Holly Brooks

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Bringing farming to children who may never have the opportunity to see a farm otherwise has been a key driver for Popell Barns Mobile Farm.

Spotting a gap in the market for a mobile farm run by an ‘actual farmer’ rather than a petting farm, the mobile farm allows Holly and Lester Brooks to provide a genuine insight into farming from their County Council farm.

As first-generation farmers themselves, they wanted to engage young people and share their passion for the agricultural industry and what it has to offer, particularly in deprived areas.

The mobile farm teaches about animal welfare, biodiversity and sustainable farming, as well as bringing a practice milking cow to teach children how to milk. The farm has also expanded into a care farm for children with special educational needs one day a week, and school trips also visit.

The diversification has complemented the farm business, with Holly running the mobile farm and Lester remaining on-site to keep the core farm business running. It is also a true family business, with their two children Isabel and Daisy also helping
whenever possible.

They sell their own produce direct to the public, including raw milk, eggs and crops, as well as honey and their own ice cream.

As a small, family farm, the relationship between the two businesses has been beneficial, with the mobile farm bringing in money as well as helping to sell their produce and raising awareness. For example, farm shop orders at Christmas received a
boost from their Christmas events.

Social media has been a key tool for raising their profile, as well as word-of-mouth with great reviews bringing in more bookings.

Attending bigger events, such as the Romsey show, has also helped spread the word.

While the cost of living crisis is a concern, Holly and Lester believe they will be able to weather the storm, with their main focus on education.

What the Judges said

Engaging with local farmers. First generation trying to make a living on a very small scale.

Tamara & Tracey Alexander

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Hosting sleepovers with a horse has provided a novel diversification for two farmers in the Lake District.

Searching to create a new income stream to keep their family on a farm which had not made a profit in decades, sisters Tracey and Tamara Alexander set up Stable Stays in 2019.

They combined Tracey’s passion for horses, specifically Friesian horses, with Tamara’s business skills to create a unique diversification project.

“This unique experience was the first of its kind in the world,” says Tamara.

Holidaymakers can stay in a double stable with a luxury bed, where their chosen horse can put its head over the dividing screen to ‘say hello’ to anyone on the top bunk. Guests can see through the clear screen to watch their stablemate sleeping or munching on hay.

There is also the option of a Shetland pony, which can join in the accommodation side of the stable.

This expanded on the Friendship Barn, where visitors can spend time with a chosen horse in a sitting room environment. Customers include young children with autism who have found it a calming space, as well as elderly people who have spent time with horses in the past but do not have a safe space to do so now.

Social media has been used to market the diversification, as well as print articles, television segments and featuring in the Netflix series Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father.

“The diversification has fitted neatly into our core business of grazing land and equestrian facilities by utilising the farm buildings and animals in unique ways,” says Tamara.

Going forward, the cost of living crisis has been flagged as one of the biggest challenges as it has slowed down bookings. But they are taking proactive steps by distributing leaflets and reaching out to local schools and care homes.

In the future, the family are also looking at expanding the concept with another overnight experience alongside their small flock of pet sheep.

Charlie Bowling

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The closure of gyms and group activities during Covid-19 provided inspiration for Farmer Strong, as Charlie Bowling initially looked for ways to train on-farm.

As an international wrestler representing Team GB, Charlie’s work came to a sudden halt during the pandemic, and he started to search on-farm for suitable equipment to keep up his training regime at home.

He shared his solutions on social media, utilising items from old tractor tyres to sandbags.

As restrictions eased, Charlie started offering training sessions, taking advantage of the allowances for outdoor exercise, and expanded into group sessions once restrictions allowed, establishing Farmer Strong.

The outdoor environment on-farm in Bolton has been transformed into a training area, with views unlike any other gym.

“What sets us apart is the distinctive touch we give to our equipment. Concrete dumbbells, telegraph poles and old tractor tyres form a significant part of our unique training gear,” says Charlie.

There are now 70 members at the gym, who all have subscriptions. Word-of-mouth and social media have been essential recruitment tools for the diversification.

They also host a yearly fitness event called ‘Fittest on the Farm’, which brings local gyms to the farm to compete in fitness challenges.

The business has brought in an additional income stream, while utilising existing resources of land and infrastructure. It has also minimised the need for additional investments, while bringing money back to the farm.

Looking to the future, Charlie was hoping to set up a franchise scheme, looking for other individuals wanting to diversify on-farm and bring Farmer Strong, and its strong brand identity, to more people.

However, there were challenges in the immediate future, with the farm where it is currently located being sold for development. But the business is hopeful to find a new suitable location to help it continue developing.

Amy Bateman

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Combining her love of photography and farming has been a winning strategy for Amy Bateman, with diversifications built around the picturesque Cumbrian farm.

Amy’s passion for British farming has been a key driver, giving her a unique perspective for sharing farming’s story with the British public.

After winning the major title of British Life Photographer of the Year, Amy and her husband sat down to create a business plan capitalising on the win, conscious of farming subsidies being reduced.

This started with photography tours on-farm, before installing two luxury glamping pods to offer photography holidays.

The business has a unique selling point; learning about photography surrounded by nature. There is an on-farm studio in a stable, and the business offers photography days at Lake District farms, including their own.

Amy’s book Forty Farms was published in September 2022, bringing her work to a wider audience and sharing the reality of British farming. Alongside the book has been a photography exhibition which has toured the country, bringing the beauty of the
countryside, Amy’s work, and her business, to a larger number of people.

“My diversification is not just about adding an income stream; I want to add value to British farming,” she says.

She plans to release another book in September 2025. While they have run the businesses independently, the farming backdrop was essential to the success of the photography course, and the other diversification elements complemented the  photography.

As an image-based business, social media has been key for attracting customers. Amy’s book has also helped to bring in customers to the photography courses.

Sustainability was also a key focus for Amy, with the public demanding ‘guilt-free holidays’, using local suppliers, green cleaning equipment and producing solar energy on-farm.

What Amy said

“This award is the one I have been chasing. Innovation is the way to take farm diversification forward and really quite honestly, I do believe if you don’t innovate you get left behind.

“It’s important in any industry to celebrate the efforts of people who are working in it, its inspirational. I am proud to be standing here tonight and its my ultimate aim to create a national book of farms across the country and to take it into central London.”

“My advice to anyone thinking of entering the British Farming Awards is to absolutely do it. You got to be in it to win it right?

“The farming community is everything and sometimes it can be all consuming but tonight we celebrate British agriculture and I feel so proud to be somebody who lives and breathes it.”

What the Judges said

Inspiring passion. Not just to support her business but the whole community. Well thought through and she has a vision.