INNOVATIVE farmers reaped the rewards of their hard work and dedication to British agriculture during the fourth annual Northern Farmer Awards.
The glamorous ceremony was enjoyed by more than 400 leading industry professionals from across the North of England, including 29 exceptional finalists and ten category winners.
The prize-giving was hosted at the Great Yorkshire Showground at the Pavilions of Harrogate on Wednesday night with 37 tables full of generations of farming families and specialist suppliers.
A judging panel for The Northern Farmer publication submitted votes in secret to crown John Aynsley as the overall Northern Farmer of the Year 2017.
Mr Aynsley manages Low House Farm, in Stanghow, near Guisborough, after he came to the site near east Cleveland with his wife in 2003.
Mr Aynsley accepted the biggest award of the night after already securing the Farm Manager of the Year accolade – which he dedicated to everyone working on his farm.
Former BBC Look North presenter Wendy Gibson hosted the event and she told guests that Mr Aynsley’s positive approach to farming support given to his team made him stand out from his fellow finalists.
She said: “The overall winner and The Northern Farmer of the Year, John Aynsley, was praised by the judges for being the ‘complete package’, moving forward within the industry despite facing a number of challenges which he is successfully surmounting.
“As well as having excellent all-round agricultural knowledge and skills, they commended him for the way he involved his staff, saying, ‘he knows how to run a successful team’.”
Mr Aynsley’s acceptance speech sought to inspire the next generation of farmers in the room and his comments were met with the largest round of applause of the night when he said: “British agriculture is brilliant – end of story.”
Seven other categories saw Northern Farmer Award winners pick up accolades for their diverse and unique strategies to secure a successful future in the pressured industry.
Richard Darlington, of Hall Hill Farm, Lanchester, County Durham, earned the prestigious Young Farmer of the Year Award to recognise his strong vision to diversify the 700-acre farm that has been open to visitors since 1981.
Former footballer turned farmer, Elaine Vickers, of Long Myers Farm, near Sherburn Village, Durham, scooped the Beef Farmer of the Year Award, with judges commending her on her enthusiasm and market knowledge.
Leslie Brown, of Leslie Brown Agricultural Contractor, based near Darlington, was rewarded with the Farm Contractor of the Year Award for his “very professional” and reliable approach to supply customers with machinery.
The Outstanding Achievement Award of the evening went to staff at the Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop, in Barnard Castle, North Yorkshire, for stocking their own produce from their farm.
The Arable Farmer of the Year Award was presented to Jamie and Tom Finch, of Coppy Crooks Farms, Bishop Auckland, for their use of GPS mapping on their farm.
Clive Metcalf, of Park House Farm, Barningham, near Barnard Castle, became Sheep Farmer of the Year for his success at auction sales in 2016 which was hailed as a “phenomenal achievement”.
Roger Hildreth’s family claimed the Family-Run Farm of the Year for their traditional management of Curlew Fields Farm, York.
The hotly-contested Dairy Farmer of the Year Award was handed to Mike Walsh, of Bunkers Hill Dairy Farm, Penrith, Cumbria, who successfully sells raw milk.