Simon Pride, director of marketing and communications for Harper Adams University – headline sponsor of the the Three Counties Farmer Awards – on why the new awards matter

IN March a Harper Adams University student, Philippa Gray, won the Royal Agricultural Society of England’s inaugural Student Speaker of the Year Award for her presentation 21st Century: The dawn of the wool age.

The judges commended the breadth of her speech, which tackled issues as diverse as environmental impact, animal welfare and public perception of the farming industry.

What made Philippa stand out from her fellow competitors was her ability not just to be on top of her subject, but to frame that knowledge against the backdrop of the economic, technological and societal trends that are driving change within agriculture. She saw the bigger picture.

The fact that this event was held at the Royal Agricultural University, against competitors from the RAU and other agricultural-focused universities, will of course be a delight to Harper students and alumni everywhere.

But putting 100 or so years of institutional rivalry aside for a moment, we should all recognise the importance of celebrating the future and, indeed also the current talent in the UK farming industry.

And as such, competitions and awards really do matter. They not only serve as a way to celebrate and share best practice within an industry, but they also provide a platform to connect our industry to the wider world. So when the Three Counties Farmer invited Harper Adams to sponsor the Three Counties Farmer Awards, we jumped at the chance.

The Three Counties Farmer Awards are an opportunity to get on the front foot and demonstrate that in an age of rapid change, both in terms of consumer trends and technological advances, our industry has the talent and ambition to adapt and succeed. Not least it is also an opportunity to remind people that agriculture is at the very centre of our society and our culture, indeed it underpins all human life.

You could certainly be forgiven right now for thinking that Brexit was the most important issue facing the world. But with a global population set to rise to 9 billion by 2050, the real issue is actually food production and sustainable management of the world’s natural resources.

One of the best bits of advice my father ever gave me was actually on the riverbank as I fussed around changing my fly for the umpteenth time in an increasingly desperate attempt to net a brown trout: “One thing is for sure, Simon, if your fly is not in the water, you’re not going to catch a fish.”

Basically, you have to be in to win it.

So don’t hide your light under a bushel, get nominating now. Visit