Royal honours for farming's high achievers

Clarke Willis receiving his Fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Societies certificate from the Princess Royal

Clarke Willis receiving his Fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Societies certificate from the Princess Royal at the House of Lords - Credit: Ruth Downing / Rural Pictures

Exceptional lifelong contributions to East Anglia's farming industry were recognised by royalty at an awards ceremony in London.

The Princess Royal presented certificates to honour "the remarkable personal achievements and contribution of individuals to the many sectors of the food and farming industry".

The English Panel of the Council for Awards of the Royal Agricultural Societies (CARAS) held the event in the House of Lords, hosted by Lord Taylor of Holbeach.

The presentations were for Fellowships (FRAgS) and Associateships (ARAgS) of the Royal Agricultural Societies, in recognition of "outstanding contribution to the understanding, efficiency and well-being of agriculture".

The 64 award recipients ranged from practical farmers to academics, company directors, media practitioners, administrators, advisors and consultants.


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Norfolk farming leader Clarke Willis was among those to receive a fellowship - the senior award of the council.

He retired as chief executive of Honingham Thorpe-based agricultural buying group Anglia Farmers (now known as AF Group) in 2017 and was made an MBE for services to agriculture in 2016.

Since retirement he has remained involved in the industry, and is a director of the Food Enterprise Park at Easton, which is developing major food processing and support facilities for the agri-food supply chain in East Anglia.

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On his fellowship award, he said: "It is an honour. It is an award that you don't enter a competition for, so it is recognition by your peers for the work that has been done over a long period of time.

"It also brings you into a network of individuals that make things happen in the industry. If it helps the industry and its reputation, then that's really important."

Michael Sly receiving his Fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Societies certificate from the Princess Royal

Michael Sly receiving his Associate of the Royal Agricultural Societies certificate from the Princess Royal at the House of Lords - Credit: Ruth Downing / Rural Pictures

Associate awards included Michael Sly, who farms 2,000 hectares across three farming businesses in the Cambridgeshire Fens.

He is a leading figure in East Anglia's sugar beet industry as chairman of the National Farmers' Union's sugar board, and he has been instrumental in the development of the state-of-the-art Condimentum mustard mill at Easton, producing ingredients for Colman's.

Andrew Francis, a new Associate of the Royal Agricultural Societies, pictured with Lord Taylor of Holbeach

Andrew Francis, a newly-awarded Associate of the Royal Agricultural Societies, pictured with Lord Taylor of Holbeach at the House of Lords - Credit: Ruth Downing / Rural Pictures

And another new associate is Andrew Francis, farms director at the Elveden Estate, near Thetford - one of the largest privately-owned farms in the country.

He won praise for successfully managing "a very complex farming business by applying fundamental good science and spending significant time focusing on soils and water".

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