THE Cumbria Farmer Awards 2020 are calling for entries from farmers and agri-businesses across the county.

The 12 categories are now open for nominations and entries, and can also be made online at before the closing date of Friday, April 24.

The search to find the county farming’s unsung heroes is organised by Newsquest Cumbria, publisher of the News & Star, in partnership with Carlisle-based business advisors and accountants Armstrong Watson, which is also sponsoring a further category, the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Amid ongoing Brexit battles and daily political grappling, the inaugural launch of the awards offers a timely reminder there are certainties in the county’s provision of food through our dynamic and innovative farmers and producers.

With the agricultural industry contributing more than £24 billion to the UK economy, the role of the county’s farmers, families and rural businesses has never been so paramount.

The winners will be announced at a glittering awards dinner at the Shepherd’s Inn at Rosehill in Carlisle on Friday, September 25.

Alongside farming’s core sectors – dairy, beef, sheep, and machinery – there is also a celebration of talented youngsters coming into the industry and a reminder of the contribution rural businesses are making to the county’s tourism, textile, wedding, retail and wildlife sectors – to name just a few.

Vanessa Sims, Newsquest Cumbria’s regional group editor, said: “With so much change and uncertainty characterising the current era of agriculture, the Cumbria Farmer Awards are a timely celebration of all that is best in the Cumbrian countryside – the drive and creativity that underpins Cumbria’s economic and social life.

“Whether it is about celebrating amazing on-farm ideas, boosting the profile of your business, or acknowledging the hard work of your staff, the Cumbria Farmer Awards provides an unrivalled platform to shout about our fantastic farming industry.”

Our main partners are Armstrong Watson, and category sponsors so far are Dalston Accountants, David Allen (who are sponsoring Young Farmers’ Club of the Year, the drinks reception and supporting the host on the night); Contractor of the Year and Dairy Farmer of the Year are sponsored by Carlisle-based Carrs Billington; Livestock Farmer of the Year, H&H Group, based at Rosehill, Carlisle; Agricultural Student or Rural Skills Award, Red Tractor Assurance; Tenant Farmer of the Year, National Trust Cumbria; and Farming Champion, the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The respected panel of judges for the awards is headed by Andrew Robinson, partner and Head of Agriculture and Farming with Armstrong Watson. “When I first heard about the opportunity to partner with Newsquest and bring to the county a new awards for the farming and agriculture sector, it was important that Armstrong Watson was the first to put their hands up and support the initiative by becoming the lead sponsor,” said Andrew, a farmer’s son, born and bred on a large hill farm in North Cumbria.

“Farming is going through significant change, and as a firm of accountants, business and financial advisors we know too well how important the sector is.”

Andrew studied at Newcastle Polytechnic and after qualifying as a chartered accountant in 1996 has concentrated on looking after and advising farming businesses and landed estates. He moved to Hexham in 1998 and now looks after agricultural businesses across the North of England and the borders from the Hexham office.

Stephen McCullough, Armstrong Watson Business Development and Marketing Director added: “Partnering with Newsquest is a perfect fit for our business, and as the long-term main sponsor of Farmer titles across the county I knew we had to support the awards.

“Having something that truly celebrates all the work within this sector in light of current challenges is a good thing. We are proud to help fly the flag for UK farming.”