Colin Chappell

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On the banks of the River Ancholme in northern Lincolnshire, Colin Chappell and his family farm 645 hectares of arable land, adopting a conservation and regenerative farming system.

Working in a ‘partnership with nature’, the farm grows a wide rotation, including milling wheat, feed and biscuit wheat, oilseed rape, milling oats, marrowfat peas, vining peas and beans.

Forage barley and maize are produced for an anaerobic digestion plant located next door and, currently, 5.5 per cent of the farm is dedicated to wildlife, which will rise to nearly 8 per cent on renewal of their Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Twenty-five years ago, the family was invited to contract farm a neighbouring unit of lighter soil type and, six years ago, Colin tendered and won the right to become a tenant on a further 120ha of high potential land, bringing their total farmed area to 645 hectares, with 325ha being original owned land.

The farm used to include a large suckler herd, however, lack of free time and a challenging work-life balance meant Colin disbanded the herd and, currently, a young shepherdess keeps her flock on the 32ha of permanent pasture, with the view to future graze the cover crops.

Colin focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of soil biology, which he says led to the most rapid changes on-farm.

He says: “This is sometimes at a financial cost. On our heaviest field, we went ‘cold turkey’ overnight and direct drilled.

“This led to the halving of yields for the next two years, in comparison to the three fields directly surrounding it, which then led to cover cropping and ‘apologies’ to the soil in the form of a liquid cocktail of fish hydrolysate, molasses and potassium humate, but also the knowledge that in those first few years a little bit of soil movement helps.

“This taught us the value of soil health and thus started a new chapter of progressive agriculture into minimal soil movement and cover and catch cropping.”

The farm also welcomes 400 disadvantaged school children each year for education visits.

Colin says: “We educate them about where their food comes from in the hope that society in the future will value this basic need.”

What the Judges said

Passion for people; showed real care and investment in next gen and also helping his neighbours; his focus on soil health was at the heart of the farm business; environment driven; engages in knowledge exchange with other farmers; engages with public and local Government; good grasp of cashflow/finances; good role model; invests in his own personal development