Bergh Apton business to go Parliament as finalist in national competition

Michelle Evans and James Debbage celebrate their success in the Countryside Alliance Awards

Michelle Evans and James Debbage celebrate their success in the Countryside Alliance Awards - Credit: Pastures Green

A local business is to go to parliament for the British finals of a prestigious competition.

Green Pastures in Bergh Apton has been chosen as a regional champion for the East of England in the 2016 Countryside Alliance Awards.

More than 7,500 public nominations have been whittled down to a small group, which will go to a parliamentary reception at the House of Lords on March 22.

The business is owned by Michelle Evans and her partner James Debbage.

Mr Debbage said: “I remember looking at the list of nominees and thinking this is a seriously impressive list so to be one of the lucky few chosen was such a surprise.

“We just returned from holiday when we find out and now we are preparing for our trip to the House of Lords which is crazy.”

Miss Evans grew up with the business since her parents began Green Pastures in 1986.

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Despite being so involved with the business she decided to look for pastures new upon leaving school, before returning in 2002.

Mr Debbage joined Green Pastures in 2009 when he and Miss Evans bought the business from her parents Al and Rita.

But even before then he has been involved with plants, having grown up on his parent’s farm.

Jill Grieve, who judged Green Pastures, said: “Bringing two farming families together, as James and Michelle did, means a wealth of knowledge and a large amount of entrepreneurial spirit.

“Green Pastures is an excellent farm enterprise as it brings together local produce in the farm shop and café, plants and accessories in the garden centre and, unusually, a Post Office counter, saved when the local office closed down.

“This is so much more than the sum of its parts though, and speaking to the staff at the business shows how much it means to them and how proud they are of the recent expansion.”

Green Pastures is one of five entrants from the East of England which progress to the finals.

The Awards are the Countryside Alliance’s annual celebration of rural produce, skills, enterprise and heritage through small hard-working businesses.