Winners Follow-up: Henry Robinson, 2019 Farm Worker of the Year

Being named Farm Worker of the Year in 2019 gave Henry Robinson the boost in confidence he needed to apply for his dream job managing a farm in Yorkshire, as Clemmie Gleeson found out after speaking to him.

Experience, vocational training and ambition have proven to be a winning combination for Henry Robinson.

Since deciding to pursue a career in farming, he has been committed to developing his skills through training and qualifications alongside practical experience, but wanted to work his way up rather than go to university.

His efforts have paid off and this year, at just 27 years old, he has reached his goal of becoming a farm manager.

“I’ve always been a strong believer experience holds as much strength as academia,” he says.

His father, Bryan, had demonstrated that throughout his own career, having progressed in his roles in hunt service and later in livestock markets.

Later, the family also had their own livestock farm near Grantham and Bryan is now using his experience in the livestock industry as a livestock procurement manager.

Henry’s interest in fabrication, design and building led him to initially consider studying agricultural engineering at university, but he decided to follow his father’s example instead and build up his skills and experience in the workplace.

From a young age he had been helping out on farms and estates and was always busy in school holidays.

“I’ve never been one to sit around and do nothing. I love working,” says Henry.

Once he had decided on his career path, his father encouraged him to take his PA1, 2 and 6 qualifications, as well as other courses such as trailer handling.

“When I finished my A-levels, I worked on an estate until just after Christmas and then they asked if I would like to stay on full-time,” Henry says.


“It fulfilled my ideal of working in fabrications and building with a bit of tractor work too. It covered everything, but I was also aware that it was not what I wanted to be doing long term.”

After 18 months he moved on to a farming role which was initially for harvest and he hoped it might lead on to something longer term.

Sadly, this was not to be and he left soon after Christmas once drilling was completed.

“I had a few months when I thought where do I go from here?” he says.

“I had my own workshop and garage where I did work on cars and 4x4s and thought about making a go of that. But while it was fun as a hobby and part-time bit of extra pocket money, it was not what I wanted to do long term.”

So in February 2014 he started looking again for a farming role as it was clear he wanted to progress in arable farming. Soon after he secured a job with R.P. Worth in Lincolnshire.

“It gave me a very good start in arable farming with spraying, drilling and combining all part of my job,” says Henry.

With a keen eye for attention to detail it was not long before he began implementing some of his ideas into his daily work.

“It has always been my biggest strength, but also in some ways a weakness,” he says.

“I am always trying to make everything right. For example, when I am combining, my boss was always impressed by how clean my samples were, but not so impressed about the amount of time it took me.”

Similarly he prided himself on low bruising scores when harvesting potatoes.

“With the potato harvest, if you do it right it can set you up for the year, but if you get it wrong you are in trouble,” he says.

“I have always wanted to do my best job and winning was recognition that I am. It meant a lot”

“You can sell a soft or cracked potato, but you can not sell a bruised one. I always take a lot of pride in everything I do.”

During his six years with the company, Henry undertook further training and earned a raft of certificates, including further pesticide training.


By the end, Henry’s role also included overseeing the ploughing of 324 hectares (800 acres), along with spraying and engineering duties.

Over the years he has developed other skills in fencing, bricklaying, welding and building, which helped the farm reduce costs and minimise the use of external contractors.

“Mr Worth was always very keen on training and getting us out there,” he says. “Also, if we had an idea, he would listen to it.”

Henry enjoyed being able to contribute ideas and be part of projects which had an impact on the smooth running of the farming business.

One such project was the improvement of security at a farmyard which had been subject to some unwanted visitors.

He suggested installation of electric gates, which were subsequently installed by external contractors, but he was able to put his building skills to good use helping with the concrete needed and by erecting other fencing to make the farmyard more secure and improve the aesthetics of the farm entrance.

Other projects he was involved with included updating equipment to allow faster repairs and better fabrication, as well as conservation, groundwork and environmental work.

In particular, he took part in a project to clear and replant an area of woodland to maximise wildlife habitat and improve biosecurity.

His efforts were rewarded after being named last year’s Farm Worker of the Year at the British Farming Awards. But it was his mother, Karen, who decided to nominate him.

Having witnessed her son’s dedication to his career she put Henry forward for the award in secret.

“She saw an advert on Facebook and decided to nominate me and did not think any more of it,” he says.

“I was so surprised to have been shortlisted, but not half as much as when I actually won. I still can’t watch the video of that evening without getting teary. It meant a huge amount.”

Soon after, his win also provided the catalyst to pursue a new chapter in his career after a conversation with his employer.

“Mr Worth sat me down for a chat and said he knew I had plans to progress,” he says.

“He had not long taken on a new manager who was doing very well. He was fully supportive and understanding of my ambitions, but we knew that his manager was not likely to be moving on.”

Instead, he encouraged Henry to seek promotion elsewhere if that is what he wanted to do.


This spurred Henry on and he successfully applied for the role of working farm manager for A.B. Coleman, based near Bridlington.

It meant relocation for Henry and his partner, Natasha, and their two daughters, Evangeline, three, and Florence, 18 months, ready for his start in March, but they were happy to make the move.

Henry had spent some of his early childhood in Yorkshire and was keen to return to the area.

A.B. Coleman farms its own 202ha (500 acres) of combinable crops and grass and runs a separate potato business which rents a further 121ha (300 acres) every year.

Henry was quick to make his mark on the new farm and one early project has been an expansion of a yard.

“I used a 360 digger and put in a chalk base and created a larger parking area for the farm vehicles,” he says.

The area will be particularly useful at harvest time when there can be up to five tractors and trailers and a further five lorries loading or unloading potatoes, he explains.

He also has ambitious ideas for the business and already has eyes on expanding the potato operation.

“It is strange being on hilly land again after six years on the Fens,” he says.

“Some of our fields are on the Bridlington cliffs overlooking the North Sea. The scenery is stunning.

“Tim Coleman and his family have been fantastic and really supportive. I am certainly not planning on going anywhere.”

Before winning his award, Henry often worried about whether other people thought he was doing a good enough job, but the recognition has boosted his  confidence.

“I have always wanted to do my best job and winning was recognition that I am and that I have worked hard. It meant a lot,” he says.