A farmer hailed as a ‘genuine agricultural champion’ by her MP has been named NFU East Anglia’s Community Farming Hero.

Hertfordshire farmer Cathy Leahy was nominated by St Albans MP Daisy Cooper for her longstanding work in the community, including with the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and as an organiser of the St Albans Parkrun.

The NFU-organised awards highlight the contribution farmers make to their community, from helping during extreme weather events to fundraising for charities.

In her nomination, Daisy said: “I have known Cathy for years and I have seen first-hand how she has supported others in the wider St Albans community. Her work as a key organiser of the St Albans Parkrun has been fantastic.

“She is one of the most regular weekly volunteers and is often the run director. Parkrun has helped improve not only the physical, but also the mental health of so many people in my constituency, and this has been doubly important since the Covid lockdowns

“We all know that farming is often a 24-hour-a-day job, which makes it even more admirable that Cathy has stepped up to help the wider community of the city and district of St Albans. She is a genuine agricultural champion.”

Cathy said: “Being nominated by Daisy came completely out of the blue. It’s been a tough couple of years during the pandemic, and difficult to drive the business forward over that time, so to have this is a real boost.”

Cathy lives in St Albans but farms Runways Farm near Hemel Hempstead, a former airfield bought by her parents Dan and Sue Simms in 1983. 

She has been involved with the RDA for many years, firstly at Oaklands College and latterly with the Penniwells Group, based at Elstree. It started when her horse, Brandy, was stabled at Oaklands and the local RDA group asked if they could borrow him.

“As well as being used for lessons, Brandy has taken part in competitions with some of the riders. That started my involvement and I’ve always done as much as I can to support the RDA group since then,” said Cathy.