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.”

Matthew Smart

Matthew Smart is founder and CEO of Rural Asset Finance and Rural Asset Management Services who provide finance directly to UK farm-based businesses for equipment, property and diversification projects.
Matthew is a farmer’s son, from a mixed arable and beef farming family in Cambridgeshire who graduated from university and entered BNP Paribas Lease Group’s graduate training scheme in the early 1990s.
Since 2001 Matthew has founded and managed various agricultural lenders supporting UK farmers; his team have built a loyal SME client base which includes the most productive and entrepreneurial UK farmers and landowners by using their niche knowledge and grassroots understanding of the farms various financing needs as they have evolved over the last 25 years.

Alasdair Macnab

Alasdair Macnab farms at Kildun, Dingwall with his wife Gill running a well-known pedigree Limousin herd, growing malting barley and hay. He worked in a vet practice in Ross-shire for 11 years, then joined the Government vet service in Inverness. His farming career started on his late uncle’s dairy farm at Humberston, Dingwall (now Dingwall Auction Mart) working with dairy, sheep and cereals. He was a crofter breeding cattle and sheep near Strathpeffer for over ten years before buying Kildun from his mother in 2005. Alasdair has been a member of NFU Scotland for over thirty years.

Danusia Osiowy

After completing a Masters in Magazine Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, Danusia won a place on the graduate trainee scheme at United Business Media.

As part of this she worked on Quantity Surveying News, Cabinet Maker, Pulse, Over the Counter and Pharmacy Today, where she later secured a post as Assistant Editor.

Two years later she left London to return home to Lancashire after she was appointed Features Editor on Farmers Guardian.

Her role as significantly developed over the eight years Danusia has been with Farmers Guardian and she is now Head of Features running Farm Profile, Moving Up and Beyond the Gate in the magazine.

If she isn’t out meeting farmers and families, she is sourcing, writing and editing articles which appear in her sections and developing the content across digital platforms.

She is also Events Producer for the British Farming Awards, an initiative she has been involved with since its launch five years ago.