A local Saintfield producer for Marks & Spencer has been rewarded for his talent as a producer at a M&S ‘Farming for the Future’ Award presentation, which took place at the Balmoral Show.
Crosby Cleland from Saintfield in Co. Down scooped the Prince’s Trust Countryside Fund Contribution to Rural Communities Award which champions forward-thinking individuals whose technical ability or business aptitude promises to make a positive impact on their sector.
Crosby Cleland produces lamb on his 76 hectare farm on the outskirts of Belfast.
Crosby’s lamb rearing enterprise is based on a flock of 750 ewes, the majority of which are pure or cross-bred Lleyns. A key focus for Crosby is to maximise the use of his pasture; carefully managing clover and grass growth to ensure the best quality and supply of forage for his sheep to feed on.
Despite the significant demands of running his business, Crosby has played a highly active role in the local area, helping to educate those from outside the agricultural community about sheep farming.
With the village of Saintfield located just 12 miles from Belfast, it is a popular location for commuters into Belfast and therefore a highly populated residential area. To try and provide local people with an insight into the reality of life on a working farm and help educate about food production, Crosby regularly opens up his farm to welcome school children from the local area and show them around his business. He and the farm have also participated in the Open Farm Weekend project and Crosby takes a very proactive role in explaining the way he farms to members of the public.
Crosby said: “As well as engaging with the non-agricultural community, I am heavily involved in supporting other sheep farmers in the local area and across Northern Ireland.
“I have such a passion and enthusiasm for what I do and believe that by sharing knowledge we can improve the sheep industry for future generations.
“In order to demonstrate how to make the best use of grass when producing sheep, I’ve welcomed numerous visits from local sheep producers on to my farm to discuss and look at our production methods. I’ve also presented papers to farmers in the rest of the UK and Southern Ireland on my methods of sheep farming.”
25 years ago, Crosby was a founder member of the local sheep marketing group, which he has helped to grow over the years to include 160 fellow sheep farmers. He is also currently chairman of the Ulster Farmers Union beef and lamb committee and the Agrisearch sheep advisory committee. Crosby is an active member of the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and serves on various committees for the National Sheep Association.
Steve McLean, Head of Agriculture and Fisheries at M&S said: “The Farming for the Future awards are now in their ninth year, acknowledging the dedication and commitment our farmers and growers are making towards Plan A and sharing best practice amongst the agricultural community across Ireland and the UK.
“Crosby is a very worthy winner and has proved this by demonstrating his innovative thinking, commercial success and social responsibility in the way he manages and executes his business.
“Our judges were particularly impressed with Crosby’s extra efforts and dedication which have resulted in him making a real difference in the local sheep farming community.”
Open to M&S local and international producers, the Farming for the Future Awards celebrate the important role suppliers play in working towards M&S’ Plan A commitments, which include:
* becoming carbon neutral
* sending no waste to landfill
* extending sustainable sourcing
* setting new standards in ethical trading
* helping customers and employees live a healthier lifestyle
Crosby received a £1,000 prize for the award and has been entered into an ‘Overall Farming for the Future Champion Award’ for 2016, to be presented later this year.