Shropshire farmer among winners of British Farming Awards

A farmer behind a community-owned farm in Shropshire was among the winners at this year's British Farming Awards.

Award winner Ben Hollins of Fordhall Farm Event Caterers
Award winner Ben Hollins of Fordhall Farm Event Caterers

Ben Hollins, of Fordhall Farm near Market Drayton, was the gold winner in the Diversification Innovator of the Year – Large category.

Elsewhere, Shaun McKay, of J.R. & M.C. Downes & Son, near Shrewsbury, won silver in the Farm Worker of the Year category.

Megan Edwards, of Shropshire's Harper Adams University, won gold in the Agricultural Student category.

Mr Hollins won his award for Fordhall Farm Event Caterers, which started out from small beginnings selling steak baps at a Christmas fair, and now operates as a separate business to the farm.

Its main product is premium burgers and sausages, which are all butchered and produced on-farm in the in-house butchery.

The business now manages catering contracts on a national scale, including at the Edgbaston cricket stadium and Carfest.

Mr Hollins said: "Winning came as a massive shock and it was completely unexpected, but it is a massive opportunity for our business going forward.

“It has been a difficult year for everyone and this is a great boost for staff morale and the whole team.

“We had a few beers to celebrate and the kids were very excited. My phone has not stopping buzzing with congratulations messages from so many people, some of whom I have not seen for years, so it just shows how many people were watching.

“Watching the awards does make you stop and think about just how many opportunities there are in the farming industry, if you think outside the box, when you see what other businesses are doing.”

The judges said: “Ben pays great attention to detail and is using technology to differentiate his product from others.

Opportunity

"Recognising the opportunity to sell his pasture-fed and free-range meats at local events, the diversification has grown from a couple of griddles purchased from eBay to a fleet of 14 trailers catering for some of the UK’s biggest events. The farm, which Ben runs in partnership with his sister Charlotte, will continue to remain central to their future growth."

The 2020 winners were revealed at a digital award’s ceremony on Wednesday night.

The event, which was broadcast online and hosted by Vernon Kay, showcased the innovation and achievements of British farmers across the agricultural industry.

Organised by AgriBriefing, parent company of Farmers Guardian, Dairy Farmer and Arable Farming, the 16 awards welcomed entries from across farming’s core sectors including beef, arable, machinery, dairy, agricultural students and family-run businesses.

The awards also continued to shine a spotlight on the emerging new agri-technologies coming into the industry along with talented new entrants and a hugely diverse array of diversification enterprises.

Sophie Throup, head of agriculture, fisheries and sustainable sourcing at event supporter Morrisons, said: “Morrisons is pleased to once again sponsor the British Farming Awards and help celebrate some of the great work British farmers do.

“This year more than ever as we have faced huge challenges feeding the nation during the Covid-19 pandemic, British farmers have one again come to the fore.

“Thank you to every farmer who continues to help keep food flowing, growing and rearing fantastic British products for our customers and their families.”

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