National crop advisory award won by Norfolk agronomist

Champions of the farming industry have been recognised at the House of Commons in the latest Food & Farming Industry Awards.

A Norfolk-based agronomist won a national title and a fenland farmer took the progressive farmer of the year title.

Farmer's son David Youngs, who is agronomist and director for Chemspec East Anglia at Fakenham, was presented with the Agronomist of the Year title.

In the official citation, the judges noted that he stood out for many reasons including his 'innovative and forward thinking practices.'

Having grown up on the family farm at Lingwood, near Norwich, he treated all his growers' farms as if they were his own.

'He only wants the best for them. David showed himself as a true ambassador for agronomy, technically focussed, proactive, enthusiastic and professional,' added the judges.

Mr Youngs wanted to 'to help his growers achieve high yielding profitable crops but not at the expense of the environment.'

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His clients include leading Norfolk farmer, Robin Baines, who also manages and contracts a number of farms across Broadland. After he left agricultural college, he worked as a trainee farm manager on a large Norfolk estate and after a couple of years travelled around Australia before returning to pursue a career in agronomy.

He is still involved in the management of the family farm.

Fruit grower John Portass, who manages Wisbech Contract Farming, won the progressive farmer of the year title. His enthusiasm for the fruit sector, coupled with an attention to detail and his willingness to grow the farming business and share his knowledge was praised by the judges.

He has 'taken a fresh look at the fruit industry, working with consumers, marketing organisations, technology and the environment to increase productivity,' they noted.

The rural enterprise award went to Nicholas Watts, of Vine House Farm, in south Lincolnshire. 'As rural enterprises go, this ticks so many boxes – it's a family run business, it's sustainable, always moving forward, it knows its market well and delivers what its customers want.'

He was presented with his award by sponsors, McDonald's Restaurant's Michele Banik-Rake, who is head of agriculture.

The employer of the year for large-scale enterprise went to Woodbridge-based Gressingham Foods and Green Label Farms.

'The business has developed a very strong team ethos that creates a clear sense of belonging,' said the judges. The award was presented to Geoffrey Buchanan, managing director of operations.

The small scale enterprise winner was Uncle Henry's Farmshop, run by director and Lincolnshire farmer Meryl Ward.

Employing more than 30 full or part time staff, they take training very seriously with courses. And her business also won the retailer of the year category.

The judges noted that Shop displays were changed regularly to reflect special promotions or the seasons and even show price comparisons on products vs Tesco to show that shopping locally can be The Suffolk Food Hall was highly commended in this category.

Run in conjunction with two family farms at Wherstead and Broxtead, the Ipswich foodhall has seen significant success since opening in 2007 with turnover rising to over �2m pa, and employing 55 people.

The award was presented to directors, Oliver and Robert Paul.