FARMERS and agri-businesses across the county have pledged their support for the Cumbria Farmer Awards 2020.

Entries are being sought for the 12 categories now open for nominations and entries, which can also be made online at before the closing date of Friday, April 24.

The search to find the county farming’s unsung heroes is organised by Newsquest Cumbria in partnership with Carlisle-based business advisers and accountants Armstrong Watson, which is also sponsoring a further category, the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the drinks reception.

Amid ongoing Brexit battles and daily political grappling, the launch of the inaugural awards offers a timely reminder there are certainties in the county’s provision of food through our dynamic and innovative farmers and producers.

With the agricultural industry contributing more than £24 billion to the UK economy, the role of the county’s farmers, families and rural businesses has never been so paramount.

The winners will be announced at a glittering awards dinner at the Shepherd’s Inn at Rosehill in Carlisle on Friday, September 25.

Alongside farming’s core sectors – dairy, beef, sheep and machinery – there is also a celebration of talented youngsters coming into the industry and a reminder of the contribution rural businesses are making to the county’s tourism, textile, wedding, retail and wildlife sectors – to name just a few.

Vanessa Sims, Newsquest Cumbria’s regional group editor, said: “With so much change and uncertainty characterising the current era of agriculture, the Cumbria Farmer Awards are a timely celebration of all that is best in the Cumbrian countryside – the drive and creativity that underpins the county’s economic and social life.

“Whether it is about celebrating amazing on-farm ideas, boosting the profile of your business, or acknowledging the hard work of your staff, the Cumbria Farmer Awards provide an unrivalled platform to shout about our fantastic farming industry.”

The awards’ main partner is Armstrong Watson. Andrew Robinson, the firm’s partner and head of agriculture and farming, will head the respected panel of judges.

“When I heard about the opportunity to partner with Newsquest and bring to the county a new awards for the farming and agriculture sector, it was important that Armstrong Watson was the first to put their hands up and support the initiative by becoming the lead sponsor,” said Andrew, a farmer’s son, born and bred on a large hill farm in north Cumbria.

“Farming is going through significant change, and as a firm of accountants, business and financial advisers we know too well how important the sector is. Having something that truly celebrates all the work within this sector in light of current challenges is a good thing. We are proud to help fly the flag for UK farming.

“To have such an event that celebrates and recognises all the hard work from the people, the communities they serve and the passion they have hits the heart of what we do. Armstrong Watson is proud to support the awards and we look forward to the celebration event in September.”

Stephen McCullough, Armstrong Watson business development and marketing director, added: “Partnering with Newsquest is a perfect fit for our business, and as the long-term main sponsor of Farmer titles across the county I knew we had to support the awards.”

Other category sponsors so far are Dalston accountants, David Allen, which is sponsoring the Young Farmers’ Club of the Year award, and supporting the host on the night.

“We are proud to be supporting these awards that will highlight all the hard work and successes of our farmers,” said David Allen.

Contractor of the Year and Dairy Farmer of the Year are sponsored by Carlisle-based Carrs Billington. The Carlisle-based animal feed, agricultural supplies and machinery business has a long association with the rural communities it serves.

Managing director Mark Cole said: “We are committed to supporting our farmers so are well aware of the hard work, talent and innovation across the whole sector. We are delighted to see these awards recognise the importance of farming and rural enterprise, and to play our part in highlighting and celebrating the many successes.”

The Farming Champion category is sponsored by the National Farmers Union (NFU). NFU Cumbria county chairman Ian Bowness said: “Celebrating our Cumbrian farming champions is more important now than at any other time in recent farming history. British farming can be one of the leading lights of post-Brexit Britain if the Government chooses to become a global leader in championing the sustainable, climate-friendly food that our farmers produce.

“The NFU will do everything in its power to show the country why they should support our industry. The north-west farming industry contributes £726 million to the economy and needs to be protected. I am therefore proud to be working with Newsquest Cumbria by sponsoring the Farming Champion Award. Cumbrian farmers who are prepared to work tirelessly for UK farming by promoting the industry to the wider public are precisely what the industry needs if it’s to prosper in post-Brexit Britain.”

The Land and Environmental Award is sponsored by the University of Cumbria.

Lois Mansfield, who is the professor of upland landscapes and the director of the university’s Ambleside campus, said: “We are delighted to sponsor the Land and Environmental Award, supporting what is a critical element of our county’s economy and society, which has shaped the landscape we all cherish.

“The farming community, as well as providing high-quality food for our tables, although numerically small, forms the glue that holds many of our rural communities together. These awards provide us with an opportunity to recognise the hard work, often unsung, which Cumbrian farming families and businesses complete to make Cumbria the great county it is.”

Other sponsors include Livestock Farmer of the Year, Carlisle-based H&H Group; Agricultural Student or Rural Skills Award, Red Tractor Assurance; Tenant Farmer of the Year, National Trust Cumbria; and Diversification of the Year, Burnetts Solicitors, of Carlisle.

To enter the awards or to nominate an individual who is doing an exceptional job and deserves recognition for their efforts, see the nomination form opposite.