A farmer will be celebrating until the cows come home after winning a top industry gong – and the hand of his girlfriend.
After being crowned Farmer of the Year at the Sussex Food and Drink Awards on Thursday night Charlie Hughes dropped down on one knee on stage.
In front of a packed room at the Amex Stadium in Brighton the 33-year-old said: “My girlfriend Sarah has dedicated her life to me.
“So it’s a timely point now that I dedicate my life to her. Sarah, will you marry me?”
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The room roared with delight when his girlfriend of two years walked on to the stage and accepted her beau’s hand in marriage.
Charlie, who is the fourth generation of his family to run the Southview Farm Dairy in Pulborough, said: “I was delighted. I guess I’ve been planning the proposal since December but was just waiting for the right moment.
“I didn’t know I was going to win farmer of the year but I had a speech ready and plans for the proposal just in case I did.
“When you watch programmes like Take Me Out there are often farmers who find it hard to find a match because it’s such an odd job with long hours and little return, so I’m really happy.”
The couple first met through family friends when they were both just four years old, but lost contact as they grew up. They were reunited when Sarah’s uncle, who worked on the farm, passed Charlie her number.
Sarah, 33, said: “We went for a drink and it went from there really.
“It was a fantastic night at the awards. I had no clue whatsoever about his plans and neither did his mum or sister. I’m still in a state of shock I think.
“There isn’t a lot of time off in the job but we will sort a date for the wedding when we can.”
Charlie was also nominated for butcher of the year, drink producer of the year and farm shop of the year for his new venture – Charlie’s Farm Shop.
The sold-out awards ceremony, hosted by former British Olympic hurdle champion Sally Gunnell, welcomed more than 350 leaders in the food, drink and farming industry.
See the Business Matters supplement in The Argus on Tuesday for a full list of winners and pictures from the evening.
For more information about Charlie’s farm and the shop visit charliesfarmshop.co.uk.