Colin Latham, of Higher Stowford Farm, took the top prize at the Devon Farm Business Awards, with another North Devon farmer also winning Best Woman in Farming.

A North Devon farmer has been crowned Devon Farmer of the Year after building a thriving dairy farm from nothing.

Colin Latham, of Higher Stowford Farm near Ilfracombe, picked up the accolade at the Devon Farm Business Awards this month.

He was named Best Commercial Farmer (sponsored by PKF Francis Clark) and went on to win the night’s biggest prize, Devon Farmer of the Year (sponsored by Mole Valley Farmers).

Fellow North Devon farmer, Rachel Leonard, of Northcott Barnot Farm, Chulmleigh, was also named best woman in farming (sponsored by Natwest).

Best Woman in Farming - Rachel Leonard of Northcott Barton Farm, ChumleighBest Woman in Farming - Rachel Leonard of Northcott Barton Farm, Chumleigh

Colin, along with his wife Glenys, have built up a 4.5million litre dairy unit from almost nothing and impressed the judges with their tenacity and ability to create opportunities out of adversity.

Colin worked on his father’s farm, but when it was sold, he was left unemployed and with no resources, aged in his early 20s.

Colin and Glenys managed to secure and make a success of Devon County Council farm tenancies in the 70s and 80s, and today, along with their sons Geoff and Ian, own around 3,000 acres and rent a further 600 acres – including one of their original tenant farms.

At their first farm tenancy they built up a dairy herd of 45 - they now milk 540 cows.

Devon Farm Business Awards 2017 � winners and sponsorsDevon Farm Business Awards 2017 � winners and sponsors

Colin’s road to success has not been easy - he lost 3,000 animals to foot and mouth disease in 2001, but used the capital to help purchase more land.

When he received a notice to quit his tenant farm he used it to help secure planning permission to build a family home and cattle shed at Higher Stowford.

One of his sons suffered a serious quad bike accident on a steep part of the farm, so Colin decided to plant the area with trees.

The woodland was eventually sold, releasing more capital to buy more productive land. Colin said: “I love the job and I love the challenge. If I was 24 again, I wouldn’t change a day.”

Devon Farm Business Awards organisers (left to right): Ian Bell OBE, Chief Executive of the Addington Fund; Mary Quicke MBE, Chairman of Council of Devon County Agricultural Association; and Phil Reed, partner and head of rural services at Stephens ScownDevon Farm Business Awards organisers (left to right): Ian Bell OBE, Chief Executive of the Addington Fund; Mary Quicke MBE, Chairman of Council of Devon County Agricultural Association; and Phil Reed, partner and head of rural services at Stephens Scown

Best woman in farming winner, Rachel, is a first generation tenant farmer, and does all of the work on this 190 acre beef holding on her own, as well as raising her daughter as a single parent.

She has built her herd up gradually over the last 13 years; not only does she have an infectious enthusiasm for all that she does she passes this on to others, regularly helping to educate the guests staying in the farm’s holiday cottage.

Other winners on the night were:

Best Young Farmer award winner, Richard Tucker of Ditchett Farm near Tiverton.Best Young Farmer award winner, Richard Tucker of Ditchett Farm near Tiverton.

Lord Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon: Lifetime Achievement Award (sponsored by Cornish Mutual)

Tim Rich of Broadley Farm, Honiton: Best Dairy Farmer Award (sponsored by Crediton Dairy)

Len and Angela Bartlett of Hayne Farm and Bartlett’s Farm Shop, near Honiton: re CAAV John Neason Diversification Award (co-sponsored by CAAV and Devon County Council).

Devon�s Farming Champion, Sylvia CrockerDevon�s Farming Champion, Sylvia Crocker

Sylvia Crocker: Farming Champion Award (sponsored by NFU and NFU Mutual) is

Richard Tucker, of Ditchett Farm near Tiverton: Devon’s Best Young Farmer award (sponsored by Savills

Best Dairy Farmer award winner, Tim Rich of Broadley Farm near Honiton.Best Dairy Farmer award winner, Tim Rich of Broadley Farm near Honiton.

Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon.Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon.