THE search is on to find the very best farmers in the island.
The Tomorrow’s Farmers Award recognises and rewards farmers who are committed to the future of food and farming in the Isle of Man.
The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture has launched the nomination process for this year’s award, which is sponsored by Shoprite.
DEFA Minister Phil Gawne MHK said: ‘This award not only aims to showcase the best farmers in the Isle of Man but provides an opportunity to share best practice, to inspire others and to let people know more about the hard work that goes into producing the quality produce that we can all enjoy every day.
‘The award is a chance to celebrate all that is good about Manx farming and give individuals the chance to shine. We have some excellent Manx farmers so we look forward to receiving plenty of nominations.’
Gareth Cromie, fresh market place manager at Shoprite, said: ‘This award is very important for the Isle of Man as it recognises the farmers who provide great quality, fresh produce which Shoprite prides itself on stocking in its stores and which our customers want to buy.
‘In addition, it should encourage future generations of farmers on the Isle of Man by demonstrating that there is demand for local produce and therefore a future in the industry. Supporting local production is beneficial to the Isle of Man as it contributes to the local economy as well as providing long term sustainability and traceability in our food supply.’
Last year’s winners were Derek Kermeen and family from Ballaterson Farm, Maughold, and Neil and Vicky Masson, Ballacricket Farm, Ronague. These farmers cannot be nominated for the award this year.
The judges will be Mr Gawne, John Speakman from Shoprite, DEFA agricultural adviser Chris Kneale, vice president of the Manx NFU Brian Brumby and the president of the Royal Manx Agricultural Show Brian Caley.
The winners will be revealed at the award ceremony, which will take place at the Royal Manx Agricultural Show, on Friday August 9.
But what are the judges looking for?
The DEFA says the aim of the award is to find farmers who focus on tailoring their farming enterprises to meet the needs of customers now and in the future.
This was admirably demonstrated by Derek and Allison Kermeen.
Derek has a focused, innovative and diversified farm business.
Faced with difficulties in sustaining good returns from his beef cattle, he looked at his land and the opportunities for doing things differently. Recognising that he had good quality permanent pasture, he set about reducing his cattle and invested instead in Lleyn sheep. This breed is known to efficiently convert grass into good quality lamb, thus providing great tasting meat for consumers. Derek bought his stock from an organic farmer and is building up his flock using as few chemical inputs as possible.
After winning the Tomorrow’s Farmer award in 2012, Derek said: ‘I am a firm believer that the world is constantly changing and that the only way to a profitable future is to respond to that change – doing what we’ve always done is really not an option. It’s inspiring to learn from others and I hope that there will be many nominations for the award this year.’
The judges’ special award for a young farmer in 2012 went to Neil and Vicky Masson at Ballacricket Farm, Ronague.
Neil and Vicky had been farming in their own right for several years and when Neil’s father Johnny gave them the chance to take on the dairy farm at Ballacricket, they grabbed it enthusiastically.
In order to be able to produce quality milk at a profit from limited grazing, they have focussed on high standards of animal husbandry and quality livestock. They also produce pedigree blue-faced Leicester sheep for sale as breeding animals to other farmers both on and off island, a business whose success is equally dependent on attention to detail.
Neil and Vicky said: ‘Winning this award was very encouraging and gave us a great sense of achievement. We also enjoyed showing the judging panel around the farm and explaining what goes on behind the scenes of our business – farming nowadays is a complex business and you have to focus on what you want to achieve if you are to make a profit as well as enjoy the business.’
Nominations should be made before March 29, giving a brief reason for the chosen nomination and describing how the farmer meets the awards’ selection criteria which are:
Efficient and profitable farming
Meeting consumer demands with their produce
The promotion of locally produced food
Innovative farm diversification
Farming in ways that conserve the environment for the future
Nominations should be sent to Audrey Fowler, Marketing Officer, DEFA, Thie Slieau Whallian, Foxdale, Isle of Man IM4 3AS or email: audrey.fowler(at)gov.im