A HAMPSHIRE farmer isn't counting his chickens yet after being nominated for a top national prize.

Craig Livingstone is the manager at the Lockerley Estate at East Tytherley, and has made it to the final three for the Arable Farmer of the Year award in the 2018 Farmers Weekly Awards.

The former agronomist, or 'crop doctor', Craig has raised yields on more than 800 hectares of arable crops, focusing on the health of his soils and making changes to his rotations.

Craig, 33, says it all comes down to his history, as he has been farming ever since he can remember.

He added: "I have been officially farming since I left university in 2006, so for 12 years now. I work with a great team here at Lockerley. One of my staff members Tony Austin has worked here for 60 years in the woodland, Alan Rose, 46 years as senior farm operator, Matt Bloor is our forestry manager, and Alastair Pocock and Geoff Girling are busy with the farm, forestry and shoot commitments. We are a small team covering 1,000ha of land made up of arable and forestry land, but with a large environmental stewardship scheme that covers the estate."

Craig comes from a farming family, and although his parents weren't farmers directly, he said that every school holiday was spent completing lambing jobs, milking cows, or anything that involved learning the trade.

Craig said: "After studying at The Scottish Agricultural college in Edinburgh, I took a farm operators job at the farm, I completed my harvest seasons and this job in Oxfordshire quickly became a development farm managers role.

"I then became an agronomist in the Newbury area and advised on 24,000 acres of services agronomy, which gave me a fantastic insight into numerous businesses and management of scale. I then returned to farm management and took on the farm managers role at Lockerley Estate in 2016."

The awards, now in their 14th year, are judged by an expert panel in London this October. Already shortlisted as one of the best farmers in the country, Craig could be crowned the 'winner of the winners', if he is successful in the Arable Farmer of the Year title, and goes on to win the Farmer of the Year Award.

Craig said: "The award is a huge achievement for me personally, but also the land owners and the team I work with. The vision of the land owners and mission of the farm is to be at the forefront of sustainable agriculture. This award is a culmination of many hours of hard work from all involved at the estate to try and achieve this."