Anthony and Emma are the cream of the crop with nominations for the British Farming Awards

Emma HoutonEmma Houton
Emma Houton
Two Lancashire farm workers have been shortlisted for the British Farming Awards.

Anthony Marsh of Preston, the founder of HoofCount, has been nominated for Agri-Tech Innovator of the Year, and Emma Houlton of Farringtons Farm, based in Hesketh Bank, has been nominated as Farm Worker of the Year.

Emma, 37, began working for Farrington's two days after lockdown in March last year, having spent 10 years as a radio producer with her own company.

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As Covid took its toll on her cash flow and she looked for other employment, she saw an urgent call for British workers to help on farms because of a lack of labour from abroad due to Brexit and Covid.

Anthony Marsh of HoofCountAnthony Marsh of HoofCount
Anthony Marsh of HoofCount

She started out as an operative in the field harvesting and in the greenhouse loading plants. Fifteen months later she was promoted to a management position with responsibilities including co-ordinating orders and logistics, leading and motivating the team, training new team members and operating automatic planters.

She said: "I'm very surprised (about the awards to be honest). The company encouraged me to enter, but I didn't think I was in with a chance of being shortlisted.

"But it makes all of the hard work worth it. It solidifies to me that getting into farming was the right thing to do."

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She added: "As a child one of my best friends lived on a sheep and arable farm and I always used to hang around there, but I didn't have any experience with tractors or crops.

"It was terrifying at the start, I'm not going to lie, and at the start when all the roads were empty, I was getting pulled over all the time by the police asking what I was doing.

"There was me and the delivery drivers on the road, but when you put the radio on in the morning, there was a definate camaraderie - that we were key workers and going into battle each day."

Emma, who is originally from Driffield, East Yorkshire, says she has the mentality of "if you see an obstacle, leap over it", and soon got the hang of the machinery and the farm way of life, which she says is "very physically demanding."

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She has thanked the Farrington family for their support in helping her on her journey, which she is now documenting on Instagram under the handle @princesscabbageuk

The Farrington farm is now in its third generation with sons Paul and Stephen Farrington overseeing operations. A vegetable growing business, they grow spring greens and kale in the field alongside their plant propagation business which is three acres of greenhouses.

They sow and propagate all their own crops in these greenhouses alongside plants for other growers and customers across the UK. They are one of the largest propagators of leeks in the country.

They also farm land in Flintshire, growing spring greens, cavolo nero and green kale. In total they farm around 300 acres and have a team of around 20 permanent and seasonal staff.


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Anthony grew up with an interest in farming and pursued a career in dairy engineering alongside farm work on a dairy farm.

In 2012 he designed an automatic footbath for various farms across the UK aimed at reducing lameness and saving on unnecessary costs.

He is now exporting them to Europe and has developed an app which farmers can access to control their automatic footbath regardless of location.

Anthony said: "For Hoofcount to be nominated in the British farming awards, category for Agri Innovator of the year is a great honour and privilege for such a small, family run Lancashire firm.

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"Agriculture is an essential industry that is a great place to work in. Innovation and technology will play a big part in the future of agriculture as it supplies a larger population whilst being environmentally sustainable."

The awards

Now entering its ninth year, the British Farming Awards is a nationally recognised event which has celebrated, showcased and rewarded hundreds of British farmers who have successfully introduced innovation to drive their business forward, despite ever-increasing challenges.

Recognised as a year like no other, 2020 reminded the whole country of the role British farmers play in keeping the country fed and protecting the countryside, which now millions enjoy more than ever. The importance of food provenance and appreciation of local producers with a trust in farmers at an all time high, this year’s event is being seen as more poignant than ever.

Sophie Throup, head of Agriculture, Fisheries and Sustainable Sourcing at Morrisons, sponsoring the event, said the awards was a welcome reminder of the dedication and hard work demonstrated by UK farmers all year round.

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She said: "In these unprecedented times, we would like to thank and celebrate the work of British farmers and growers who are helping to feed the nation."

The awards are set to be held in-person at the National Conference Centre, Birmingham, on Thursday, October 21, 2021.

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