James Eckley

James Eckley, Chief Officer of the NFYFC, joined the NFYFC in 1996 as General Manager of HOPS – one of the then Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme Operators.  James left HOPS in 2004 and worked with a consultancy specialising in agricultural employment for two years.  In 2006 James returned to NFYFC in a senior management role to oversee NFYFC’s operations and governance.
James studied Field Grown Crop Production (Fresh Produce) – large scale fruit and vegetable farming. After college, James was a YFC member – Abingdon YFC, Oxfordshire and was Chair of the Executive among other YFC roles.

Becci Berry

Becci runs a 365 hectare mixed farm on the beautiful Oxfordshire/Wiltshire borders. Approximately 200 hectares is tenanted from the National Trust.
As a third-generation farmer, Becci’s late husband Richard was passionate about the dairy and taking the farm forward. In 2010 he was devastatingly diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. With two young daughters, Becci took the decision to take on the farm and continue building the dairy, which she did until 2021.
Taking a step back to analyse the business has led to significant change in its structure. Following through on plans to enable her father-in-law to retire and restructure the staff on farm meant taking some brave decisions and, sadly, selling the herd and moving out of dairy for the moment was one. As a National Trust tenant, though, she is keenly aware of changes coming within the industry and the environmental stance moving forward. Trying to learn and stay a step ahead, she has hosted many on-farm events and is involved with farmer led-discussion groups.
Previously Becci was involved with the equestrian and horseracing industry as Director of a PR and hospitality company. So, although she had always been in and around farming, running and learning about the dairy was a steep learning curve. Through this journey she has developed a wider understanding of the need to develop and centralise the skills and development needed for the industry moving forward. It is for this reason she is passionate about the creation and development of TIAH.
With two inquisitive daughters, education is a personal passion and Becci tries to get local schools out on farm as often as possible to learn more about the food cycle and see the crops growing. “Once on farm the children and teachers are so responsive. It is a really rewarding way to spend a few hours,” said Becci.
Over the past few years Becci was a finalist for Farmers Weekly Dairy Farmer of the Year and a runner up for the RADBF/NMR Gold Cup award and an Emerging Leader at Oxford Farming Conference in 2019.

bfa shortlist

James and Emma Edwards

Having recognised the barriers to new entrants trying to get on the farming ladder in Wales, James saw Hampshire as a land of new opportunity. Fast forward 12 years and he now runs his own flock of 1,200 high-index Exlana maternal ewes and Charmoise terminal ewes, with a focus on regenerative agriculture. Alongside his own flock, James fattens tack sheep, store lambs and draft ewes over winter, as well as contract farming up to 700 cattle, running a contract tailing gang and farming 4,000 wool-shedding ewes in partnership with a farm in Shropshire. With the constant challenge of land access, James has faced his fair share of obstacles but his resilience and passion for the industry has seen him bounce back, driving him forward to the end goal of buying his own farm. “I love agriculture and I love farming sheep,” he says. “Ultimately, I want to build a sustainable business, buy my own farm and give my children the chance to get on in life.”

After buying the field in Wales where his farming journey began, James now rents the land to a couple who are just starting to build their own flock of sheep. “As new entrants, we should have the opportunity to have the security of being able to farm without possibility of it being taken away.”

Plans for the future

Continue the farming partnership in Shropshire
Keep increasing sheep numbers
Develop the integration of regenerative farming practices into arable operations
Focus on more formal performance recording of his own sheep flock to gain the premium found in selling breeding stock