This year's winner of the David Black Award for an important and sustained contribution to the pig industry had a slightly unconventional introduction to pig farming.
Meryl receiving the award from Defra farming minister James Paice while BPEX and NPA Chairman Stewart Houston looks on.
Meryl Ward's father, the driving force behind the family business died unexpectedly, when she was in her first year at college.
After a difficult year for the farm in 1983, her mother asked her to come home to run the livestock enterprise. She was told 'here's a pig unit, here's an overdraft' and she had to get on with it.
Meryl did have a degree in Agricultural Science from Wye College, but, she admits, had never considered a career as a pig farmer.
From that beginning she has built the business into what it is today, along the way being a member of, or sometimes even helping to create, a number of industry organisations.
Today, pig welfare is the driving force behind much of what she does - she installed an electronic sow feeding system in 1990 and is always looking for ways forward to take welfare to the next level.
"We must keep raising the welfare bar in tune with new scientific knowledge. We need to get the criteria of good welfare agreed and recognised across the industry, then we need to make sure the consumer has access to honest and independent information to enable them to make informed choices.
"We have some of the best welfare standards in the world, which is demonstrated through our assurance schemes which are unique in their level of rigorous inspection. This is vital for the whole pig industry."
Her Lincolnshire enterprise is part of a mixed farm and has 2,200 sows, the majority of which are finished to bacon. A small proportion being sold in the farm retail enterprise, Uncle Henry's Farm Shop, giving a complete farm to fork insight into the supply chain.
The twin themes she uses to run the business are teamwork and collaboration. She said: "All the people who provide inputs into the business are part of the management team.
"Livestock enterprises require increasing levels of specialist skills and technology and our supply chain providers are a vital part of this. For example, our feed supply arrangements are vital to securing competitive raw materials in a volatile market.
"Health and animal welfare are crucial, so working closely with vets is vital. We have formed a group with seven other pig businesses to share best practice.
"We are very open about everything and also have the chance to visit other units, which is invaluable.
"The message from this is that farms are too often seen as islands in the landscape and that's just not true. Businesses that collaborate reap substantial benefits.
"Another very important aspect is the supply chain. Though it is quite short we should be able to have much better relations within it. We need a joined up, transparent route to the customer - something we don't have at present - improved products and a fair reward for the producers.
"Finally, I come back to one of my original messages and that is partnership, which is as valid across the industry as it is within a business. It is an old saying but true even so, there's no 'I' in team."
The award was presented by Defra Minister Jim Paice at an industry lunch in London on Wednesday October 27.
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