Free Range Dairy farmer wins BBC award

02 May 2014

WSPA-nominated farmer wins BBC Outstanding Farmer of the Year.

This article was written when we were called the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Find out about our name change

Free Range Dairy founder Neil Darwent, has won the much respected BBC Outstanding Farmer of the Year award at the broadcaster’s annual Food and Farming Awards in Bristol on 1 May, following WSPA’s nomination of him in February 2014.

Neil, who also has a full time job as a farm director for Lordswood Farms in Somerset, has worked closely with WSPA since 2010 when he gave us a valuable insight into dairy farming as we began to fight the spread of intensification in the UK.

At that time, the very real and present threat came in the form of the Nocton Dairies’ application to build what would have been the largest intensive dairy farm in Europe, keeping thousands of cows inside for most of their lives.

Since then Neil has been leading by example, showing that there is another way to turn a profit as a dairy farmer and maintain high animal welfare standards while keeping your cows on grass.

WSPA is delighted that Neil has been publicly acknowledged for his work at the BBC ceremony from among some 247 nominations for the category – the most the Awards have ever seen.

The judges praised Neil for his pragmatic and progressive vision and ‘determination to improve an entire industry’, with Countryfile presenter and judge Adam Henson adding “not only is Neil a good farmer, he is a great communicator.”

The award ceremony will be broadcast on Monday 4 May at 3pm on BBC Radio 4.

Simon Pope, UK Director of Campaigns and Communications said: “Over the years, Neil has come under fire from the pro-industrial dairy sector for advocating the benefits of grazing cows in fields, as well as publicly supporting WSPA’s dairy campaign goals.

“WSPA is delighted that Neil is now being seen as a leading and respected champion of pasture based dairy systems, in large part through his knowledgeable and engaging ability to communicate his Free Range Dairy Farming vision. We are proud to have been able to contribute along the way by giving him speaking platforms at places like the Oxford Farming Conference and various Political Party Conferences.”

After winning the award, Neil was interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme.

About Free Range Dairy

WSPA have championed his Free Range Dairy initiative, set up in 2011, that promotes pasture based dairy farming and farmers across Britain.

Over the last few years the UK has witnessed an increasing promotion of intensive indoor systems, while Neil works to champion the vast majority of dairy farmers who farm on pasture. He makes a strong and compelling argument about the benefits of keeping cows on grass while also informing the consumer about how their milk is produced.

Free Range Dairy works to put the value back into pasture based dairy farming and keep farmers producing milk in line with the ideals held by UK consumers.

The vast majority of the milk-buying public believe their milk comes from cows in fields, although the spread of intensive dairy farming combined with the way that milk is processed means that there could be as much as 20% intensive milk in our national milk supply.

You can find out more about Free Range Dairy in Neil's blog about his BBC Food and Farming Awards experience

WSPA was glad to nominate Neil for all the hard work he is doing to keep cows on pasture – not just on his farm but with farmers across the UK.

Tell the world: