Slindon farmers win national award

Paul and Madeleine Crawley at Courthill Farm in Slindon
Paul and Madeleine Crawley at Courthill Farm in Slindon

Two Slindon farmers have been named among winners in this year’s British Farming Awards 2016.

Paul and Madeleine Crawley, from Courthill Farm, won silver in the New Entrant: Against the Odds of the Year category.

They were among the successful names revealed at an awards ceremony held at Chateau Impney Hotel, Droitwich Spa, on Thurdsay night.

More than 650 farmers and industry professionals attended the event, which showcased the innovation and achievements of grassroots farmers across the agricultural industry.

Organised by Briefing Media, parent company of Farmers Guardian, Dairy Farmer and Arable Farming, the awards welcomed a record number of entries from across all farming’s core sectors.

The Crawleys, who operate a mixed organic farm, growing organic spring barley in addition to a 75-strong suckler herd and 450-ewe Lleyn flock, were the only winners from West Sussex.

Paul first realised he wanted to be a farmer when he took a week-long taster course while he was at secondary school.

Following graduation in agriculture at Wye College, he returned from a year working in New Zealand with little money and a student loan to repay.

Keen to replicate the progressive farming structures he had witnessed abroad, he secured a job as a farm manager and was given the challenge to farm organically and return the same rent as the other farming tenants.

Succeeding in this, he was offered more land to farm by the owner and eventually secured a contract farming agreement.

Using a personal loan, which has since been repaid, he bought 36 of his own dairy cows which were leased to the owner and farmed alongside the 250-cow dairy farm for seven years.

After meeting wife Madeleine, who was a vet, the pair applied for seven tenancies over a five-year period and, in 2013, were offered a National Trust farm tenancy comprising 267 hectares (660 acres) on the South Downs.

They surrendered their dairy contract farming agreement back to the estate owner and arrived on-farm in 2014 with seven Beef Shorthorn cows, two collie dogs and an array of farm machinery.

They have also entered into a Higher Level Stewardship system to achieve environmental objectives and as a form of risk management against falling commodity prices.

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