The Young Sussex Farmer of the Year 2019 is sponsored by the South of England Agricultural Society in association with Farmers Weekly and seeks young farmers aged 35 or under who represent the ‘Best of Sussex’.

Grand Finalists may be finding innovative ways to bring produce to market, contributing to the economic and sustainable management of the countryside or introducing creative new processes or efficiencies into their work. Above all, they should demonstrate leadership, vision and the ability to succeed and grow their business.

Said Iain Nicol, CEO of the South of England Agricultural Society, “As part of our charitable remit to promote and showcase the best examples of agriculture, we support this award and its role in recognising and rewarding the great work that young people are doing in their careers in agriculture, viticulture and other land-based industries and encouraging more young people into these important sectors.”

The Society’s judges, Richard Butterfield from Brinsbury Campus at Chichester College and Jeremy Burdett, local dairy farmer and long time associate of the Society, have selected the following Grand Finalists for Young Sussex Farmer of the Year 2019:

Rachel Knowles, 27 years old, Cider Maker, Trenchmore Farm, Cowfold, West Sussex

Rachel joined her family farm two years ago, learning apple growing and cider fermenting on the job, picking, pressing and fettling Silly Moo Cider. A natural entrepreneur, who joined Trenchmore Farm after 3 years with Sacred Gin, she is now responsible for the brand and has taken it into new key accounts like Plumpton Racecourse, The Sussex Ox, Proto Group and The Griffin Inn, running staff training and customer sampling. She has also moved the farm into wholesaling, establishing and building relationships with leading distributors in Sussex and London. Entering Silly Moo for the Great Taste awards and winning two stars was down to her and receiving the judge’s positive comments was a massive boost to the whole team. She has a clear vision of where Silly Moo should go and how to get there. Whether moving into kegs and bag-in-boxes, running the Silly Moo apple swap, Front of House customer training and farm visits, Rachel is constantly looking for new ideas to support customers and grow Silly Moo and Trenchmore’s local food and drink offering.

Judges’ comment: Shows great vision with more to come in the future. Huge passion and very strong business overall.

Kate Lywood, 31 years old, Farm Director/Dairy Herd Manager, Marshalls Farm Ltd, Kirdford, West Sussex

After graduating with a degree in Animal Science from Harper Adams University in 2011, Kate spent a year working on a dairy farm in New Zealand, before returning home to take on the tenancy as the third generation of her family farming at Marshalls Farm near Petworth. Upon taking up the mantle, Kate set about completely changing the way the farm was run, from a mixed arable/dairy unit, to a highly simple extensive grazing system. Significant investment has ensued, enabled purely by making the business more profitable, notably this past year into a new 200 cow shed for winter housing, a parlour feeding system, 24,000 litre milk silo and over 100 acres of grass reseeds. Kate firmly believes that happy staff and happy cows go hand in hand and as a result strives to achieve exceptional levels of animal welfare, within an efficient working environment. Her approach to welfare is highly regarded, resulting in an invitation to speak at the national Johne’s conference in 2017. Staff are treated as equals – there are no job titles at Marshalls Farm. Everyone works on a 5-day week pattern, dispelling the traditional view that farming has to be a 24/7 job. Sustainability, the environment and education play a vital role in Kate’s vision for the future of Marshalls Farm, with a particular desire to dispel myths that surround dairy farming. Kate has huge energy and enthusiasm.

Judges’ comment: A strong leader among equals, offering investment in younger team members and with bold ambitions for the future, which she looks very capable of achieving.

Stephen Rusling, 23 years old, Arable and Contracting Manager, Holmsted Farm, Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Aged 23, through hard work and a huge passion for the industry, Stephen has worked his way into a management position at Suchnoon Ltd, Holmsted Farm. He started working on the farm part time whilst finishing his National Diploma at Plumpton College and has now been full time for 4 years. Initially he started as a tractor driver/ livestock man, but soon became fully involved in the contracting/arable enterprise taking on spraying responsibilities and other important roles. He now has a management role on the farm, allowing him to inject his passion into pushing forward new ideas and improving the

efficiency and productivity of the business. His personal targets include getting further qualifications so that he can share his knowledge with the team, work closely with the agronomist and create not only a productive farm, but also an aesthetically pleasing farm.

Judges’ comment: Leads from the front and is developing his skills well. He has huge potential for the future with his recent move into a management role.

The winner will be revealed at the Sussex Food & Drink Awards 2019 Awards Banquet on 15thMay at the Amex Stadium, Falmer.