Winners of Agricultural Awards are announced

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A cheese-making enterprise established just nine years ago with a small herd of Guernsey cows, which has developed into a small scale dairy farming business, scooped East Anglia’s top diversification award last night (Thursday 24 October).

Jason and Katharine Salisbury of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses beat off stiff competition from nine other regional entrants to receive the BALE (Best Alternative Land Enterprise) award from sponsor and judge, Jonathan Long, partner and Head of Agriculture and Estates at Ashtons Legal. The winners were announced at a prestigious Agricultural Awards dinner run by the Suffolk Agricultural Association at Trinity Park, Ipswich.

Jonathan praised the couple from Whitegate Farm, Creeting St Mary saying: “It was a pleasure to have been involved in the judging process. My fellow judges, SAA president Stephen Cobbald and last year’s BALE winner Peter Havers, were incredibly impressed by all of the entries. Our winners, Jason and Katherine epitomise the spirit of the BALE award, running a farm and having an excellent diversification, spreading risks. From a difficult start they found a niche in the market and through hard work and determination, they have created a very successful business, producing a popular product in a sustainable way. They are incredibly deserving winners.”

“Diversification has always been at our core,” said Katharine on their entry form. “Producing handmade artisan cheeses from our 40 Guernseys is our main purpose, but we have found other niche ways to make the farm sustainable.” The couple supply milk to a local start up ice-cream venture, sell bottled milk from the farm and use whey, the bi-product from cheese-making, to feed to their herd of rare breed saddleback pigs, reducing both the cost of feed and disposal of the whey. The mature full-flavoured pork is sold at Snape Farmer’s market. With about 50 per cent of their calves born as male, 25 annually, they are reared in a high-welfare system and fed until slaughter at six months and sold as rose veal.

The farm gives employment to an Easton & Otley student and hosts farm tours for visitors from across the UK and Europe.

The runner up prize was presented to Sarah Robertson for Valley Farm Equestrian Centre by Suffolk Show President Stephen Cobbald. The award for the Best Green Practice was presented by Show director Bill Baker to Richard and Hazel Wrinch for Orwell View Barns, and the Best Newcomer Award was presented to Nathan Nobbs of Potsford Care Farms, by Peter Havers.

Whitegate Farm also went on to win the Suffolk Farm Business Competition Class One prize for the best farm up to 250 hectares.

The judges praised the choice of breed, judicious use of capital and complementary aspects of the management and said: “This shows what can be done with a small dairy farm. It is the value that is added and captured by producing and marketing Suffolk Gold that is the secret to the Salisbury’s success.”

For the first time, a prize was awarded for Suffolk’s Farming School of the Year, which was judged at the Suffolk Show. The Countess of Euston presented Cieran Dadds from Britannia Primary School, Ipswich, with an engraved trophy.

The event was hosted by former Suffolk Show director Peter Over and approximately 300 guests sat down to a three course dinner of seasonal and locally sourced food prepared by chef Steve Carroll and his team at Trinity Park Events.Show director Bill Baker said: “Both the number and standard of entries into the farms competition this year have been incredible. In a year where the weather proved extremely challenging for crops grown in Suffolk, the judges were impressed by their quality as well as the overall farm management. The 10 entrants in the BALE award demonstrate the creative and diversification skills in the industry. No two enterprises were the same, but all were maximising the opportunities to build and develop for a sustainable future. The SAA is very grateful to all the sponsors who enable us to showcase the quality of farming in this region.”


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