bfa shortlist

Laura and John Lewis

IN order to safeguard their farm’s future, Laura and John Lewis decided that diversifying the family Welsh hill farm in Powys was the way to move forwards. The couple entertained various ideas, including poultry, but set their sights on accommodation. The farm is at the heart of the new accommodation enterprise, which consists of three wooden treehouses set in the 364 hectares (900 acres) of Maelinaidd Hill. They run more than 400 sheep and now feel their unique and somewhat remote location has, in the end, become their unique selling point.

Laura says: “We originally put planning permission in for a poultry unit, however we just did not think this option was viable and right for us as a family. We are also near a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the access was not brilliant. “After months of extensive research, we decided to build our first treehouse at our new holiday let business on-farm, Squirrels Nest Treehouse Retreat. “We wanted to build something that would stand out from the crowd, be totally unique, luxurious and stand the trials of time.”

Laura has also set up an online holiday let directory called The Wanderlist. It is a way to work more collaboratively with other farm businesses and support them directly by allowing them to take more ownership of their holiday let bookings. They have already achieved a great deal, most notably their joint marketing campaign with popular interior and homeware brand, Dunelm. This gave them a significant number of new followers and helped them boost businesses immediately.

But Laura also values the benefits of networking, as she explains. “It is a key marketing call that can often be missed. Being in such a rural location, it can often feel quite isolating. “In 2020 I was awarded a place on the Farming Connect Agri Academy. Due to the pandemic, everything got moved onto 2021/2022 but as a result I have been on some amazing trips, including study tours to Scotland and Spain. “It has been very refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who strive to make farming a success for their family.”

bfa shortlist

Andrew Brewer

ANDREW Brewer and his wife Claire have run a grass-based dairy system for more than 20 years. Employing four fulltime staff members, the business runs a 500-cow autumn block calving herd, aiming to graze cows every day of the year utilising on/off grazing techniques. Some land is also let out for the production of potatoes and cabbages. All calves are retained for replacements or beef finishing and reared outdoors on grass and milk from seven days old, with males kept entire for rapid finishing at 13-14 months of age and beef heifers grazed with replacements until dairy heifers are mated.

Soil and animal health is central to maintaining the productivity of this farming system, with a focus on environmental sustainability and net zero latterly having enabled the business to make targeted improvements. Involvement in a soil carbon project is providing direction for targeted dung, compost or digestate field treatments, while a farm net zero project is facilitating learning around how mixed swards and the use of cover crops can affect the business’ bottom line. “Initial data on this suggests very little difference in rumination between sward type,” says Andrew. “Some milk constituents have been seen but more results are needed. The global need for more food and the ability to put a vegetable crop onto a livestock farm to improve quantity and quality of human nutrition should be pursued. “Increasing nutrition density and getting cattle eating crop residue, rather than contributing to food waste totals, are vital – we are grazing food waste for two months of the year, which allows more grass to be harvested earlier in the year.

“Understanding if carbon and other nutrients are replaced by regrading is a project I am very much excited by.” Challenging his own thinking and possibilities is also a big driver for Andrew who, as a senior GrassMasters discussion group member, has been able to partake in international travel and study tours on several occasions. Business succession has also been addressed to future-proof the financial side of the business, with the couple’s children brought into business discussions from an early age.

Gregor Belcher

As a passionate advocate for agriculture, Gregor has seen first-hand the crucial role that it plays in our lives. Growing up on his uncle’s farm, he learned the value of hard work and the importance of sustainable farming practices, and went onto study BSc Hons Applied Farm Management at the Royal Agricultural University. His experience has informed his role at NFU Mutual where the team works to truly understand their customers' current and future needs – developing insurance solutions to support them.

''I feel honoured to be a part of the judging panel for the upcoming British Farming Awards. It fills me with excitement to recognise the outstanding contributions made by individuals in the agricultural community. Their dedication and innovation inspire me to continue promoting and supporting the industry, ensuring its sustainability and prosperity for generations to come.”

Alex Black

Alex is business reporter at Farmers Guardian covering areas including commodity prices, imports and exports, property and land across all agricultural sectors.

In 2014, she graduated with a first class Journalism degree from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.

After graduating, she worked for a marketing and PR firm as communications officer before joining Farmers Guardian in June 2016.

When she's not studying lists of milk prices, Alex is usually found watching Bolton Wanderers or spending time with her cats.

Scott Davies

For more than 20years Scott has specialised in delivering online and mobile technology solutions, focusing on e-commerce, social engagement and entertainment as well as specialised industry offerings. Initially being involved in a large ‘sports dot com’, Scott went on to part-found and exit two online technology businesses.
Scott continued his passion for working in dynamic online based businesses, finding Norwegian based '' eventually taking the position as the groups CEO, running international operations out of a new UK office, expanding’s reach internationally.
Having found his next exciting venture, Scott now heads up Agrecalc Limited, the industry-leading farm carbon calculator. As a spin out from SRUC, Agrecalc provides farms and key players in the wider food-chain with a precise software tool to monitor farm resource efficiencies and drive GHG emissions.

Rebecca Geraghty

Rebecca Geraghty is the Chief Commercial Officer at Agrimetrics where she oversees product strategy, sales and business development. Agrimetrics is a UK public and commercially funded organisation, founded to accelerate new innovations from agri-food and environmental data. Agrimetrics has developed the food and farming sector’s Data Marketplace which is growing rapidly to host and link over 4,500 agricultural and environmental datasets. Rebecca has over twenty years' experience in the sector; including as AHDB’s Chief Technical Officer and six years as Director of HGCA. She has experience of working across all UK agri-food supply chains and with a large variety of individual businesses including farmers, merchants, processors, exporters and trade associations. Rebecca lives on a beef farm in Warwickshire.