NI farmer, Simon Best, makes final shortlist in UK-wide 2021 ‘Arable Farmer of the Year’ award

Country Armagh nature-friendly farmer, Simon Best, has been awarded a place in this year’s Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year award.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 7:24 pm

Simon farms at Acton House Farm near Poyntzpass and his 465ha of arable land consists of feed wheat, winter and spring milling oats, oilseed rape and beans.

He is the only finalist from Northern Ireland alongside two farmers in England.

Simon’s “less is more” mindset has earned the respect of award judges, Robert Price (last year’s winner), Richard Allison (Farmers Weekly arable editor) and Damian McAuley (independent judge and agronomist).

The judges valued:

- All crops are grown for a specific local market

- Excellent integration of compost and arable business

- The farm’s work with colleges and the government to develop new crop markets

- Really good awareness of carbon

The farmer’s long-term view of sustainability centres on nature-based farming solutions and the interventions made on his family farm include no insecticide use for five years, establishment of environmental habitats, focus on targeted applications and soil health. As a result, Simon’s arable farming produces high-quality food to high environmental standards.

Simon worked with the local research institute at Hillsborough investigating how to replace imported soya and the outcome was in policy development supporting protein crops.

As a LEAF farm, Simon’s farm is aligned with the natural environment with producing for the local community. Acton House Farm hosts Open Farm Weekend every year, linking up with local schools and provides compost and planting boxes to local villages.

Farmers Weekly judges say: “Simon has developed strong connections with local markets and is maximising his returns. He has successfully established an environmentally sustainable arable business on a scale not seen in Northern Ireland.”

Simon Best says: “I’m delighted to make the shortlist and for nature-friendly farming practices to be recognised for how they can boost farm livelihoods without compromising the environment.”

“Ensuring that we, as farmers, take a long-term view of sustainability and enhancement of our environment is critical. As an arable farmer in Northern Ireland’s livestock-dominated sector, I hope our farm can promote the opportunities that are there for retaining viable farming.”

“Soils are the key to our resilience – it’s clear how manageable our land is when weather conditions get more challenging. Monitoring water quality and conscious decision making, planning and Integrated Pest Management are simple, logical ways to ensuring our farm business is resilient and efficient.”