Joan Bomford has been named the Countryfile Farming Hero 2015. Countryfile presenter Adam Henson announced the award at a star-studded ceremony in Bristol last night (April 30).
Joan, who lives near Evesham in Worcestershire, has been farming since the 1930s. Now aged 82, she is still active on the farm, driving tractors, feeding the farm’s beef cattle and horses, and giving riding lessons.
Adam told her: “I have to say, you’re an inspiration to farmers across the country. When I whinge about a few things going on in my life, and I look at the way you’ve just ploughed on and got on with it, you’re a real force to be reckoned with, and we are all very proud of you. Well done. What a lady!”
Joan has faced some tough challenges recently. “I lost my brother first – he got killed with a bull. And then my husband last year. So it has been rough, but I decided we’ve got to go on. So we keep going, with the help of the two boys.”
Her son Colin, who nominated her, said: “I’m thrilled to bits. Particularly as today, 30 April, my father would have been 82. He’s looking down, and I think he’s had a bit to say in this as well.”
Naming a winner from a shortlist of three outstanding contenders was a challenge, according to one of Adam’s co-judges, Mike Gooding. What clinched it was “the extraordinary number of people Joan has helped in her locality, and the fact that she has reinvented herself so many times through the ages. Farming has changed so much, but she’s stayed absolutely true to her core values.”
“Anybody that wants help, I try to help them,” says Joan. “Like the children who come riding – they could never afford a pony or a horse, and it’s obviously given them a lot of fun, judging by all the letters I’ve had saying how much they’ve enjoyed it.”
At an age when many others are enjoying retirement, how does Joan make herself get up in the morning? “There’s always something wants feeding, so you’ve got to get out. If I’m a bit late, I feed them first and then me afterwards.
“I wouldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t sit down and watch telly all the time.”
All the hard work has its payoff. Joan’s favourite thing about farming is “seeing a cow have a calf or a mare have a foal,” she smiles.
Mike added: “We sifted through something like 800 nominations. There were some really extraordinary stories. The thing that was most humbling, through all of them, was the strong sense of community and of people looking out for each other. I think one of the nice things is that while Joan is exceptional, there are lots of people like her, and like the other nominees, Cameron and Robert – not just in the farming industry but in the wider rural community. And that’s very encouraging.”
• The Countryfile Farming Hero award was part of the BBC Food and Farming Awards. Among those also honoured was Northumberland’s Doddington Dairy, which specialises in hand-crafted cheeses, ice creams and yoghurts, and has been run by the Maxwell family for more than 50 years.
Some of Britain’s best-known chefs helped judge the awards and appeared at the ceremony, including Tom Kerridge, Angela Hartnett and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
The awards were the opening event in Bristol Food Connections.com, a food festival that takes place across the city from 1 May to 9 May 2015.