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Award-winning shepherdess aims to expand her livestock enterprise

Sheep farmer Kaylee Campbell has won the top prize in this year's Chris Lewis Award. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sheep farmer Kaylee Campbell has won the top prize in this year's Chris Lewis Award. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

An ambitious young shepherdess who was drawn to the farming industry through her love of animals has won a £5,000 prize awarded in memory of an inspirational Norfolk stockman.

Sheep farmer Kaylee Campbell has won the top prize in this year's Chris Lewis Award. Picture: Matthew Usher.Sheep farmer Kaylee Campbell has won the top prize in this year's Chris Lewis Award. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The biennial Chris Lewis Award was established following the death of its namesake in September 2007 – a much-loved farmer and pedigree sheep breeder who was known for making time to help others, especially young people.

Many of his attributes are shared by 23-year-old Kaylee Campbell, from Watton, who impressed the competition judges with her plans to develop her own flock as well as expanding her contracting and shearing business.

The former Wayland High School pupil will put her prize money towards handling equipment, including new sheep hurdles, a shedding gate, an electric fencing system – and also to buy some pedigree New Zealand Romney ewes.

She currently keeps 16 sheep at Yaxham near Dereham, but manages about 1,000 animals for local farmers who she works with in central Norfolk and Breckland. Her eventual goal is to build her own flock of 200-300 animals.

Chris Lewis Awards 2015 finalists. From left: Jack Germany, Michelle Lakey, Jane Lewis (Chris Lewis' widow), Kaylee Campbell, George Router and William de Feyter.Chris Lewis Awards 2015 finalists. From left: Jack Germany, Michelle Lakey, Jane Lewis (Chris Lewis' widow), Kaylee Campbell, George Router and William de Feyter.

But another key purchase will be a shearing pen to make her business more efficient, and to offer training opportunities to others who may want to investigate the possibility of a life in farming.

“I am not from a farming background, so I thought I would have no chance of winning the award,” she said. “It was a real shock to the system.

“It means everything to me – to be able to get more hurdles a new pen and to not be struggling with everything will make things so much easier.

“My shearing pen will open a new door, and I hope to train someone up to shear with me, if they would like to learn.

“I think people really need to give it a go. I don’t think the general public understand the lifestyle. If you look back in history, everybody used to be involved – farming was the way of life.

“I love the farming lifestyle and I wouldn’t change it for the world. People say: ‘Why don’t you sit in an office?’ But I just couldn’t do that.”

Miss Campbell has now been a self-employed shepherdess, stockman and shearer for three years.

“I always wanted to work with animals my whole life, but I didn’t know which area to go,” she said. “I went and studied animal management at Easton and Otley College, as there were a lot of different areas to go for.

“I made a lot of friends in farming and I got a work experience job doing lambing with Malcolm Fayers in North Tuddenham – then he took me on full-time, and that’s how I got started.”

A farming inspiration

The Chris Lewis Award is open to Norfolk livestock farmers aged 30 years or under is awarded by the Norfolk Farmers Trust, which has given out £100,000 in grants since it was founded in 1999.

Trustee Edward Stanton, who hosted the awards evening at Snettisham Park in west Norfolk, said: “Chris was a renowned Texel breeder whose greatest achievement was winning the Queen’s Award at the Royal Norfolk Show twice, which no-one had ever done before. He would always help young people and that is why this award is so appropriate.”

The prize was presented by Mr Lewis’ widow Jane Lewis, who said: “Each time, it seems more and more difficult to choose a winner for this award. If this year’s entries are truly representative of our young people, their entrepreneurialism, enthusiasm and sheer hard graft gives us confidence for the future of our farming industry.”

The other finalists were George Router, 25, from Hingham; Jack Germany, 20, from Great Hautbois; William DeFeyter, 22, from East Ruston; and Michelle Lakey, 24, from Briston.

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