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Judges ‘blown away’ by diversity of East Anglia’s rural businesses at awards event

PUBLISHED: 01:00 26 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:19 26 October 2018

Best Rural Manufacturing Business winner Fen Farm Dairy Limited, from left, Robert Squirrell, Dulcie Crickmore, Johnny Crickmore and Jackie Miller Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIA

Best Rural Manufacturing Business winner Fen Farm Dairy Limited, from left, Robert Squirrell, Dulcie Crickmore, Johnny Crickmore and Jackie Miller Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIA

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Six Suffolk and Essex rural businesses took top honours at a regional awards event celebrating the countryside’s diverse entrepreneurship at a ceremony in Ipswich.

Best Rural Professional Services Business winner Appetite Me from left, Rob Tata, Shelly Tate, Becka Wright, Sally Wooldridge, Mark Ellis Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIABest Rural Professional Services Business winner Appetite Me from left, Rob Tata, Shelly Tate, Becka Wright, Sally Wooldridge, Mark Ellis Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIA

In total, seven rurally-based firms from Suffolk and three from Essex scooped accolades at the east region heats of the UK-wide Amazon Rural Business Awards, which took place at a black-tie event at Trinity Park on Thursday night (October 25) and featured 13 awards.

Suffolk contenders Explore 4x4, of Pentlow, Sudbury, won Best Rural Recreational or Outdoor Pursuits Business while Fen Farm Dairy Limited, of Bungay, took Best Rural Manufacturing Business. Appetite Me, of Bury St Edmunds, scooped Best Rural Professional Services Business while The Artisan Smokehouse, of Ipswich, was crowned Best Rural Food Business.

Wangford Veterinary Clinic, of Beccles, came runner-up for Best Rural Professional Services Business while Spring, of Southwold, was runner-up for Best Rural Creative or Media Based Business. The Suffolk Escape, of Hintlesham, was also runner-up for Best Rural Tourism Business.

Essex firms Abberton Rural Training, of Wormingford, near Colchester, took the Best Rural Education or Training Business title, while Barleylands Farm and Village, of Billericay, came runner-up for Outstanding Rural Diversification Project, with Barleylands Employee Karen Watson crowned Rural Employee of the Year. Coda Falconry, of Waltham Abbey, was also runner-up for Best Rural Recreational or Outdoor Pursuits Business.

Best Rural Education Or Training Business winner Abberton Rural Training, from left, Paul Roberts, Wendy Bixby, Jacqui Stone, Paul Hockey, Colin Peall Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIABest Rural Education Or Training Business winner Abberton Rural Training, from left, Paul Roberts, Wendy Bixby, Jacqui Stone, Paul Hockey, Colin Peall Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIA

Following their wins, Explore 4x4, Fen Farm Dairy Limited, Appetite Me, Abberton Rural Training and The Artisan Smokehouse now go on to represent the region at the national final in February 2019.

Judges praised Explore 4x4’s “well thought out and developed business” that works in partnership with a range of local business. “The firm has a great mix of training and recreation and is clearly dedicated to providing and excellent and thorough service,” they said.

Fen Farm, which makes the only raw milk brie style cheese and the only raw cultured butter in the UK “have a clear future strategy to develop their third generation farming business”, the panel said. “We were particularly impressed by Fen Farm’s clear set of environmental credentials and its action plan to minimise its environmental impact.”

Appetite Me, which works with more than 600 small producers and crowned Best Rural Professional Services Business, was “a stand out winner” thanks to the firm’s extensive engagement with the wider rural economy and the support it provides to other rural businesses. “The business also has a clear strategy illustrating how they have identified a growing market place and how the firm can maximise their growth in a challenging sector,” judges said.

Rural Employee Of The Year Winner Karen Watson of Barleylands Farm and Village Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIARural Employee Of The Year Winner Karen Watson of Barleylands Farm and Village Picture: DARE & HIER MEDIA

Rural Food Business winner Artisan Smokehouse was “a wonderful business and a worthy winner”, judges said, with “exceptional” products and brand. “Following the business’ diversification into its deli and café bistro development, and its online expansion, the business has grown, and is on track to continue its current success,” they added.

Abberton Rural Training was described as “an ethical, environmentally friendly business that supports the development of the skills needed within the rural community”. “We were impressed by how the firm identified its target market and supported its students over and above the usual expectations for an educational organisation,” the panel said.

Barleylands – Employee of the Year, Karen Watson of Barleylands was described as “a key member of the team” and hard-working.

The awards is the brainchild of Leicestershire businesswomen Anna Price and Jemma Clifford, who wanted to showcase the wealth of entrepreneurial talent in rural areas of Britain.

Best Rural Recreational Or Outdoor Pursuits Business winner Explore 4x4 Malcolm Swan and Deborah Turpin Picture: DARE & HIERBest Rural Recreational Or Outdoor Pursuits Business winner Explore 4x4 Malcolm Swan and Deborah Turpin Picture: DARE & HIER

Jemma Clifford offered ‘hearty congratulations’ to all the winners. “Anna and I are so proud to be hosting the fourth annual Rural Business Awards together with Amazon. When we started the awards we wanted to shine a much-needed light on successful rural firms but the success of the RBAs is beyond what we ever imagined. We were blown away with the diversity of our entries this year so winning a prize is an extraordinary achievement.”

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