Richard Suddes, a mixed farmer from Durham, and Tim Parton, an arable farmer from Staffordshire have been awarded the 2017 Soil Farmer of the Year Award as joint winners.
The competition, now in its second year is organised by the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit (FCCT) and Innovation for Agriculture (IfA).
The competition aims to find famers and growers who are engaged with, and passionate about managing their soils in a way which supports productive agriculture, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and builds soil health, organic matter and carbon.
The two winning farmers are working in different conditions, with Richard farming at 850 feet above sea level and Tim farming in the Staffordshire countryside.
Tim farms 300 hectares of combinable crops with sheep contracted in to graze cover crops. He has transitioned over the last 7 years from using a plough, through strip till to the farm now being completely zero till with soil health as the number one priority.
Tim has been chosen as one of the winners this year due to his enthusiasm and passion for his soil and how to manage it. He is a self-confessed ‘soil addict’ focussed on building soil organic matter and biological populations that will help produce quality food with a reduced dependency on inputs.
Tim explains, “Soil is life, and I am so proud to have been recognised as a good custodian.”
Richard farms 1200 acres in county Durham, running a mixed farming system with cattle and arable cropping. Richard changed his farming system about 9 years ago as he was fighting a losing battle against the weather and conditions, as well as a realisation that there was a need to look after the soil.
The judges recognised Richard’s dedication to his soil management and his pioneering attitude to trying new things and integrating cropping and livestock together to build soil health. He is experimenting with undersowing crops with clover as well as focussing on nutrient usage and maximising the benefits of the livestock manures on the arable rotation.
Richard comments, “We are delighted to have won and had our hard work recognised.”
The accolade of third prize was taken by Richard Boldan, an arable farmer from East Yorkshire. Richard was awarded third prize for his fantastic attitude towards not just soil health, but also for his work promoting sustainable soil management up the supply chain and developing on-farm trials to look at the viability of direct drilling for vining peas.
Richard is “absolutely delighted to have been placed third, given the quality of the other entrants.”
Jonathan Smith, FCCT Director said “In the second year of running this competition, it is fantastic to see such amazing farmers sharing their soil management stories. Yet again there was a lot of strong applicants, and it was a hard decision on who to shortlist as well as to decide the final result. We appreciate the effort all entrants put in to the competition. These farmers and growers are demonstrating the benefits of building soil organic matter – healthier, more productive soils, increased carbon sequestration and better yields. It's a win-win approach, and a message we would like to spread far and wide.”
The top three famers will all receive prizes of fertility building or green manure seed from the kind sponsor of the competition, Cotswold Seeds.
The top three farmers will also all be hosting farm walks where their prizes will be presented and there will be a chance to see, understand and dig a bit deeper into what they are doing. The walk at Richard Boldan’s in Yorkshire will take place on the 28th June, Richard Suddes’ in County Durham on the 5th July and at Tim Parton’s farm near Wolverhampton on the 6th July. All walks will run from 6pm until 8.30pm. Further details are available on the FCCT website.
Two other farmers were awarded highly commended for their dedication to soil health, their exemplary soil management and level of innovation. These were Adam Lewis from Herefordshire and George Hosier from Wiltshire.