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As we get closer to the Rural Business Awards final on Thursday 27 February, we take a look at our penultimate finalist, the North regional winner, Spilmans. The family run farm has its eye on the prize to become national winner of the Outstanding Rural Diversification Project, proudly sponsored by Fisher German, when the awards are announced at the Monastery in Manchester.

Spilmans, based in Sessay near Thirsk, has strived to be at the forefront of diversification with a modern approach since it was first established in 1941. The arable and livestock farm first diversified 47 years ago by allowing customers to pick their own strawberries, and has since gone on to open a farm shop, a café and an agricultural-themed play barn where families can have fun while learning about farming. It also holds seasonal events throughout the year, including its popular October pumpkin festival as well as pop up events in conjunction with local businesses and crafters.

Spilmans is run by farming partners Richard, Sally, Tom and Joss Spilman, along with their daughter-in-law Olivia Spilman. Olivia Spilman said: “At Spilmans we have a long history of adapting and enhancing the business to ensure it remains relevant to our customers and with an aim to improve profitability, so diversification is very much in our roots. Richard planted our very first strawberries 47 years ago to diversify into the ‘pick your own’ business. This came at a time when pick your own was very new and put the farm on the map as being quite forward thinking and revolutionary. As this evolved, we welcomed more and more customers and there was a demand for us to expand further.

Over the years we have opened a farm shop and a café, both selling seasonal local produce as well as a play barn facility which educates young people about farming and agriculture. We have also identified that people want to have an experience, so we have developed our seasonal calendar of events around this concept, with one of the most popular events being our pumpkin festival.  Spilmans has grown into a real community asset which offers people a family day out with a difference. We are hugely proud to win a regional Rural Business Award and for the whole family to receive recognition for diversification. We are now crossing our fingers for success in the final.”

Spilmans will go up against the other regional finalists including Corkers Crisps, Hall Farm Park, Wadswick Country Store, and Clynfyw Care Home. Associate Stephen Buckingham, from our Stafford office, presented Spilmans with its regional award. He said: “Spilmans is a fantastic example of diversification and how it can help grow a farm’s income. The business has a long history of diversification and it is excellent to hear how it has developed over the years into a place for the whole community to enjoy. We wish Richard, Sally, Tom, Joss and Olivia all the best in the national awards.”

The Rural Business Awards are taking place at the Monastery in Manchester on Thursday 27 February. You can read more about the regional finalists on our news page here