinSavage said that this year was the most difficult for the judges in the historyof the competition. The standard was very high and each finalist had verydifferent strengths. “Whatwas very noticeable about our winner, Stephen Craggs, was that he questionsevery single detail of what he does on the farm and what it means to theongoing supply chain.”


Pat Thornton added that what impressed himabout Stephen Craggs – who grows 100% of his 750 ha continuous wheat formilling – was his clear commitment to the milling sector, produced in far fromideal conditions last season.  With anunderstanding of varietal suitability and a very simple approach – establish it,feed it and keep it healthy – the business has consistently delivered qualitymilling wheat to merchants and millers over a number of years.


Pat added: Stephen is very hands on, as is therest of his family, and all share an incredible can do attitude which hasallowed business strands to integrate and grow into a dedicated team whounderstand the market and are willing to invest in the opportunities that thisunderstanding brings.  As a result thebusiness now operates a 15,000 tonne store, drying and blending facility with asampling and testing laboratory that many would envy.”


This year he grew varieties that allattracted a premium Solstice and the spring variety, Tybalt. He sells hiswheat to ADM Milling Ltd, Frontier and EBBradshaw & Sons in Driffield.


Mark Ireland added that all three finalistsdemonstrated that they are committed, forward thinking and can consistentlygrow quality crops of bread-making wheats. They all combine an excellenttechnical understanding of the crop with a personal drive to be really good atwhat they do.


He said: As a fellow farmer I always feelextremely privileged to be able to visit and judge some of our country’s mostprogressive and professional milling wheat growers.  This year was no exception. All three finalistfarms deliver a mix of exceptional agronomic skill, care for the environment,investment in their businesses and interaction with the general public.”


“The decision on the winner of theMilling Wheat Challenge was the closest to date, but Stephen Craggs showedsuperb attention to detail in every aspect of growing his crops – in what canonly be described as a challenging climate and unusual rotation.  His drive and enthusiasm to market crops oftop quality was most impressive, as was his vision for his business andcontinued involvement with milling wheat into the future. 


MartinSavage commented that despite the difficult season, the milling trade isworking closely with the farming industry to maximise the inclusion of UK graininto manufactured food. “Last year, harvest 2012, was a very challengingyear for both farmers and millers. Only 3% of wheat supplied was fully withinhigh quality bread making specification. At the time of our visits in Junecrops looked good despite the poor soil conditions at the time of drilling. Thefact that this years harvest has 37% of milling wheat meeting the fullspecification is a great testament to all UK growers. “

UKflour millers are committed to UK wheat and farmers. We anticipate more than80% of the wheat we mill to come from UK farmers again this year.


TheMilling Wheat Challenge has become established as a formal recognition byBritain’s flour millers of how the country’s best growers combine attention todetail with end-customer awareness and business acumen to create a win: win forthe whole wheat chain.

Thecompetition will be run again in 2014 and will belaunched on Monday, 13th January.


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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