Isla Soutter

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Isla Souter has farming running through her blood. Born and raised on a purebred pedigree farm with Texel sheep, pedigree Limousin cattle and arable land, her childhood was spent surrounded by the iconic Lake District landscape and adopting a passion
for it through her family’s farming business.

Studying at Harper Adams University has helped her pursue her passion for the sector, and she has thrown herself into educational life, while also taking on various opportunities outside of her academic studies.

Isla has been involved with numerous breed societies and is a key member of the Limousin and Hereford youth programmes, with a particular love for showing and stockjudging. In 2020, Isla took the opportunity to travel to New Zealand to take part in the World Hereford Conference. Although she was put on the reserve list for the UK, she had a determination to be involved regardless and was approached by Denmark, securing a place on their team.

A stint on the McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmer placement scheme expanded her farming experiences further.

She was placed in poultry – a sector she had no previous experience in – and although it could be said she got off to a somewhat rocky start, it is an area Isla has now come to love.

In fact, she thoroughly enjoyed the whole placement. Through the McDonald’s scheme, she has also been able to visit Parliament and lead a team in the Great Agri Food Debate. Her team spoke on regenerative agriculture and was placed third.

After spending a stint of time in Australia visiting multiple farming enterprises, she has now taken on a role with leading food processor ABP. One of Isla’s focuses is connecting to the consumer, and how a trusted relationship can be built.

What the Judges said

The finalist demonstrated a proactive and positive approach to her studies and the next stage in her career. She showed an openness to exploring new aspects of farming in order to further herself, her studies and career and, her eagerness to showcase the industry to audiences is commendable.

Daisy Haigh

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Daisy Haigh has a goal, and she is not afraid to pursue it. Her family is deep-rooted in agriculture and she dedicated her time to working with her grandmother on their business, Beckside Farm Fertility, alongside focusing on her academic studies.

Studying agriculture at Nottingham Trent University, she received first class marks for her dissertation: The Effects of Oestrus Synchronisation on Conception Rates in Dairy Maiden Heifers.

Building her knowledge around cattle and genetics is clearly where her passions – and strengths – lie.

Daisy is a keen member of Young Farmers, starting out at her local club in Tuxford, and she rose through the ranks to become Nottinghamshire County chair for two years between 2020 and 2022.

She was runner-up in the National Stockjudging Competition and placed third in the National YFC Senior Member of the Year 2023 too.

At the heart of it all, though, is cattle. Daisy began her herd of pedigree British Blues at age 10 and showed all over the country.

She is also an active member of the British Blue society and has been assisted club secretary for the north east British Blues Cattle Club, where she organised the annual calf show and herd competitions.

She was awarded the NFU Training Award for the top student on the BSc (Hons) Agriculture course 2022-2023; one of her proudest moments, she says.

Daisy believes one of the biggest issues farmers face is bovine TB, and she is currently working as an NFU bTB Advisor. This is something she is passionate about, and it will enable her to work with British farmers and industry experts to achieve bTB  eradication by 2038.

Stephen Evans

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After being told there was no hope of him entering the industry, Stephen Evans defied all odds and worked hard to secure his place in the farming sector. Now, he is completely hooked.

From a non-farming background in Northern Ireland, Stephen spent much of his weekends as a child on a friend’s farm and went on to work for a local dairy farmer.

Firmly set on pursuing his passion, he was determined to attend Harper Adams University, and secured a place there to study Agriculture.

Stephen had always set his sights on working with cattle, but a placement gained through Harper Adams led him to work in the pig sector, and this changed the course of his journey.

He has since dedicated a lot of his time to promoting agriculture to those outside the industry, using his own story as an example of the opportunities farming can offer.

Outside of academic life, Stephen attends the Young Farmers Club in Ulster and enjoys livestock judging. He also a keen public speaker. After finishing his studies, Stephen accepted a role with For Farmers UK as a young animal feeds specialist. This position will allow him to provide commercial and technical support to pig producers all over the UK. It will also give him the opportunity to travel across Europe and work alongside colleagues to maximise performance of UK pig production in a sustainable and efficient way.

Although he is confident about the future of the industry, he has spoken about some of the issues the sector faces, including labour and the price versus production balance which is topical within the pig sector. In terms of labour, Stephen hopes he can play a part in encouraging young people to take farming seriously and identify it as a fulfilling job option.

Naomi Ramsay

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Naomi Ramsay has overcome many challenges to get where she is today, and she hopes this is an example to others in terms of what can be achieved when you focus on your passion.

During lockdown, after years of questioning her own abilities due to her dyslexia diagnosis, she finally decided to pursue her dream of working outdoors with livestock and applied for college – even though she had been accepted numerous times before.

Hard work and support have enabled her to thrive despite her dyslexia, and since attending Scotland’s Rural College, Naomi has gone from strength to strength. Originally, she set out to study a one-year HNC, but she decided to continue and has now completed her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. To further her education, she will continue into a fourth year Honours programme.

Outside of academic life, she became a Lantra Industry Champ a summer placement with SAC consultancy, where she shadowed senior consultants and got involved with a wide range of tasks.

Naomi has also reared her own lambs for consumption; something she is proud of given her nonfarming background. Community building is something she is also hoping to take forward – the idea of setting up groups of farmers to enable conversation is something she has taken away from going out beating on local estate shoots.

Education and public awareness are things Naomi is also keen to push, identifying public perception as one of the key issues facing the farming sector.

In the future, Naomi has found an interest in some key industry areas: agronomy, the environment and sustainable farming practices.

Jobs that focus on climate change and carbon capture, ecology, biodiversity, and conservation efforts are her goal once her studies have come to an end.

On winning, Naomi said

“It hasn’t actually sunk in that I have won the Agricultural Student of the Year. Agricultural students are vital in encouraging younger people to come into the industry.

“The British Farming Awards are the Oscars within the farming community and the energy and vibe here tonight is amazing. I am so proud to be part of farming and even more proud we are part of an industry producing food for the nation. We have to carry on and we need young people to be part of that.”

What the Judges said

We were inspired by her journey and route into agriculture, all while clearly overcoming multiple barriers. The finalist demonstrated both determination and a love for finding her own niche in the industry. It was refreshing to see Naomi explore different avenues within agriculture and use this to develop where she would like to go next. She is also proof that no matter your circumstance of background, you can achieve anything. She is a fantastic representative of the industry and all that is bright and positive about the future of agriculture.