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Northern Ireland: Simon Best wins Arable Farmer of the Year 2021

NFFN NI’s steering group member, Simon Best, has won this year’s Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year award. 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.

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

Simon’s long-term view of sustainability centres on nature-based farming solutions and the interventions made on his family farm includes no insecticide use for five years, the 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.

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 win this award and for our 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.”