The shortlist for the inaugural Soil Farmer of the Year competition has been announced. The competition, which opened on World Soils Day (4th December 2015) has attracted a wide range of entries, from small horticultural operations to large arable estates. All the entries have the common theme of being passionate about their soil management, and recognising the crucial importance that soil health has to the running of their farming and growing operations.
“Soil is central to everything that we do” explains one of the shortlisted applicants, “the soil must be our first consideration within a sustained and profitable enterprise.” The competition, which has been run by the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit (FCCT) and Innovation for Agriculture, has received a large number of applications that have all been of extremely high quality.
FCCT Director, and organic vegetable grower Jonathan Smith explains his personal interest in soil management: “I have been working hard to create better soils with higher organic matter levels on my farm for years, it's central to what we do. I find the whole subject fascinating, not least because of the many different techniques that farmers and growers have to achieve the same end. This Competition has shown just how many great soil farmers there are out there. I hope this idea of being a 'soil farmer' grows in popularity.”
In total 17 applications were received, of which a shortlist of 7 has been created. The judging panel consisted of scientists from Rothamsted Research North Wyke, the James Hutton Institute, farmers from the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit and Cotswold Seeds who are kindly sponsoring the competition and providing the top three entries with prizes of cover crop or green manure seeds to a value of £500.
The shortlisted applicants are (in alphabetical order):
• Clive Bailye (Arable)
• Jeremy and Heather Dale (Livestock)
• Nigel Griffiths – Kent
• David Miller – (Arable)
• Iain Tolhurst (Horticulture)
• David White – (Arable)
• David Walston – (Arable and sheep)
The shortlisted applicants will be visited by FCCT, and then the decision of the top three soil farmers will be made. This decision will be announced at the end of March, with the presentation of the award taking place on a farm walk in late spring, giving other farmers the chance to come and visit the UK Soil Farmer of the Year to see and hear how this farmer manages their most important asset.