IT’s not long now until we find out who are the region’s farming heroes in our Three Counties Awards.

We will be broadcasting the awards ceremony at 7pm on November 26 via our Facebook page and in the run-up we are taking a look at the finalists in each category.

Here are those in the final of the Family Run Farm award, sponsored by mfg Solicitors


FARMERS are custodians of the countryside, according to one of the farms nominated for this year’s farming awards, as they look after rural areas, not just making a living off the land.

So says Esther Rudge, who runs Ballingham Court, near Ross-on-Wye, as a family partnership with her husband Henry and their son Monty, who has recently joined the business after studying at agricultural university Harper Adams.

Mrs Rudge is the fourth generation of her family to farm the 450-acre site after she took over aged 16. Along with her family, she has now been nominated for the Family Run Farm of the Year award.

From apple orchards and an anaerobic digester, to ewes and 120 acres of arable crops, the family has a range of interests.

But on top of that, Mrs Rudge said they look after the south Herefordshire countryside they farm.

“The farm has been in environmental schemes for over 20 years. We are privileged to farm in a beautiful area on the banks of the river Wye. We have planted wild bird covers, pollen mixes and buffer strips.

“We have planted 10 acres of new woodland to provide a wildlife corridor across the middle of the farm and have planted over four kilometres of hedges. We have won the AONB farm of the year on three occasions for our outstanding contribution to the Wye Valley AONB.”

The family has also planted grass on flood plains and invested heavily in renewable energy.


Rea & Son, run by Jim, Sheila & Sarah Hitchon, is a family run farm that has been home to the Clenchers Dairy Herd since 1957.

The couple have twin daughters, one of whom has gone into accountancy, but the other sister, Sarah, is very much a significant part of their succession plans.

They support the diary sector, having worked with local dairy Cotswolds to supply their milk.

With definite plans to continue and thrive for the future, they have invested significantly

over the past few years in new buildings, farm facilities and robots (two years ago) which makes a big difference, especially to the intensive labour that is needed on a dairy farm.

A very close knit family, Jim’s wife Sheila has a fabulous cake making business that is also based at the farm, and their four young grandchildren are mad about farming too!

They have encouraged the farm to be used for many educational farm visits and are always happy to show people around and encourage the next generation.

They are the most positive and fabulous ambassadors.


Churchfields Farm near Droitwich is a big operation – they’ve recently been granted permission for a new visitor and education centre – but it is still very much a family business.

Churchfields Farm was bought back in 1913 when the Davies family farmed 46 acres and 12 cows.

Now the farm, run by Will and Gillian Kerton, milks 100 pedigree Holstein Friesian and Dairy Shorthorn cows, have 50 following cattle and farm 350 acres in a rotation of winter wheat, oil seed rape and maize.

They still milk in the herringbone parlour that Gillian’s father put in back in the 1970s.

After the Foot and Mouth crisis and with low milk prices the family diversified into ice cream production and in 2015 opened an ice cream parlour and cafe on the farm. The same year the family diversified again, adding the production of Droitwich Salt to the ever expanding business.

We are started off by selling our Salt to farm shops and in our own Barn Cafe then leading up to supplying the likes of Ritter and Harvey Nichols.

“We are a family business but want the team and customers to feel part of the Churchfields family. Our values run through all aspects of the Churchfields business, team and family. We believe in farming in a sustainable way.”

For more on the awards go to