MBE for Thorney farmer for services to agriculture

Thorney’s Michael Sly has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to agriculture.

By Ben Jones
Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 1:11 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd June 2022, 1:12 am
Michael Sly MBE at his farm at Thorney.
Michael Sly MBE at his farm at Thorney.

Michael (53) has been farming for over 30 years, and with the help of his team, runs Park Farm in Thorney.

The award came as a shock, which made him initially think it was a joke from his office. Even now, Michael describes it as difficult to believe but “in a very good way.”

In his role as Chairman of the England Mustard Growers, he has worked to safeguard British mustard growing and driven major growth in the UK sugar beet sector.

In 2019, he worked with Unilever to ensure mustard and mint production for Colman’s in the UK. He played a central role in the formation of Condimentum mustard production providing Unilever with a new facility for milling, processing, and packaging mustard and mint, at its historic Norwich home. One of only three dry mustard mills in the world.

Through his persistence, grant funding was obtained and Unilever has provided financial support and a ten-year contract with the growers, ensuring the long-term viability of the business.

Michael has also worked closely with the RSPB in a number of stewardship schemes, such as the Thorney Bird Friendly Zone and with other farmers, convincing them to devote more land to wildlife, to significantly improve biodiversity in the area.

He said: “The Fens, along with farmers in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire are still the heart of English mustard production. There’s 18 of us and we’ve managed to stabilise the crop, increase the area and the volume and in 2020, along with the mint growers in Norfolk, we were part of building a new mustard mill just west of Norwich.

"I couldn’t have done the roles and the other work that I’ve done without the wonderful team that work for me at Park Farm though. They are so dedicated to their work that it’s allowed me to go off and help with these other projects.”

Park Farm is well known for hosting the annual Open Farm Sunday and vintage weekend, which has welcomed over 75,000 visitors since 2006. The event, which allows visitors to get involved and learn the importance of farming, makes its return this year on June 11 and 12.

As Chair of the Thorney Society, Michael will be hosting a large Platinum Jubilee barn dance for the whole village this weekend, which will give him the perfect chance to also celebrate the honour.

He added: "The announcement of this came quite fortuitously. Life sometimes is about opportunity and coincidence and in this case you just couldn’t make up how the planets have aligned. So many people from the village will be there for a celebration that I will also enjoy.”