A NEW date has been set for the inaugural Cumbria Farmer Awards.

It had been planned to hold the much-anticipated event in the spring, but Covid-19 has led to the decision to move the event to a new date this autumn.

Entries for the 12 categories will now be reopened until May 4.

Alongside farming’s core sectors - dairy, beef, sheep and machinery - there is also a celebration of talented youngsters coming into the industry.

The search to find the county’s farming unsung heroes is organised by Newsquest Cumbria in partnership with Carlisle-based business advisers and accountants Armstrong Watson.

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.”

The Awards will be judged by a panel of respected industry experts and specialists from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, headed by Andrew Robinson, partner and head of agriculture and farming at Armstrong Watson, who are also sponsoring a further category, the Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the drinks reception.

“When I heard about the opportunity to partner with Newsquest and bring to the county 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 and business and financial advisers, we know only 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.”

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.”

Andrew will be partnered in the search to find farming’s unsung heroes, by Alistair Mackintosh, west Cumbrian beef and sheep farmer and chairman of Red Tractor Assurance, as well as the National Farmers Union Cumbrian council delegate; Ian Bowness, Aspatria dairy farmer and NFU county chairman; Agricultural Partner at David Allen Accountants in Dalston, Michael Peile; Julia Aglionby, Armathwaite farmer and Executive Director of the Foundation for Common Land; Lois Mansfield, Professor of Upland Landscapes, and Director of Ambleside Campus; Sharon Sloan, Lely Center Longtown general manager; Robert Craig, Nuffield Scholar and Armathwaite dairy farmer; Heather Pritchard, Sales and Marketing Manager at H&H, based in Carlisle and Adam Day, Managing Director of The Farmer Network, based in Penrith.

The winners will be announced at a glittering awards dinner at the Greenhill Hotel, Wigton on Friday, October 1, when entertainment will be provided by the popular Cumbrian band, the Soul Survivors.

Our host for the evening is John Wharton, Cumbrian farmer and Livestock Manager and Auctioneer at Mitchell’s Auction Mart in Cockermouth and former Cumberland Show chairman.

Other category sponsors are Dalston accountants, David Allen, who 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.

Livestock Farmer of the Year, Carlisle-based H&H Group, who said: “With a heritage deep-rooted in farming, H&H Group Plc, is one of Cumbria’s most well-known and progressive companies. With its businesses including Harrison and Hetherington the UK’s largest livestock trading company, H&H Insurance Brokers and H&H Land & Estates, the Group are particularly pleased to be the sponsor of the Livestock Farmer category in the Cumbria Farming Awards. This award seeks to recognise commitment and innovation, and a livestock farmer who has shown the way forward for the sector in the last 12 months. Recently the livestock farming sector has faced many challenges, such as responding to food supply issues, marketing of livestock, Brexit and the new agendas for the environment and support payments. Across its businesses, H&H is committed to working with farmers, as it has done for generations, to help them move forward and flourish as they meet future demands and market conditions.”

Contractor of the Year and Dairy Farmer of the Year are sponsored by Carlisle-based Carrs Billington. The 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.”

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.”

The Land and Environmental Award is sponsored by the University of Cumbria. Professor of Upland Landscapes, and Director of Ambleside Campus, Lois Mansfield, 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 Against All Odds category sponsored by Lely Center of Longtown. A statement said: “Having spent the last 10 years in business helping farmers to develop their businesses through automation, we are thrilled to sponsor Against All Odds designed to identify and reward others who have successfully embraced innovation and demonstrated that sheer determination to succeed.”

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.