NFU Community Farming Hero: Cathy Leahy – East Anglia

First published: 02 November 2022

NFU Community Farming Hero: Cathy Leahy - East Anglia

NFU Community Farming Hero: Cathy Leahy – East Anglia

Meet East Anglia's NFU Community Farming Hero and Parkrun organiser, farmer Cathy Leahy.

Hertfordshire farmer Cathy Leahy was nominated by St Albans MP Daisy Cooper for her longstanding work in the community, including with the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and as an organiser of the St Albans Parkrun.

The NFU-organised awards highlight the contribution farmers make to their local community, from helping during extreme weather events to fundraising for charities.

In her nomination, Daisy said: “I have known Cathy for years and I have seen first-hand how she has supported others in the wider St Albans community. Her work as a key organiser of the St Albans Parkrun has been fantastic.

“She is one of the most regular weekly volunteers and is often the run director. Parkrun has helped improve not only the physical, but also the mental health of so many people in my constituency, and this has been doubly important since the covid lockdowns

“We all know that farming is often a 24 hour a day job, which makes it even more admirable that Cathy has stepped up to help the wider community of the city and district of St Albans. She is a genuine agricultural champion.”

Cathy Leahy and Josh Redford

Cathy, the chair of the NFU’s St Albans branch, will be joining the other community farming hero winners at the House of Commons today (2 November), Back British Farming Day. She is pictured above with NFU Herts County Adviser Josh Redford.

She said: “Being nominated by Daisy came completely out of the blue. It’s been a tough couple of years during the pandemic, and difficult to drive the business forward over that time, so to have this is a real boost.”

Cathy lives in St Albans but farms Runways Farm near Hemel Hempstead, a former airfield bought by her parents Dan and Sue Simms in 1983. The site includes 150 acres of cereal crops and as well as business diversifications ranging from driving experiences and driver training to radar research and testing and paintball.

She has been involved with the RDA for many years, firstly at Oaklands College and latterly with the Penniwells Group, based at Elstree. It started when her horse, Brandy, was stabled at Oaklands and the local RDA group asked if they could borrow him.

“As well as being used for lessons, Brandy has taken part in competitions with some of the riders. That started my involvement and I’ve always done as much as I can to support the RDA group since then,” said Cathy.

“It’s such a great charity, which does a huge amount for the people who are involved. The amount they get out of it is great to see and I really enjoy being part of that.”

Cathy said she hated running at school but became involved with the Parkrun after taking up jogging to keep fit.

“Parkrun is based at Verulamium Park, close to my home, so I started going down there. I enjoy the sense of community you get, that opportunity to participate in something that’s fun and not overly competitive but you can challenge yourself and see how you get on,” she said.

“We have a great team of people who all get involved and you never feel like you’re on your own. Whether you’re volunteering or running, being outdoors makes such a difference to your mental wellbeing. It has been so important to a lot of people to get out and enjoy the countryside.

“Farmers have always known that, and now we are encouraging others to do so as well!”

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