Farmer's charitable effort reaps honour
A LEADENHAM farmer who set up a charity to help agricultural businesses hit by snow has won a prestigious national award.
Andrew Ward, of Ward Cultivation Solutions, was named Farming Champion of the Year at the 2013 Farmers Weekly Awards.
Forage Aid was set up to get vital animal feed to farmers following the sudden harsh weather in March this year.
Since its launch, the charity has supplied nearly £100,000 worth of donated forage to about 240 livestock farmers.
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As well as offering his own unsold feed, Mr Ward, based at Glebe Farm in Leadenham, encouraged his peers to contribute to the cause and send forage to struggling livestock farmers in counties across England and Wales, including Cumbria, Devon, Derbyshire, Northumberland and north Yorkshire.
His efforts were helped by his use of social media, appearances on the radio and appeals to the magazine Farmers Weekly.
Mr Ward said he did not know he was going to win the award until his name was read out at the ceremony.
"It was an absolute, total and complete shock that I should be considered for such an award," he said.
"Previous winners have been people like Jim Paice, the former farming minister, and Adam Henson from Countryfile – that sort of category.
"So I'm extremely honoured and extremely flattered.
"But as much as my name is on the award, I consider it as a team effort of everyone associated with Forage Aid."
The Farmers Weekly Awards were hosted at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Thursday, October 3.
It honoured the best achievements in the agriculture industry over the past 12 months.
Dozens of companies and individuals donated feed, transport and money to the Forage Aid initiative.
And Mr Ward says the charity will continue to help people in need.
NFU President Peter Kendall said Mr Ward's efforts had prevented farms going out of business.
"Andrew thoroughly deserves this award for what was a selfless act to help hundreds of farmers in another sector," he said.
"Through Twitter and local radio, he managed to coordinate more than 60 lorry loads of donated hay and silage, worth nearly £100,000, to stricken hill farmers in Cumbria, North Wales, Shropshire, Devon and North Yorkshire, throwing a lifeline not just to them but to their animals.
"He really did save businesses and families from financial ruin."
Mr Ward was one of two Lincolnshire farmers honoured at the awards night.
Keith Norman, of the national company Velcourt, was named Farm Adviser of the Year.
It followed 25 years of scientific work on improving crop production.