EMOTIONS ran high as the cream of the crop of Northern farmers took their rightful place in the spotlight.

The Northern Farmer Awards 2020 were once again a celebration of the best of the agricultural sector in the region.

In front of an audience of 400 people at Pavilions of Harrogate, winners were announced in a range of categories from across the North of England.

The overall winners, who took home to Northumberland the coveted title of Northern Farmer of the Year 2020, were husband-and-wife team Andrew and Caroline Hunter.

The Hunters, of The Steel, Bellingham, had already won the Sheep Farmer of the Year category.

Both were clearly emotional as they came on stage to collect their prizes. The audience heard that the couple had a tough start to their farming life together, and were now creating a legacy for their children.

Asked about their success, Mr Hunter said: "It's down to hard work and graft, but you need a tremendous partner, and I've got that."

Handing over the overall winner award was Sam Holdstock, of principal sponsor Mole Country Stores, who told the audience that the Northern Farmer Awards provided a perfect platform to share and acknowledge the best of farming across the whole of North of England.

Earlier there was strong applause for the winners of the Diversification of the Year Awards, Stephen and Tracey Pepper, of Windle House Farm, Oxenhope, in West Yorkshire, when they spoke about how they had expanded into camping, glamping, a petting farm and a cafe.

Emotions showed again as they spoke not only about the challenge they had faced to change the business to provide a future for themselves and their children, but also how satisfying it was to run ventures which provided pleasure for people who were often struggling, such as one-parent families and those who did not have a garden of their own.

"We just wanted to provide affordable family fun," said Mrs Pepper, while her husband spoke of the satisfaction gained from showing people who may be vegetarians or Vegans the reality of their life on the farm. "We are feeding the nation and we are proud of what we do," he said, to loud cheers.

There were plenty of celebrations too for all the other winners, with WI Suddes and Sons, of South Farm, Cornsay, near Consett in County |Durham, being named as Arable Farmer of the Year, and David and Penny Evans, of Tree Bridge Farm, Nunthorpe, near Middlesbrough, winning the Beef Farmer of the Year accolade.

The title of Dairy Farmer of the Year went to Tom Neill, of Thornington Farm, Mindrum, Northumberland, while AJ Spilman and Son, of Church Farm, Sessay, were declared the Family-Run Farm of the Year.

The Farm Manager of the Year winner was James Marshall, of the Castletown Estate Farm in Cumbria, and the Outstanding Achievement of the Year accolade went to the Nicholson family of Cannon Hall Farm, near Barnsley.

The Young Farmer of the Year was Louie Van Geffen, of Raisdale Livestock, Alum Grange, Carlton-in-Cleveland.

The host for the evening was Wendy Gibson, farmer's daughter and former BBC Look North presenter in the Cumbria and North-East, and the ceremony was opened by Andrew Hitchon, editor of The Northern Farmer.

He praised the innovation and drive of progressive farmers across the region, and paid tribute to all the sponsors of the awards. The category sponsors are Datamars (Sheep Farmer), the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (Family-Run Farm), NFU Mutual (Young Farmer), Harrowells Solicitors (Diversification), Lely Center Longtown (Dairy Farmer), East Durham College (Farm Manager), Pottinger (Arable Farmer), CF Fertilisers (Outstanding Achievement) and S&A Fabrications (Beef).

In addition Agriplus Ltd sponsored the champagne reception before the awards and Kettlewell Fuels sponsored the videos shown during the evening and used in the judging process.