Covid-19 has highlighted the agricultural industry’s ability to adapt and innovate during the most extraordinary of times. With this resulting in a surge in public support for agriculture, there is no better time to celebrate this as part of The British Farming Awards 2020.
Throughout everything, farmers have always carried on regardless, adapting to changing situations and working tirelessly to carry on feeding British consumers.
And this has never been more apparent than during the coronavirus pandemic.
Over the last few months, some producers have seen market annihilation and depressed prices, all while facing the worry of a global pandemic.
At the same time, many others have adapted their business models to meet growing demand for produce as shoppers look locally to meet gaps in supermarket supply and huge changes in consumer retail behaviours.
It is these examples of ongoing innovation and resilience which are recognised at the annual British Farming Awards and this year is no different.
The 2020 event is particularly relevant as it follows on the back of a huge wave of public support for British Farming, which has been one positive outcome of the coronavirus crisis.
Suddenly, UK consumers across the country became acutely aware of the battle to access everyday products many of us take for granted whether that be from the obligatory carton of milk to packs of mince and toilet roll.
A survey undertaken by Morrisons found two thirds of shoppers confirmed they would now be more likely to buy British (see box) and in just three weeks, one million people backed the NFU’s petition to protect British food standards against imports of lower standard produce.
"The pandemic has brought food provenance to the forefront of people’s minds"
NFU president Minette Batters
During the pandemic, Morrisons surveyed 1,000 customers, and found:
NFU president Minette Batters says the pandemic has brought food provenance to the forefront of people’s minds, further reinforced by the national media, celebrities and non-governmental organisations.
This powerful combination prompted ‘all the stars to align’ to drive public support.
She says: “It just shows how much support there is out there and that people really do value the role of farmers; not just in producing food, but caring for the landscape.” In turn, many farm businesses looked at innovative ways to capture the increased local demand for produce, from setting up delivery services to pop-up bakeries or selling their produce at the end of farm drives.
“People were just really innovative and I think the great thing is that local communities really valued that,” says Minette.
She also praises the ’amazing things’ that happened across retail and highlights Morrisons as a standout supermarket in its leadership and communications.
Its chief executive, David Potts, called her directly to ask what he could do to help suppliers.
The retailer then went on to introduce immediate payments for smaller suppliers and a 5 per cent discount on shopping for supplying farmers.
Sophie Throup, head of agriculture, fisheries and sustainable sourcing for Morrisons, adds: “We were the first retailer to open steak and seafood bars, with a half price promotion to entice customers back into eating more expensive cuts and to redress carcass imbalance issues.
“This was hugely successful, and sales of red meat have continued to trade strongly even outside promotional offers.” Minette believes all of the positive steps taken by retailers shows what can be achieved when farmers and supermarkets work together.
“Ultimately, we all need each other and what we did see with Covid-19 was very much a ‘can do’ attitude of how do we sort this, how do we work together, how do we make sure that we all back each other,” she explains.
As the main sponsor of The British Farming Awards – as well as sponsor of the Family Farm of The Year category – Sophie is passionate this year, more than ever, Morrisons would like to thank the farming industry.
“We would like to thank and celebrate the work of British farmers and growers who continue to show resilience, pride and commitment to our industry.
“The British Farming Awards are a fantastic way to help us share and celebrate the inspiring people and businesses which make our farming industry so great,” she says.
The winners of the 2020 British Farming Awards will be revealed for the first time ever in a virtual format and the event will continue its emphasis on celebrating the fantastic individuals who make the farming industry and its community so unique.
Bringing even more people together in challenging times, we are bringing the celebration to you, in the comfort of your own living room. Details on the virtual awards night will be announced over the coming weeks but you can register to receive updates and to tune in on the night
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The pandemic has forced many students to work independently and remotely for part of their degree, which will be a great skill to carry forward into their careers as many businesses are looking to become more flexible with remote working.
Supporting our students, highlighting their great efforts and promoting our industry is how we can grow confidence in our future workforce and encourage more students to become passionate about an industry which feeds our nation.
Rob Edwards, Agricultural Business Development Manager.
Quickly changing specifications and requirements during Covid-19 has meant the sector needed to be agile and adaptable.
New technology and use of agri-tech has supported this and helped demonstrate its value during these challenging times.
The UK farming sector has generally been slow to adopt tech and its great to showcase what’s available from this incredibly dynamic and innovative sector, which will very much form part of our farming future.
Brian Richardson, UK head of agriculture at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank.
We would like to acknowledge the support of our farmer suppliers and co-operation over the past few months, particularly with respect to our new public health protocols when delivering livestock at our sites.
As an award sponsor, we recognise the hidden work of British beef farmers and above all the innovation that is required to help the next generation of farmers to adapt and evolve their ways of working in an ever-changing market environment.
Richard Phelps, ABP UK group agriculture director.
Agricultural contractors have continued to professionally provide their services to the agricultural industry during the coronavirus pandemic while adopting safe practices and the new social distancing measures.
Kuhn would like to celebrate the contractors working innovatively to support food and farming practices by sponsoring the British Farming awards.
Kate Hughes, Kuhn UK marketing and communications co-ordinator.
Dairy farmers played a major role in feeding the nation through a pandemic.
Like so many of our nation’s welldeserved celebrated heroes, our farmers and their staff kept showing up to work every day.
They provided people with milk, the food item that the NHS recommended people to increase their intake of to strengthen their immune systems and withstand the virus.
As a farmer-owned co-operative, colleagues in Arla are proud to work for British dairy farmers.
James Little, Arla Foods customer agriculture manager.
Farmers have been rapidly adapting to find creative and new, innovative ways of working.
The UK’s young farmers have also been working extremely hard by sharing positivity online with their personal experiences on-farm and going out and about supporting their local communities.
Dunbia is proud to sponsor the Sheep Innovator of the Year Award.
Sheep farming is a tough but rewarding industry and we are proud of British sheep farmers who keep the industry and environment alive and thriving today.
Sarah Haire, Dunbia head of agriculture.
Now is a great time to recognise the fabulous work that our food industry does every day.
Behind many of the products we enjoy there is a farmer and their family who have worked hard through challenging times to deliver those products.
Never more so than during 2020. NSF teams are on farms on a regular basis and we continue to be amazed by the resilience and passion that we see from the farming community.
We take great pride in sponsoring this category and are delighted to support the British Farming Awards in highlighting the excellence within the farming industry.
Alexandra Davey-Turner Frost, NSF senior marketing specialist.