Poultry farmers took 2 top awards at the Devon Farm Business Awards, which were announced on the eve of the Devon County Show.
Jacqui Lanning, co-owner and founder of Devonshire Poultry, took the prestigious Farmer of the Year award – the first woman in 5 years of the history of the award.
The Verney family of Bishops Nympton, near South Molton, who run a free-range poultry unit, also took the Best Commercial Farmer award.
Organised by the Addington Fund, Devon County Agricultural Association and regional solicitors Stephen and Scown, judges felt Mrs Lanning was an outstanding winner.
She started the Blackdown Hills business with husband Robert – a former Poultry World columnist – in 1991, and the broiler chicken business now encompasses 6 farms across 3 counties, employing 11 people and producing around 4.5m table chickens a year.
Mrs Lanning’s speciality is the unglamorous but vital task of ensuring compliance with the swathe of regulations affecting such a substantial business.
Graeme Cock, Mole Valley Farmers chairman and lead judge, said: “Devonshire Poultry is a fantastic business which bases its entire marketing theme on Devon. Mrs Lanning’s role in the business is absolutely vital, running as she does 6 very efficient and high welfare units across 3 counties from her Devon base. She is an outstanding winner.”
Mrs Lanning also took home Devon’s Best Woman in Farming award, prompting category judge Richard Townsend to comment: “Her focus and drive is obvious and she clearly loves her work. The future looks bright with a great team in place providing a solid foundation for future growth.”
“Taking Best Commercial Farmer, the Verney family enterprise is very much a family farming business, in which the 2 generations, David and Dawn Verney and their 2 sons James and Edward, are working together adding to each other’s strengths to present a formidable team.
It is a mixed farm, in which each enterprise complements the other. There is an 800 head herd of milking goats, producing milk for Delamere Dairy, a free-range poultry unit, supplying eggs for Waitrose, a flock of 400 ewes and a substantial arable acreage. Manure from the poultry boosts cereal yields.