This year's Food and Farming Awards event, which will be streamed live on the Hereford Times facebook page on Thursday, June 17, promises to be bigger and better than ever.

A glittering affair, the awards will be hosted by TV presenter and antiques expert Kate Bliss, supported by celebrities, including Lee Mead, Debbie McGee, Suzanne Shaw, Lesley Joseph, Tracy Ann Oberman and Matt Dawson.

The prestigious farming awards have been expanded this year to incorporate and recognise those businesses that make such great use of the wealth of produce grown in Herefordshire – with restaurants, cafes and tea shops, food and drink producers and local food retailers joining the categories in line for awards to celebrate the multi-faceted nature of our agricultural landscape – from field to fork.

The nominations are now closed and we've had dozens of entries in the 12 categories – from new businesses to well established enterprises, and the challenging task of judging the entries will take place next week.

Agriculture and food are inextricably connected – you can't have one without the other, so it's a natural combination – agriculture is the biggest industry in Herefordshire and has shaped the landscape and the personality of a county in which around a quarter of all businesses are in the sector, while the quality of what is produced has given rise to a wealth of food-related businesses.

Herefordshire has a growing reputation as a foodie destination, with restaurants, cafes, tearooms and pubs all offering the fruits of our farmers' labours on a plate, while producers use the wealth of produce to create everything from ice-cream and yoghurt to cheese and chutney.

As someone born and raised in Herefordshire Kate Bliss, who will host the awards event, is passionate about the county she calls home, and about the part the farming community plays in life here.

“Herefordshire is in my blood,” she said. “Some of our farmers are kingpins in the national farming community and what we do here is incredibly important: it’s part of what makes Herefordshire special.

“We should be immensely proud of what our farmers are doing. We are so lucky to have such a rich choice of produce so close to home.”

The deadline for the awards was extended to April 30 to ensure that everyone, particularly those in the hospitality industry only just able to open following lockdown, were firmly back in business and ready to celebrate their achievements by entering the awards in a year that's been anything but easy.

Awards will be made in the following categories:

Cattle Farmer

Poultry Farmer

Arable/Fruit or Hop farmer

Family-run farm or Smallholding

Farm Conservation and Diversification

Best Farm Shop

Best Local Food Retailer

Best Dairy Producer

Best Food Producer (excluding dairy)

Best Drinks Producer

Best restaurant

Best cafe or tearoom