THE winners of the Soil Farmer of the Year competition have been revealed - and two runners up are from the south west. 

The winners were announced at Groundswell (June 26 and 27). Tracy Russell and David Newman from Bucksum at Shabbington Fields Farm in Buckinghamshire claimed the top spot, with Ed Horton from SS Horton & Sons in Gloucestershire in second place and Ben Richards from Middle Trelan Farm Ltd in Cornwall placed third.

Bucksum, a garden market business, uses a four-year rotation, taking a cash crop once every four years, while building soil health and fertility by using herbal leys grazed by sheep for the other three years. 

(Image: Newsquest)

Deborah Crossan, head of soils and natural resources at Innovation for Agriculture, said: “During the judging visit Tracy and David shared how they are using chickens to clear the ground under the agroforestry fruit tree lines and how the agroforestry, together with the introduction of sheep grazing in the fields, has brought more natural predators to the farm.

“They are also making their own soil improver using their own green waste, composted wood chippings from a local tree surgeon and spent hops from a nearby brewery.”

The Soil Farmer of the Year competition is jointly run by Farm Carbon Toolkit and Innovation for Agriculture, and sponsored by Cotswold Seeds and Hutchinsons.

Following the awards ceremony, all three finalist farms will be hosting farm walks to demonstrate their practices and approaches.

Another judge, Becky Willson, who is business development and technical director at Farm Carbon Toolkit, said the soil management practices at Bucksum are a 'phenomenal' example of how soil consideration can provide real results. 

“There are real opportunities to take some of the brilliant ideas that David and Tracy are using on their farm and apply them to other farming enterprises,” she said.

"The prioritisation of soil health through a diverse range of practices was inspirational and a testament to what can be achieved.

“These farm walks will be a fantastic opportunity for farmers to share ideas, as well as seeing and hearing about the host farm’s practices, so I’d strongly encourage anyone who is interested in shifting their practices to improve soil health and increase their farm business resilience to come to one of these events."