Kirkbean farmers impress award judges

Semple Kelly, Lewis Kelly, Emily Davidson, runners-up in The Princes Countryside Fund Award .
Semple Kelly, Lewis Kelly, Emily Davidson, runners-up in The Princes Countryside Fund Award .

Semple Kelly and Emily Davidson who run Airdrie Farm in Kirkbean, Dumfries, have been recognised at this year’s prestigious M&S ‘Farming for the Future’ awards.

The couple were awarded runners-up of The Prince’s Countryside Fund Award which celebrates producers in the food supply chain who are going the extra mile to help support local rural communities. The awards took place at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh last Thursday.

Judges were impressed by Semple and Emily’s commitment to improving the local environment and helping to educate the next generation about food and farming. The farm regularly welcomes school groups to visit and witness first-hand hen welfare and to provide them with the opportunity to handle the hens and eggs.

The couple manage around 30,000 hens to produce free range eggs supplied to M&S through Noble Foods. In order to improve wildlife habitats, Semple works closely with Scottish Woodland to maintain pockets of woodland around the farm. Through regular ecology surveys and using hen manure to fertilise productive farmland, he has significantly reduced the amount of bought-in artificial fertiliser that is used on the farm.

The couple have also embraced renewal energy technology, with solar panels on the roofs of poultry sheds, a biomass boiler and two hydro-electric schemes all installed and operating on the farm to help provide the electricity needed to power all on-site facilities.

Semple said: “We’re extremely honoured to have our efforts recognised by the judges. Our commitment to the environment and supporting the local ecosystem is something we’re really proud of.

“As local suppliers we feel we have a responsibility to give back and do what we can to support sustainable working practices and preserve wildlife in the surrounding area.”

M&S Farming for the Future is a programme of initiatives which champions sustainability and innovation. The programme is designed to help farmers identify opportunities for improvement, increase their profitability and provide a sustainable supply chain that can continue to deliver quality and innovation for the long term.

The awards celebrate suppliers working towards important M&S Plan A commitments including becoming carbon neutral, sending no waste to landfill, extending sustainable sourcing, setting new standards in ethical trading, and helping customers and employees live a healthier lifestyle.

Steve McLean, head of agriculture and fisheries at M&S said: “The Farming for the Future Awards are now in their 10th 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.

“Emily and Semple are very worthy winners who has demonstrated innovative thinking, commercial success and social responsibility in the way that they manage and execute their business.”