A farming couple from County Durham are the winners of the prestigious Tye Trophy with the judges describing their enterprise as “exceptional and immaculate”. The competition is run by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and is aimed at rewarding best farming practice coupled with an awareness of the environment and the need to be ambassadors for the industry.
Mrs Jane Gray with the Tye Trophy with former president Raymond Twiddle and Nigel Pulling, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society
Mark and Jane Gray took the championship after being named winners of the Co. Durham regional round and received the award at a ceremony at Countryside Live this weekend (20 and 21 October). Mr and Mrs Gray received their trophy and prize money from Raymond Twiddle, a former President of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
The announcement comes following the selection of the five regional winners – with judges saying the Grays' farming was exceptional. Charles Mills, chair of the judging panel said: “They have a well run organic farm which operates to the very highest standards. In truth it is immaculate. Their grassland management is impressive and the high standards also apply to their very successful farm shop.”
“The conservation aspect is good, as is their stockmanship but in addition they are enthusiastic about their farming and keen to be ambassadors for the industry. Educating young people regarding the importance of farming is an integral part of their business. During the year they have around 100 school visits which is a major undertaking for any farm. They are very worthy winners,” he added.
The Grays' Prize Winning Farm
The Grays' 1,000-acre tenanted former opencast farm - Broom House, Witton Gilbert,- lies six miles from the city of Durham and has been organic for seven years. This coincided with the start of a farm shop to market home-reared produce.
The farm rises from the flood plain in the Browney Valley, a tributary of the River Wear, to 750ft above sea level and all its acreage is in Organic Higher Level Stewardship with the aim of conserving the landscape and improving conditions for wildlife on the farm.
Area winners of the Tye Trophy in 2008, examples of the Grays’ conservation work have included restoring hay meadows, sowing beetle strips, creating wildlife corridors, planting trees, restoring ponds and rebuilding stone walls. Most recently, 10km of hedges have been planted and 30 new bird nesting boxes put up around the farm.
Mr Gray said: “We’re keen to encourage visitors to the farm to see what we do - and that includes more than 100 school visits a year. We are passionate about getting children on to a busy working farm so that they can learn about farming in the 21st century, the relationship between the countryside and their food.”
An area of woodland is also now used as a Forest Adventure, re-connecting children with these habitats. An environmentally friendly Coffee Shop with wind turbine, sedum roof, log burner heating and solar hot water complements these enterprises and creates further rural employment in the area.
“As well as ongoing conservation work, we have 90 acres of hay meadows and 70 acres of permanent pasture and wetland and one of our aims is to encourage the curlews and lapwing to breed across the farm,” added Mr Gray.
The Grays have chosen traditional breeds for their eating qualities and have a herd of 140 pure Aberdeen Angus suckler cows that produce beef for the farm shop which is processed in the on-farm butchery, averaging one and a half carcases a week. The remainder of the finished cattle are sold to Dovecote Park.
There is a flock of 1,500 Lleyn ewes which are bred pure or crossed with the Suffolk and a further 500 ewe lambs are crossed with the Charollais ram, with some of the lamb as well as mutton being sold through the farm shop.
The aim is to breed all replacements on the farm which are reared on clover-rich pastures and spring oats grown on 50 acres for the cattle ration and stubble turnips for the finishing lambs. A herd of 20 rare breed Saddleback sows and 200 laying hens also supply the farm shop with pork products and eggs.
North Yorkshire Area – Mr Stuart and Mr Cliff Coggrave, Tockwith, York
East Yorkshire Area – Gordon Hawcroft, Holme on Spalding Moore, York
Northumberland – Simon Henderson, Milfield, Wooler
County Durham - Mark and Jane Gray, Broom House, Witton Gilbert, Durham
West & South Yorkshire – WB & S Shaw (William), Hooton Roberts, Doncaster
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