Wiltshire farmer Craig Livingstone from Lockerley Estate at East Tytherley has been crowned Britain’s Farmer of the Year at the Farmers Weekly Awards, the Oscars of UK farming.
Craig, who also won the title Arable Farmer of the Year, was one of 15 farming award winners presented with their trophies last night at a glittering ceremony in London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
A former agronomist, or “crop doctor”, Craig has managed to both raise yields and cut costs on 800 hectares of arable crops, by focusing on the health of his soils and making some bold changes to his pattern of crop rotations.
Craig has adopted some of the latest “precision farming” technology, planting seeds and applying fertiliser at variable rates across his fields, to take account of variations in soil quality.
Karl Schneider, Farmers Weekly Editor said: “Craig is a first-class farmer, and it’s remarkable how much he has managed to achieve in just three years at Lockerley Estate. He’s also a great ambassador for British farming.”
The Lockerley Estate farm now grows winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape, winter oats, spring beans and spring barley. It employs five full-time and one part-time member of staff, shared between the farm and the estate’s forestry and shoot businesses.
One of Craig’s main challenges is to improve soil quality on the farm. He has halved the area devoted to oilseed rape and added the spring beans, winter barley and winter oats to widen the crop rotation to six years. He also adds lime and liberal amounts of organic matter to nurse the soil back to health.
To adopt precision farming techniques, Craig has invested in some new farm equipment and in training for his staff, who now have the skills to perform multiple roles.
A fan of the latest farming technology, Craig is currently hosting trials of three robots on the farm and is part of a project making use of satellite data to predict crop yields.
The Farmer of the Year Award, the overall “winner of winners”, was sponsored by McDonalds. In addition, Arable Farmer of the Year sponsored this year by KWS UK.
Writer, broadcaster, actor, and former Conservative MP, Gyles Brandreth, presented the awards in front of more than 1,000 guests in the Great Room at the Grosvenor House Hotel on London’s Park Lane.