Agriculture is the biggest industry in Herefordshire and has shaped the look and feel of this most rural of counties.

Around a quarter of all the businesses in the county are from the agricultural, forestry or fishing sector.

All but 5% or the land in the county is rural, and just over half of the population live in a rural area. One in five live in one of the five market towns.

Altogether that are just over 2,400 agricultural businesses, mainly employing fewer than 10 people.

Indeed, what has helped the country retain its rural feel and its panoramic landscape is the fact that it is still mainly ditted with small farms.

The average farm size in the county is 66 acres, among the smallest in the country and well below the national average.

The county is steeped in tradition. Herefordshire has historically been famous for its livestock and hops, while apple and pear orchards have dotted the landscape.

Challenges ahead

But things are changing as farming diversifies to meet modern challenges.

The county is, of course, famous across the world for its breed of cattle, calm and resilient animals that have become popular with farmers across the world.

The orchards have given rise to a major cider industry.

But the farming picture is changing. Recent growth has been in soft fruits, such as strawberries, plus potatoes and vegetables.

The use of polytunnels has helped grow the fruits sector, while larger and larger poultry units are being proposed.

And, of course, there has been diversification into agri tourism and holiday lets.

Another key diversification is into craft produce, with a plethora of small start-ups providing high quality food and drink.

Agriculture has twice as many businesses as the next biggest industrial sector in the county – professional, scientific and technical.

It’s a case of small is beautiful because it comes with top quality.

The Three Counties Farmer Awards this year celebrate all that is best about local farming and local farmers.

Entries are now open for the 2020 event which this year take place in digital format – because of coronavirus - in November.

To nominate someone just go to and fill out the online form.

Categories are: Sheep Farmer; Farm Conservation; Cattle Farmer; Family Run Farm; Pig Farmer; Young Farmer (under 26); Arable Farmer; Farming Contractor; Fruit/hop farmer.