Broadland farming campaigner "humbled" by regional award win
PUBLISHED: 08:26 12 February 2019 | UPDATED: 08:26 12 February 2019
An unsung hero who has worked tirelessly on behalf of Norfolk farmers said he was "humbled" to win regional recognition which could lead to a national award.
Louis Baugh, who farms with wife Fran at Neatishead, near Wroxham, has been a stalwart of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) for many years, representing agriculture’s interests within the internationally-important Broadland landscape and encouraging farmers to care for the countryside as chairman of the Norfolk Campaign for the Farmed Environment.
He has been named as this year’s regional winner of the Meurig Raymond Award and will find out at the NFU’s conference in Birmingham later this month if he is the national winner.
The award was launched last year in the name of the NFU’s retiring president to highlight the work undertaken by grassroots members for the union and the wider farming community.
“I was surprised, honoured and somewhat humbled to win the regional award,” he said. “People don’t get involved for the thanks or the praise but it’s nice when the work is acknowledged.”
Mr Baugh has lived in Norfolk for most of his working life but he was born and brought up in a mining village in South Yorkshire. After working on farms and studying agricultural science at Harper Adams University, where he met Fran, he went into farm management with GD Strawson Farming. In 1981 he moved to Norfolk to run the farm at Neatishead for Fran’s family. She returned to the farm in 1995, after working in the feed industry as a cattle specialist.
Cropping includes potatoes, sugar beet, wheat, barley, organic lettuce and vining peas. The farm’s pedigree dairy herd was sold, reluctantly, in 2012 but the farm retains a pedigree Aberdeen Angus suckler herd.
Mr Baugh became involved with the NFU at an early stage in his agricultural career, and was part of a small team which worked with the regional office and graduate trainee Ben Coates on the Why Farming Matters to the Broads report. The aim was to highlight the importance of food and farming within the Broads’ landscape. After the report was published, the Baugh family hosted a visit for then farming minister Jim Paice.
“In the Broads everything revolves around water – water volume, water quality and water availability,” he said. “You live and work in the Broads and think you would understand that, but it wasn’t until we did the Why Farming Matters project that we pulled it all together.”
The initiative forged closer links between farmers and the Broads Authority and helped secure a place for Mr Baugh on the authority, a secretary of state-appointed position he has held since July 2012.
“At first I wasn’t sure it was for me,” he said. “I was worried I might be a square peg in a round hole but I grew into the role and started to enjoy it. I also became more use to the authority and also the NFU.
“It has helped us put together, in close partnership, a bid and a trial for a stewardship scheme for lowland grazing in the Broads. The stewardship scheme is built on the work we did under the Broadland Catchment Partnership.
“It’s wonderful to have this trial on lowland grazing in the Broads but the bigger strategic picture is to get into the mind set of Defra officials and politicians about the overall importance of lowland grazing.
“We agreed it was better to look at lowland grazing as a sector rather than focusing on the high environmental and landscape elements of the Broads. If you devise the right approach for lowland grazing per se it will be right for the Broads as well.”