2020 winners follow up: Murray Craig, Farm Worker of the Year

After winning the Farm Worker of the Year Award at last year’s British Farming Awards, Murray Craig hopes the achievement will help him fulfil his dream of one day securing his own farm tenancy by helping him stand out from the crowds. Alex Black reports.

A willingness to grasp every opportunity and a fantastic work ethic have helped last year’s Farm Worker of the Year Murray Craig build on his experience
and take on a lot of responsibility on his young shoulders.

He remains hopeful his award win at just 20 years old will help him continue to build his career, allowing him to achieve his dream of taking on his own farm tenancy one day in the future.

Murray took up a role at Swindale Foot Farm, near Keld, Cumbria, when he left school four years ago.

He says: “I was at school and decided I wanted to leave and get myself a job once I had taken my driving test at the age of 17.

“One of my mum’s friends got in touch with her to tell her about a farm looking for a lambing assistant. I decided it was a good idea and applied to take on the job.”

Murray was given the chance to show what he could do, with his employers Matty and Dani Blair trusting him to lamb the sheep. His relentless efforts to do the best he could in his role saw him build his career from an entry level worker to a key member of the farming team.

He says: “I just stayed on and never went home.”


Since joining Swindale Foot Farm, Murray’s employers have offered him more and more responsibilities and he has grasped every one with both hands. He was unfazed by any of the challenges he came across while at the farm.

While Murray started out helping them to lamb the sheep, he was soon asked to take on a greater role shepherding.

He says: “The next thing was I helped them to clip the sheep. Then they said ‘if you have a good dog, you can help gather them’. After I had done that, they eventually suggested to me I may as well stop on full-time.”

It was his willingness to take on an increasingly dependable role which then helped the owners to expand into two more enterprises, with Murray taking on more responsibilities around the farm.

This has given him an opportunity to expand his livestock knowledge through the new enterprises, which he describes as being ‘very different’ from the landscape and protocol at Swindale.

“When it comes time to put in for a tenancy, being able to put I won the Farm Worker of the Year Award onto an application will go a long way”

He manages 800 Swaledale and North Country Hill Cheviot ewes across hill farms spanning 3,844 hectares (9,500 acres) within the Eden Valley.

As Swindale Foot Farm surrounds the Haweswater reservoir, owned by United Utilities, there are many restrictions for water quality. The flock roams freely across the fells in summer, where Murray undertakes his intensive gathering activities, ranging from a timespan of four hours to as long as 12 hours on more vast areas.

He also leads the lambing and shearing on the sites, as well as assisting with the 300-strong beef herd on the new units, which are sold as stores into the local mart.

He says: “It started out that I would help with general farm work, but over time I was given more responsibilities. When we took on the extra units it started to change even more. Rather than working together, I was working separately.”

When asked what he believes to be his best attribute as a key farm worker, Murray credits his work ethic and intention to ‘just buckle down and get on with the job’ as key factors in his progression.

He is also understandably proud of his employer trusting him to manage the sheep independently using his own knowledge and expertise to make informed decisions.


He credits his employer for giving him the opportunity to show them what he could do and offer him the chance to develop his farming career.

“I would not be where I am without them,” he says, adding that from the day he started on-farm they had trusted him, despite his young age, and allowed him to take on responsibilities.

“I am lucky to have a supportive boss who has always been open to career progression and what I would like, but you do not get anywhere unless you are prepared to progress yourself and put yourself out there to learn new opportunities.”

Murray has also spent time in New Zealand which allowed him to build on his skills and gave him new ideas to bring back onto the farm here in the UK.

He spent time working on sheep stations in both the north and south islands, shearing up to 10,000 sheep, an experience which then further shaped his career
back in the UK.

He improved his shearing skills and took on managing this side of the flock while also introducing new feeding and grazing regimes, such as rotational and mob grazing during the winters. This has helped reduce costs on-farm.

After seeing the strong nominees for the award last year, Murray says he was shocked when he was announced as the winner of the Farm Worker of the Year Award.

He says: “I did not expect to win it when I looked at the other people in the category. I just did not know what to say when they announced my name. But it was
good to see my hard work being acknowledged.

“I am hoping the award will help me stand out and build my career in the future and one day to take on my own farm tenancy.

“I do not know when it will happen for me and I am not going to rush out and get into a bidding war.

“I am just waiting for an opportunity to come along where a tenancy on a decent farm becomes available and then I will go for it.

“When it comes time to put in for a tenancy, being able to put I won the Farm Worker of the Year Award onto an application will go a long way. It will hopefully make me stand out from the crowd.

“Farming is in my blood and I am proud to be part of keeping the nation fed and producing food to the highest standards we possibly can as a country.”

A word from the sponsor

Isuzu is yet again proud to sponsor the Farm Worker of the Year Award, celebrating hard-working UK farm workers.

The last 12 months have been one of the most testing times for the agricultural and farming industry and we are looking forward to praising all those grafters who helped keep Britain working during such as difficult time.