And the award goes to…

“It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people” said Wilbur, the pig in children’s novel Charlotte’s Web, on winning a ribbon at the county fair. This year’s agricultural shows have seen the usual wealth of four and two-legged prize winners, and we are coming up to Awards season with the Yield Enhancement Network prizes, Farmers’ Weekly awards and others. Indeed, our keynote speaker for REAP 2017 won last year’s Kleckner Prize from the Global Farmers Network.

So how do prizes help move the industry forward? Are awards a valuable accolade demonstrating industry recognition, or simply dust-gatherers for the vainglorious?

Inspiration and peer recognition

Awards are usually designed to help promote and reward achievement, offer valuable profile to the organisers and sponsors, and select winners who can help inspire others. Just as importantly, they are also a reason to celebrate success in the industry and show peer recognition of effort and excellence – sometimes an even bigger prize.

The east of England has an impressive track record of farming and business winners.

Poul Hovesen, Agri-Tech East Stakeholder and winner of Farmer's Weekly Farmer of the Year Award 2014Poul Hoveson (left), our Vice Chairman and host of a previous Water Special Interest Group meeting, was the Arable Farmer of the Year 2014 as well as Farmers’ Weekly Farmer of The Year.

Emily Norton, speaker at our Young Innovators’ Forum Agri-Science conference, is this year’s finalist for the Farmers’ Weekly Mixed Farmer of the Year.

Agri-Tech East member AponicRussell Smith Farms, members and host of a number of Agri-Tech East events, was a finalist for Employer of the Year in the 2016 awards.

This month, Aponic was declared Small Business of the Year in the prestigious East of England Business Awards and PBD Biotech scooped the Innovation Award for new crop or livestock technology at the Ag-In-Motion competition in Canada.

Pushing the boundaries

The Yield Enhancement Network, coordinated by ADAS and sponsored by so many players in the industry, is a way in which farmers can demonstrate their ability to push the boundaries of yields in wheat, oil seed rape and, most recently, peas. The winners show what is possible – especially in terms of reaching yield potential.

The winners of our GROW agri-tech start-up business competition have benefitted from not only the profile but also the support they have received as part of their prize – it is most helpful when winning comes with not just an ornament but also has a practical use as well (and not just as a paperweight!).

Agriculture is an inherently competitive industry, with county and regional shows being one of the earliest examples of farmer rivalry, each competing for the best-in-class animal, crop or skill. But we need to use prizes more effectively help to spread the magic to motivate others, and raise standards across the board.

Ambassadors of best practice

Winning a prize is, as Wilbur said, deeply satisfying. It usually recognises hard work, care and thought, and a whole host of other attributes – including creativity, inspiration and persistence in the face of adversity.

So, award winners need to be ambassadors. It’s not the winning that counts, and it’s not even the taking part. It’s the sharing of best practice that will help everyone raise their game and take the industry to new heights.

Good luck!