JUDGING is about to take place for the inaugural Cumbria Farmer Awards.

The awards will be judged by a panel of respected industry and specialists from a wide spectrum of backgrounds.

The finalists will be announced shortly.

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.

The judging panel is headed by Andrew Robinson, partner and head of agriculture and farming at Armstrong Watson, which is also sponsoring a further category, the Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the drinks reception.

Andrew, a farmer’s son, born and bred on a large hill farm in north Cumbria, said: “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.

"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.”

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 of the 12 categories 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 chairman of the flagship Cumberland Show.

Other category sponsors are Lloyds Ltd, which is sponsoring the Diversification of the Year Award.

Barry Lloyd, Lloyd Ltd chief executive: said: “We at Lloyd Ltd are delighted to sponsor the Diversification of the Year Award as we see so many of our customers branching out into new areas which have agriculture as their foundation, combined with their own individual strengths to offer high-quality, related products and services. By attracting a wider audience, the farming sector is strengthening its position in the minds and hearts of British consumers, essential as the industry develops for the future.”

Dalston accountants, David Allen, who is sponsoring the Young Farmers’ Club of the Year award. Agricultural Partner Michael Peile said: “The Cumbria Farmer Awards strive to find the county’s farming unsung heroes and are a reminder that the county’s dynamic farmers are the backbone of the food supply chain.

"The awards celebrate the core sectors of farming; dairy, beef, sheep, and machinery. They also celebrate talented youngsters, who are rising stars in the industry.”

Livestock Farmer of the Year, Carlisle-based H&H Group, who said: “This award seeks to recognise commitment and innovation, and a livestock farmer who has shown the way forward for the sector in the past 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 past 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.”

Tenant Farmer of the Year, National Trust Cumbria. They said: “We know the vital role farm tenants play in contributing to the farming community and economy, and sustaining our farming and natural heritage in Cumbria.

"Tenanted farms are part of or farming culture in Cumbria, and many smaller, tenanted farms provide the starting point for farmers successful careers. We want to support this award to champion tenant farmers delivering great outcomes on their farms, from high quality produce and livestock, to innovative farm diversification to successful environmental or community projects.

"We hope this award generates lots of nominations to share the great examples of work tenants are delivering, and to inspire future tenants to follow in their footsteps.”

Other sponsors include Agricultural Student or Rural Skills Award, Red Tractor Assurance.