A farmer who opens his gates to thousands of people every year to tell the story of food and farming has been awarded the Farmers Weekly Farming Champion of the Year.
Michael Sly, an arable farmer from Thorney, near Peterborough, has spent a significant portion of the past 11 years educating the public on food, farming and the work agriculture can do for the environment through Open Farm Sunday and his own event, the Open Farm and Vintage weekend, every year.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “I’m delighted to announce that he is the very deserving recipient of the Farmers Weekly Farming Champion award. For 11 years Michael has opened his farm gates to tell thousands of members of the public his farming story as part of Open Farm Sunday. And what a story he has to tell.
“Michael has been a leading light for the conservation of wildlife in his area, co-ordinating a group of 17 farmers to contribute to the Thorney Farmland Bird-Friendly Zone, gaining national recognition from peers, environmental groups and the media. The group, with truly admirable efforts, continues to work on the integration of sustainable food production and diverse habitat creation. It’s no wonder that more than 35,000 visitors have enjoyed his own extended initiative – the Open Farm and Vintage weekend – since 2006.
“I would also highlight one of Michael’s greatest achievements – saving English mustard. His work in bringing together local farmers to form the English Mustard Growers Co-operative helped develop a collaborative supply chain for Colman’s which has seen everyone benefit from improved long-term profitability.
“This is what makes Michael stand out. His efforts to entertain and educate people are a year-round passion for Michael and his team, and one the NFU is extremely proud of.”
Sponsored by the NFU, the Farming Champion award looks for someone who has been selfless in their efforts to strengthen British farming in the past 12 months.
The award was presented by NFU Deputy President Minette Batters. She said: “Michael has worked tirelessly to promote the work of British farming and he is a well-deserved recipient of this award. It’s a privilege to present this award and continue to recognise the fantastic work that farmers do for the public and the countryside."