BARNY Butterfield, a cider-maker and farmer from Sandford near Crediton has been named “champion of champions” in an award scheme.

He scooped the accolade in the annual John Neason awards, organised by the Devon County Agricultural Association.

This year, in order to mark the 25th Devon County Show at Westpoint, the judges decided to choose from between past winners of the award.

And it was the way in which Barney Butterfield has expanded his cider enterprise since first winning the award in 2010 that most impressed the judges.

“We could see clear evidence of Barny's drive and business acumen when he won the award in 2010," said Mark Neason, the chairman of the judges.

“But since then, the Sandford Orchards cider enterprise has really taken off, with annual sales soaring from 12,000 to 600,000 litres.

The business now makes a really important contribution to the local economy, providing the equivalent of 12 full-time jobs, and all this from the base of a 75-acre Devon County Council small-holding.

“Barny comes from a non-farming background and has built his business through a mixture of enterprise, the ability to spot an opportunity and sheer hard work. He is a great example to other young people in farming as to what can be achieved, even if you don't have the good fortune to be born into a farming family,” added Mark.

As well as growing the market for cider in the West Country, Sandford Orchards cider is also now exported around the world, to countries including Russia, USA and China.

Sandford Orchards has also just acquired The Old Ciderworks in Crediton - an early 20th century brick built cider factory which closed in the late 1950s and has been a fertiliser store and military surplus yard.

Barney said: “We have changed from a farming business with a small cider-enterprise, to a cider business which farms, but I remain a farmer at heart and fully intend to continue producing top quality Devon beef, and organic chicken.

“Winning this award for the second time really is the icing on the cake. It once again provides affirmation that we are developing the business on the right lines and will be a huge boost to the whole team.”

The award comes with a first prize of £750 and is sponsored by DCAA, WCAVA, Stags, Devon Farm Estates and Barbara Neason.

John Neason was a former DCAA Honorary Land Agent.