Selling Suffolk to Scots helps family win award

Suffolk Best Farm winners L-R: Derek Scott, president SAA; Christopher Leney of sponsors Robinson & Hall; Christopher and Rupert Brown, Sue Allington of sponsors AMC
Suffolk Best Farm winners L-R: Derek Scott, president SAA; Christopher Leney of sponsors Robinson & Hall; Christopher and Rupert Brown, Sue Allington of sponsors AMC

A BUSINESS that allows golfers in Scotland to play on a little bit of Suffolk has helped Rupert and Christopher Brown win a top farming award.

Hawstead’s John Brown and Sons, founded by Christopher’s father, has won Suffolk Agricultural Association’s 2011 Farm Business Awards’s large farm category last Thursday.

Jonathan Reading, who judged the large farms with Mike Ashby, said: “We felt that John Brown and Sons was a justified winner, if only by the narrowest of margins. Their business, and enterprise management was carried to an exceptionally high standard.

“They pay a great deal of attention to the environment. They also have a number of very successful diversification enterprises, including a venue for weddings and parties, a holiday let, fishing, and a soil screening business.”

The soil screening business screens fen soils, sand and waste vegetable soils which are then sent all over the country and used as topsoil on golf courses, leisure centres and gardens. Rupert said: “We’ve supplied Carnoustie golf course for some years.”

He added: “What we’re doing is trying to run a normal farm business, which requires diversification to make money because some years farming doesn’t make money and sometimes it does. We’re always looking at ways to make the most of the assets we have.”

Other diversifications include holiday cottages, fishing lakes and an events venue.

The income these generate has allowed the family to expand the farm over the past 20 years so they now have 2,000 acres of arable land.

Rupert stressed: “We farm with care for the environment so we have to farm carefully with the latest technology, like GPS and the correct fertiliser.”

Using GPS (geo-positioning satellites) as used by cruise missiles, they can measure a field’s yield as they harvest, then target the fertiliser to the areas that need it.

They have also done a lot of tree and hedge planting and are looking at creating wildlife areas to become sites of special scientific interest.

Other West Suffolk winners were: R H Forrest and Co, Stonham Aspal, second overall and best livestock farm in the large farms category; E J Barker and Sons, Westhorpe, conservation award in the large farms category.