Toys & Training

FW Awards 2022 Diversification Farmer of Yr

This yr’s diversification class was characterised by progressive companies on the coronary heart of the farming group.

All finalists have championed creativity and proven nice environmental consciousness via sustainable practices. 

See additionally: How a dairy farm is utilizing a straw dryer to cut back waste

The finalists:

Emma Grey and Ewan Irvine
Sheepdog College, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Kier Petherick
Stowbridge Farm, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Tim and Tanya Spittle
Black Lion Vodka, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire

The judges:

Alison & Fergus Youthful
Final yr’s winners

Matilda Bovingdon
Farmers Weekly equipment reporter

Oliver McEntyre
Impartial choose and Nationwide technique director, Barclays Agriculture

Emma Grey and Ewan Irvine

Sheepdog College, Rothesay, Isle of Bute

Ewan Ervine and Emma Grey © Jeff Holmes

Husband and spouse workforce Emma Grey and Ewan Irvine have turned twenty years of shepherding information and experience right into a budding on-line subscription enterprise.

Leaving the distant Northumberland Nationwide Belief farm Fallowlees behind, they relocated to Bute final yr, taking up a brand new tenancy and 283ha of floor on which they run a blended 650-head flock producing salt marsh lamb.

Emma first grew to become recognized for her trialling success representing England, and for showing on the BBC’s This Farming Life. Because the present was broadcast, questions got here flooding in from farmers close to and much, asking for recommendation, suggestions, assist and coaching tutorials for his or her ­wayward sheepdogs.

Sheepdog College

Together with rearing cattle and sheep on the island’s pastures and salt marshes, the pair needed to offer solutions to those recurring questions.

To assist information farmers with coaching their canines, Emma and Ewan arrange the Sheepdog College – an internet, subscription-based platform that has established them because the de facto border collie specialists of the Scottish isle.

Hosted on Patreon, Sheepdog College has amassed a following of greater than 700 subscribers, every paying a month-to-month charge to entry Emma and Ewan’s content material.

The platform permits them to move on their years of collected information and expertise, which spans an enormous vary of matters, from a canine’s early coaching and first introduction to sheep, all over to educating instructions and course coaching.

They don’t simply present assist for younger canines, nevertheless, but additionally present subscribers the right way to right behaviours with extra mature working canines, whether or not they need to hone their approach or put together for native and nationwide trials.

Subscribers normally have a herding breed of canine, however come from a variety of various backgrounds.

“Not all of our subscribers are farmers,” says Emma, “There’s an actual combine, and more and more we’re seeing people who have purchased a collie as a pet and are eager to discover their canine’s pure instincts. Earlier than it, they’re really shopping for sheep for the canine, or small items of land.”

They movie the entire video content material themselves, a course of that’s time consuming within the midst of their day-to-day farming duties.

They invested in their very own digicam and different gear, and Ewan takes the lead on a lot of the filming, having realized his method around the enhancing software program.

A worldwide enterprise

Emma and Ewan additionally breed from their high sheepdogs, and practice the pups to promote as working or trialling canines.

Their expertise for coaching has seen demand come from all corners of the globe. Thus far, prospects have flocked from as far afield as Israel and Australia, in addition to Europe and elements of the US.

Group, trialling and the longer term

The couple’s ardour for sheepdogs and trialling has proved infectious, bringing collectively a small group of like-minded farmers on the island.

The pair have been basic in organising the Trials of Bute, which Emma chairs. The four-day occasion takes place on a number of totally different farms on the island and attracts rivals from everywhere in the UK.

Having already achieved a lot of their brief time on the brand new farm, the longer term, based on Emma and Ewan, shall be full of coaching the easiest sheepdogs for trialling and gross sales, and persevering with to supply their salt marsh beef and lamb. They’re additionally within the means of turning the land into the primary natural farm on Bute.

What the judges say

Emma and Ewan have an amazing story of constructing their method in farming, and including worth to the enterprise via the Sheepdog College – it’s progressive, crosses worldwide borders and is accessible for all via the ability of the web and social media”

Emma Grey and Ewan Irvine abstract

 The judges preferred

  • Core relationship with farming is on the coronary heart of all they do, and the subscription service and social media channels enable viewers to return alongside on the journey
  • Sensible strategy to share years of information and make it worthwhile
  • Group involvement with the organisation of trialling competitions on the island

Farm information

  • Tenancy taken on in 2021
  • Producing salt marsh beef and lamb on a variety of pastures
  • Quickly to realize natural standing, which is able to make it the primary natural farm on the Isle of Bute

The numbers

  • 50,000 social media followers
  • 12 working sheep canines
  • 283ha of land
  • 650 ewes
  • 30 cows

Kier Petherick

Stowbridge Farm, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Kier Petherick

Kier Petherick © Jason Bye

Farmer and serial entrepreneur Kier Petherick isn’t any stranger to daring farm diversification initiatives.

Operating a household farming partnership close to Ely, Cambridgeshire, he and his household develop wheat, barley, oats and potatoes.

However it’s his work with renewables that’s the stand-out function of the 1,600ha farm.

Kier says that he has a ardour for 3 issues: farming, engineering and renewable vitality sources.

He first dabbled with the latter in 2013, with the development of a 32ha photo voltaic web site, which does double responsibility as grazing land for a neighbouring flock of sheep.

Since then, his varied variations have grown significantly in each measurement and ambition and, amongst a number of different initiatives, he has developed a 22ha greenhouse producing 25t of tomatoes a day and 1.2m cucumbers every week, all of that are provided to supermarkets throughout the nation.

Renewable vitality

A reservoir constructed on the farm in 2010 has served as a basis for a number of of the farm’s diversification initiatives, together with a three way partnership that Kier oversees: Hannam’s Wake Hub and the Cambridge Aqua Park – two sights that carry paying guests from close to and much to the location.

Watersports lovers can a waterski and wakeboard utilizing a cable mounted on the banks of the reservoir, and there are two coaching areas for rookies.

An enormous inflatable assault course, which additionally operates on the reservoir, can accommodate as much as 80 individuals an hour.

A second reservoir was added a couple of years later, and collectively the 2 our bodies of water now help with the availability of heating for the gargantuan greenhouse.

Kier started the greenhouse undertaking final yr, and its building is undoubtedly his biggest renewables engineering feat up to now.

Warmth is pumped from the close by reservoirs through a mixed warmth and energy (CHP) plant, which produces warmth and carbon dioxide as by-products.

Quite than waste these emissions, they’re diverted to offer twin advantages to the crops in a intelligent round system.

The waste warmth provides additional heat to the greenhouse, and the carbon dioxide is redirected to be absorbed by the vegetation, making a sustainable system.

Working throughout the huge greenhouse is a budding group of 180 workers members.

Because of the progressive and cost-effective heating system, crops might be grown year-round, and thus workers are employed full-time too, permitting for larger job safety in an trade that’s normally outlined by the provision of seasonal employees.


It hasn’t all been plain crusing, nevertheless. Constructing a greenhouse of such big proportions throughout a worldwide pandemic introduced challenges by means of key materials shortages, such because the huge portions of glass required for the ­building.

Equally, the second Covid-19 lockdown introduced with it a bunch of restrictions limiting the variety of workers allowed to work on the location.

Regardless of this, the exceptional construct was accomplished in file time. “From pushing the primary soil on web site with a bulldozer, to having the primary crop able to promote took simply 54 weeks,” says Kier.

When requested concerning the future, Kier, who’s eager to be on the forefront of innovation, says he has lately taken an curiosity in inexperienced hydrogen manufacturing, and that extra renewable and photo voltaic initiatives are undoubtedly within the pipeline.

After the success of the greenhouse construct, there might be a second one in improvement within the close to future.

What the judges say

Kier has actually expanded the core farming enterprise with the wakeboarding lake and glasshouses on web site. He’s on the forefront of innovation, and we sit up for seeing what he’ll do subsequent”

Kier Petherick abstract

The judges preferred

  • A showcase of spectacular engineering and innovation
  • Nice group sense, serving to others to construct a viable enterprise
  • Infectious entrepreneurial spirit
  • Ahead-thinking, round strategy to meals manufacturing

Farm information

  • Greenhouse produces 25t of tomatoes a day
  • 1.2m cucumbers grown every week
  • Three photo voltaic websites constructed on the farm, stretching greater than 1.6km
  • A flock of sheep graze and keep the grassland across the photo voltaic panels

The numbers

  • 1,618ha of land
  • 101ha of photo voltaic
  • Two reservoirs
  • 22ha greenhouse
  • 180 Workers employed within the greenhouse

Tim and Tanya Spittle

Black Lion Vodka, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire

Tanya and Tim Spittle

Tanya and Tim Spittle © Richard Stanton

Based mostly within the north of the rolling Cotswold hills, Tim and Tanya Spittle run a particular flock of sheep with a really distinctive objective.

When their 121ha household farm got here out of a long-term tenancy 5 years in the past, the pair took on 80ha, and shortly concluded that they wanted to diversify to create an enduring enterprise for the following technology.

This, nevertheless, wouldn’t be their first try, as Tim first started the farm’s diversification journey practically 15 years in the past with the launch of an urban-style gymnasium, Freestyle 360, to cater to the various former metropolis folks transferring to the Cotswolds.

Their newest enterprise, nevertheless, has taken a reasonably totally different type, and the pair determined to create one thing that had by no means been finished earlier than – at the least not in Europe.

The primary of its sort

Pulling a optimistic out of a difficult scenario when the pandemic compelled the gymnasium to shut, Tim and Tanya used the additional time on their arms to put the inspiration work for what they describe because the UK’s rarest spirit – Blacklion Vodka – a easy, sipping vodka produced from distilled sheep’s milk and Cotswolds spring water.

The distinctive promoting level of this vodka is in its origin; not just for it being produced from the whey by-product of the cheesemaking course of, but additionally for the distinctive Black Lion ewes that present the milk.

Tim and Tanya have created this particular breed by crossing the Swiss Valais Blacknose sheep with a neighborhood dairy breed. The pair discovered that, on their very own, the Valais ­Blacknose couldn’t produce the yields required for the milking course of.

They’ve steadily constructed up their flock numbers, and now have about 600 of the curly-fleeced milking ewes.

Curds and whey

A ardour for native and sustainable produce is a giant driver for Tim and Tanya, who work carefully with two different companies which might be integral to producing their vodka.

Native cheesemaker Stephen Fletcher, of Berkswell Cheese, milks the Black Lion ewes alongside his personal flock and retains the milk to show into curds, which he then crafts right into a sheep’s milk cheese.

The leftover product from the cheesemaking course of is the sugar-rich whey, which is normally disposed of because it seldom has a use. Tim and Tanya purchase again the whey, which is then fermented, forming the inspiration of their vodka.

One other native farming enterprise completes the distilling course of. “We work carefully with the distillers to create the right flavour profile,” says Tim, who together with Tanya has painstakingly developed the tasting notes of the spirit in order that it bears no resemblance to common grocery store manufacturers.

“We needed to be as sustainable as doable by utilizing a by-product to create one thing super-premium,” says Tanya, and the result’s a “small-batch and eco-responsible British dairy product”.

Getting artistic with the product, a neighborhood mixologist has created a collection of cocktail recipes with a Blacklion Vodka twist – one favorite is the Soiled Sheepdog, which is a tackle the traditional espresso martini.


Although the precise manufacturing strategies stay an in depth secret, the pair say the clarification and filtration of the whey initially posed the best problem.

However this didn’t maintain them again for lengthy, and after investing a whole lot of time and analysis, they managed to create the pure, clear spirit of right this moment.

What the judges say

Tim and Tanya have taken an extended take a look at the farming enterprise and developed a top quality model and really particular product. This can be a nice achievement, spurred on by native collaborations and talent units”

Tim and Tanya Spittle abstract

The judges preferred

  • They make a improbable workforce and their totally different talent units actually complement the enterprise
  • Sensible advertising, and a high-quality, handsome product
  • Considerate and sustainable branding – prospects can choose to purchase the vodka with out packaging

Farm information

  • The 121ha farm got here out of a tenancy 5 years in the past
  • Tim and Tanya farm 80ha of this, whereas Tim’s brother farms the remaining land
  • The farm-based gymnasium has a big membership base and eight private trainers. Tim and Tanya get concerned and lead the weekend spin courses

The numbers

  • 121ha farm
  • 600 ewes
  • Vodka is distilled thrice
  • Greatest served at -1C
  • Freestyle 360 gymnasium has greater than 300 members


Sponsor’s message

Propel logo

Propel Finance is delighted to be sponsoring this yr’s Diversification class, and congratulates the entire finalists on this nice achievement.”

Julie Warren, advertising and partnerships director, Propel


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