Diversification Innovator of the Year
Sponsored by NFU Mutual
Recognising those who have looked outside the box to secure a future for their farming business.
Edward Dee, West Lodge Rural Centre, Northamptonshire
Edward Dee opened his farm to the public in 1994 and says his passion has always been to give visitors an experience of an environmentally friendly farming system. The farm park started by offering visits for schoolchildren at a time when this was a very new concept, followed by a nursery which now has capacity for up to 96 children at any one time. Outdoor learning is at the heart of its curriculum. Expanding rapidly, West Lodge now hosts more than 26,000 school children each year as well as 165,000 members of the public. Ed and his wife, Mo, say their motto is explore, enjoy, enthuse and enrich, which comes from their desire to help people connect with the countryside.
Patrick Deeley, Flower Farm, Surrey
Patrick Deeley understands that diversification has always been key to the future of Flower Farm and, from small beginnings, starting with pick your own fruit in the 1970s, he has made the most of every opportunity. The farm is now home to a thriving farm shop, a tea room and 15 industrial units. He teamed up with the occupants of one of these to run an on-farm micro pub which has evolved into regular music nights and an annual three-day outdoor music festival, which attracts 15,000 visitors each year. Flower Farm is also home to the biggest Oktoberfest Bavarian-themed beer festival outside London, as well as many other large-scale events throughout the year.
Ben Hollins, Fordhall Farm Event Caterers, Shropshire
This catering diversification has evolved from the farming enterprise at Fordhall Farm, England’s first community-owned farm. Initially, fresh meat produced by the farm, which Ben co-runs with sister Charlotte, was sold at the farm gate, farmers’ markets and online, but it became apparent more value could be added by cooking the meat. From humble beginnings selling steak rolls at the Christmas fair, the business has rapidly grown into an event catering business operating at major venues throughout the UK. With the capacity of making more than 10,000 of premium sausages and burgers, Ben has a clear plan as to how to grow the business and, while Covid-19 has severely impacted this year’s events, he is confident the business emerge stronger for it in the future.
Tim and Kate Mason, Vale Training Services, Buckinghamshire
Vale Training Service was set up by Kate and Tim Mason on their mixed family farm as a result of the need to maximise returns on redundant farm buildings. The training service business and the farm are very symbiotic, with each relying on each other for services and income. The courses are all agricultural and land-based and are delivered to a wide range of businesses such as zoos, schools, farmers, tree surgeons and agronomists. Up until Covid-19 challenges, the business employed seven full-time equivalent staff and delivered more than 450 training days and assessments per year to in excess of 1,500 delegates.