Twelve deserving winners – including five from Devon and Cornwall – were selected from a flood of inspiring nominations in the search for the ‘Country Heroes’ of 2021.
After a successful start in 2020, the initiative put together by Westcountry farm retailer Mole Valley Farmers once again recognizes and celebrates those who have gone above and beyond in helping others in their local communities.
Chipping Norton’s young farmer, Kaleb Cooper, joined this year’s search for unsung rural heroes, who rose to fame as Jeremy Clarkson’s assistant in the hit Amazon Prime Video series, Clarkson’s Farm.
âI am so proud to have been a part of the nation’s 2021 National Heroes Search. The stories of the winners are truly inspiring and I think the whole rural community will join me in saying a big thank you for everything. they have done and continue to do to support others, âhe said.
The 12 winners recently picked up their giant Country Christmas baskets, worth Â£ 500 each, from their local Mole Valley Farmers and Mole Country stores across the UK.
The five winners from Devon and Cornwall are: Holly Whitelaw (Penzance); Rebecca Sharples (South Molton); John Yeoman (Newton Abbot); The Wivey Food Project (Cullompton) and Diane South (St Columb).
Meet Your Country Heroes of 2021
Country hero name: Holly Whitelaw
Nominated by: Sally Hole and Teresa
Local store: Farmers in Mole Valley, Penzance
When Holly heard about the UK food poverty crisis, she felt the need to do something that would make a real difference to those most affected. Reaching out and working with local farmers across Cornwall, she understood the level of food waste they had on their farms, she then recruited volunteers to visit the farms and glean any healthy foods that risked ‘be wasted.
From there the Gleaning Cornwall Network was created – a program put together by Holly that unites communities by gleaning agricultural surpluses and ensuring those facing food poverty do not go hungry. In the past three months alone, more than 35 tonnes of vegetables have been gleaned and redistributed to the most vulnerable in the region.
The network grows stronger and nurtures community spirit as farmers, volunteers and food banks unite in a shared vision of reducing food poverty in Cornwall and beyond.
Sally Hole, who named Holly, said: âHolly was the driving force, she maintained the vision and just unplugged herself. She is an inspiration!
If you would like to learn more about the Gleaning Cornwall Network and how it is helping alleviate food poverty in the Cornish community, please visit their website: www.gleaningcornwall.org.uk.
Country hero name: Rebecca sharples
Nominated by: Amanda Daw, Bridgit Perriman and Catherine Williams
Local store: Farmers in Mole Valley, South Molton
Rebecca set up the local division of the Bluetits Chill Swimmers group for Westward Ho! and has helped hundreds of people discover the mental and physical benefits of open water swimming – the group has proven to be extremely popular and has grown to almost 900 members in less than 12 months!
To ensure members continue to enjoy the wellness benefits in all seasons, Rebecca also hosted sessions at a local activity center to allow swimming to continue through the dark winter months in a safe environment.
While doing a demanding job and raising her family, Rebecca always takes time for the group and actively encourages everyone she is in the water with, another member and nominator saying, âHer encouragement to all levels of swimmers and divers are superior to none, she is not only a great leader, but offers support and commitment to the group. In these difficult months, she is a true inspiration to all members of the group and fully deserves to be recognized. “
Upon hearing that she had won a Country Heroes award, Rebecca said, “Oh my God I can’t believe it. It’s so lovely. I had a really bad week and it made it so much better. ! “
Bluetits Chill Swimmers is a national group of cold water swimmers whose mission is to create a confident and competent community. To join their herd, go to the site: www.thebluetits.co.
Country hero name: John yeoman
Nominated by: Andrew Goodridge
Local store: Farmers in Mole Valley, Newton Abbot
John is a true country man who regularly prioritizes the needs of others and is extremely passionate when it comes to raising awareness to support farming communities.
Since 1980 John has raised funds to show his support for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution. His fundraising efforts include an annual Burns Night which to date has raised over Â£ 25,000 for the charity and he has toured the UK in not one but two tractor marathons – this which is not an easy task!
He has dedicated countless hours of his time supporting the Malborough community as President and has served as President of Kingsbridge NFU and Delegate to the NFU Board. Along with these roles, he also found time to support the ongoing activities of Young Farmers and played a key role in promoting business and innovation in his region by chairing his local LEP.
It is people like John who play a central role in the well-being of our local communities. When John found out he had won he said, âWell that’s fantastic. Thank you very much. I don’t know what to say other than thank you very much. I am at a loss for words. Thank you!”
RABI provides essential support to those currently working in agriculture and to those no longer working due to illness, injury, disability or age. To speak with confidence to a member of the RABI team, please call their dedicated helpline on 0800 188 4444 or for more information visit the website: www.rabi.org.uk.
Country hero name: The Wivey food project
Nominated by: Flora Bartlett
Local store: Farmers in Mole Valley, Cullompton
The Wivey Food Project, based in Wiveliscombe in Somerset, came together during the second lockdown and was a way to scavenge surplus food from local stores and turn it into nutritious meals for their rural community during the pandemic. In the past 12 months, they have provided more than 20,000 meals to the poor.
Set up by Kate and Rosie, The Wivey Food Project has provided weekly meals to so many people, including those who are isolated, the elderly, families who work with young children, and those who have contracted Covid or Covid for a long time. and need a helping hand. They say anyone, and anyone can request their meals!
Flora Bartlett, who nominated, said: “For over a year now amazing volunteers have come every week, fostering a great sense of community which has also supported everyone’s mental health.”
For more information on the Wivey Cares Charity, please visit the website: www.wiveycares.net.
Country hero name: Diane South
Nominated by: Martin South
Local store: Mole Valley Farmers, St Columb
Diane is the co-founder of Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue based in Cubert, Cornwall, a charity dedicated to the rescue, emergency care, rehabilitation and liberation of native British wildlife in Cornwall and the west from Devon.
The charity started 13 years ago at Diane with only 2 hedgehogs to rehabilitate, compare that to 2021 with over 1,050 annual admissions and up to 100 hedgehogs to care for at any one time. Diane is absolutely devoted to the well-being of the hedgehogs in her care, getting up at 6 a.m. each day and finishing around 10 p.m. if the day went well!
Diane passed her vast knowledge on to her daughter and now both have become experts in hedgehog rehabilitation providing training to vets and vet nurses. They have a tireless passion for hedgehogs and raise awareness of how we can support their numbers, their educational talks are inspiring and have reached groups across the UK and beyond!
For more information on Prickles and Paws and the amazing job they do to protect our hedgehogs, please visit the website www.pricklesandpaws.org and see how you can turn your garden into a hedgehog friendly garden.
You can read more about the 12 winners and their inspiring stories here https://www.moleonline.com/countryheroes or visit the Mole Valley Farmers Facebook page.