Representatives from all aspects of Devon’s huge farming industry came together at the Devon County Showground at Westpoint last night, for the presentation of the first Devon Farm Business Awards in what was a celebration of farming excellence, with younger farmers strongly to the fore.

The blue riband award, of Devon Farmer of the Year, went to Peter and Di Wastenage of East Budleigh, for their superbly managed, pasture-based dairy farming business, which encompasses four dairy herds and a 1,000 head goat milking enterprise. They also won Dairy Farmer of the Year for their highly innovative low cost approach to milk production.

Jerry Alford, who farms at Silverton and has transformed the fortunes of the co-operative Devon Grain since taking over as its chairman, won the accolade of Devon Farming Champion.

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Mary Quicke of Newton St Cyres, who has been setting the standard for dairy farming and cheese-making in Devon for many years, and whose Quicke’s Traditional Cheddar is now exported to many countries around the world.

Nicky Bishop, of Feniton in East Devon, was named Best Woman Farmer, for the way in which, at just 23, she has taken over the running of the family dairy farm, after the sadly early death of her father Colin this year.

Robert Lanning won the Commercial Farmer category, for his hugely successful chicken business based at Sheldon near Honiton, which now produces over 3.5 million chicken a year.

Best Diversification was won by Greg Page-Turner, for the office lets and self-catering holiday accommodation which has given a new lease of life to a small East Devon livestock farm near Honiton.

And the judges had to wait until the very eve of the awards dinner to decide upon Young Farmer of the Year, as one of the short-listed applicants was on his way back from sheep-shearing in Greece!

But if those were the highlights, then Ian Bell, of the ARC Addington Trust, who worked closely with the Devon County Agricultural Association in organising the awards, said that the biggest winner of all was the farming industry in Devon.

“The quality of the short-listed applicants in every category was quite superb”, he said. “Our seven winners are fit to stand comparison with any farms in the world for enterprise, efficiency, determination, market focus, concern for the environment and all of the other qualities that you need to run an award-winning farming business.

“Between them, they are a wonderful advertisement for the dynamism and diversity of farming in Devon, and an inspiring example for others to follow.”

That theme was picked up by Richard Maunder, Chief Executive of the DCAA, who said that, by promoting and encouraging excellence, the awards were one of the best ways for the Association to achieve its mission of taking the industry forward.

“And what is particularly exciting and encouraging is that most of the winners are younger farmers, which fits perfectly with the “youth and opportunity” theme of this year’s Devon County Show and demonstrates that the future of farming in Devon is in good hands, ” he said.

The awards were generously sponsored by leading rural solicitors, Stephens and Scown LLP. Phil Reed, partner and head of rural services, who presented the awards, said: “It has been a privilege to support the inaugural Devon Farm Business Awards. The winners and nominees demonstrate the very best of the industry with their dedication, innovation and passion. Farming is not a ‘job’, it is a way of life, and it is fantastic to get a chance to celebrate these successful farmers and farm businesses. The future of farming in Devon is looking bright.”

The categories, sponsors and winners were as follows:
Devon Farmer of the Year, sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers Ltd, and Best Dairy Farmer, sponsored by Santander:  Peter and Di Wastenage, Tidwell Barton, East Budleigh. 01395 443351
Peter and Di Wastenage are among the foremost exponents of the ‘New Zealand’ approach to dairy farming, in which the cows are kept out at grass for as long as possible each year to keep costs down and milk quality high.  Based on a farm tenanted from the Clinton Devon estate at East Budleigh, they now have four dairy units and a 1,000 head goat dairy enterprise, run by Peter’s sister Lucy, spread over 2,500 acres.  The hallmarks of their approach to dairy farming are attention to detail, and a high level of environmental sensitivity, to produce dairy systems which are sustainable in every sense.  The judges were particularly impressed by their “all round superb management” which was, they said, “a great example to any aspiring young dairy farmer”
Devon Farming Champion, sponsored by NFU:  Jerry Alford, Silverton Park, Silverton, Crediton 01392 860246 07733 236377
Since taking over from his father Gerald, Jerry Alford has created a successful beef and cereals enterprise with holiday cottages.  However, his greatest contribution to farming in Devon has been through his chairmanship of Devon Grain.  Since taking over the reins in 2006, he has effectively re-launched the Westcountry Grain brand as the marketing arm of the three Westcountry Grain co-operatives, and has been hugely effective in representing Devon and West Country interests within Openfield, the farmer-controlled business that sells 14% of Britain’s grain  He guided Devon Grain through lean times by innovative ideas, such as developing Devon Grain as the premier organic grain store, and has more recently led a  £750,000, 5000 tonne expansion.  Despite failing to gain a RDPE grant, the momentum created by the success of Devon Grain and its value to members, the additional space is already half paid for, although it will be commissioned for the 2014 harvest.

Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by the Devon County Agricultural Association:  Mary Quicke, Home Farm, Newton St. Loe. 01392 851222

Mary Quicke is one of the most inspirational farmers in Devon.  Since taking over the family estate from her late father, Sir John Quicke, she has built a worldwide reputation - and market - for the quality of her Quicke’s Traditional Cheddar, and has served as a role model for the industry in her positive outlook and customer focus.  She farms 1500 acres in a family partnership at Newton St Cyres, with 500 cows and around 600 acres of arable.  She was a pioneer of pasture-based dairy farming in the UK, to combine low cost, high environment and the best possible product.  She was awarded the MBE for services to agriculture and was President of the Devon County Agricultural Association in 2012.

Best Farm Diversification, sponsored by CLA :  Greg Page-Turner,  Woodhayes Farm, near Honiton 01404 56800
Gred Page-Turner has given A small (150 acre) East Devon cattle and sheep farm, complete with traditional orchard, a new lease of life, thanks to the imaginative and sensitive conversion of listed but redundant farm buildings, to create:
• 11 high quality office units, using a mixture of traditional materials and modern techniques.
‘Orchard Barn’, a three bedroom barn conversion for self-catering holiday accommodation.

Best Commercial Farmer, sponsored by Francis Clark Accountants:  Robert Lanning,
RM and JM Lanning, Devonshire Poultry Ltd, Little Westcott, Sheldon, Honiton 01404 841663
Robert Lanning is a first generation farmer who has dreamed of running a poultry enterprise since he visited the poultry tent at the Devon County Show as a seven year old.  He started his own egg round whilst still at school, broadened his experience by working for two years in hatcheries, a breeder farm and several broiler units, before renting a 28,000 bird broiler unit, even though he had to sell his car to finance his first crop!  Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength and he is now one of the largest and most efficient chicken producers in Devon, with six standard broiler units and one Freedom Foods unit, producing over  3.5 million chicken a year, with a turnover  approaching £7 million.  A biomass boiler has been installed in the home farm of Little Westcott.  Robert and his wife Jacqui have three young children, Edward, Arabella and Monty.
Best Woman in Farmingsponsored by NatWest : Nicky Bishop, Curscombe Farm, Feniton, Honiton tel:  01404 850242

The youngest of four girls, Nicky Bishop, 23, is just passionate about cows.  She helped her  father Colin on the family dairy farm from the time she could walk, started showing calves at the age of nine and last year came away from the Devon County Show with the coveted Champion Interbreed Group trophy for her pedigree Holsteins. After school, she worked on a dairy farm in Canada for three months, and then took a Foundation Degree in Agricultural Management at Cannington College, which she finished in 2013, passing with distinction.  However, the sad death of her father early this year has meant Nicky taking up the reins of the family business far earlier than she had anticipated.  She has risen to the challenge wonderfully, managing the 115 cows (herd average yield just under 10,000 litre) with her fiancé Chris and mother Jenny.  Despite the demands of the farm, she remains very active by in the Devon Holstein Young Breeders club, which will be hosting the national HYB rally at Bicton in August, and the Young Farmers.  Nicky is living proof that neither age nor gender is a barrier to success in modern farming;  a truly remarkable young lady. 
Best Young Farmer, sponsored by Kivells:   David Camp, Totnes   07855774094
David is 31 and is currently farming a total of 900 acres of organic land, scattered across the South Hams and held on a variety of different rental agreements.  He started his farming business as a teenager with a small group of his grandfather’s South Devon cows and has expanded it by renting bits of land whenever the opportunity has presented itself, using his earnings from sheep shearing and relief milking to build up his herd and flock.  He now has a herd of 150 pedigree South Devons, a flock of 400 mule ewes and a pedigree flock of 50 Whitefaced Dartmoors, as well as growing 80-100 acres of cereals.  He has recently started work on building an energy-efficient farmhouse on the land he has been able to purchase near Harberton, using capital built up from the farming business.  Through all of this enterprise and achievement he has been an active member of the YFC, chairing his local Totnes branch and the county Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee.  More recently, he has become involved with the NFU and sits on its Next Generation Board. He married Helen in 2011 and is now a proud father to twins Emily and Elliot.