The Monitor Farm programme, run by cereals levy organisation HGCA, is expanding this autumn in order to reach more farmers around the UK. It is underpinned by arable business discussion groups, to allow neighbouring farmers to share challenges, ideas and learning.
Suffolk farmer Brian Barker is to join the national Monitor Farm scheme which aims to help local farmers understand and develop their businesses looking in detail at crop husbandry, business planning and performance.
Brian said: “I’ve always been someone who questions things. I look at things from the outside in, and one of my mottos for work on the farm is – the way we’ve always done things isn’t always best. The beauty of the Monitor Farm programme is that everyone is doing things differently, and we can all learn from each other.
“At our launch event in November I want to get an understanding of what other farmers are doing and what they’re interested in learning. We’ll be using a technique called Turning Point Response – everyone gets a wireless clicker and can vote in real time on the issues being discussed.
“Simply put, my aim for this programme is to drive forward the businesses of all those who want to get involved. By working together as a unit of similar minded farmers, the group can achieve a lot more than one person alone could. I see farm co-operation as something farmers will have to do in the future, even though it can be a bit of a leap of faith.”
Brian and his cousin Patrick run E.J. Barker & Sons, a family farm partnership and contracting business dating back to 1957. The 667ha arable farm business is farmed on 12- and nine-year rotations, incorporating winter wheat, spring barley, herbage grass seed, oilseed rape and a break crop of beans, linseed or peas. Environmental consideration is crucial to the running of the business, and all decisions are made after considering their impact on the environment and local landscape.
“We’ve been farming a long, 12-year rotation, since the 1970s and we’ve seen this has an amazing impact on our yields. After two years of herbage grass, our soil organic matter is fantastic, and the first winter wheat after grass usually yields around 12t/ha.”
Specialising in feed wheat for local markets and export, grain marketing is done by Brian’s uncle David. The farm has seen their costs of production rise and fall, particularly following recent heavy investment in new machinery to accommodate new acreage and contracting opportunities. With falling crop prices Brian accepts that both costs of production and agronomy need to be looked at in detail to keep the farm profitable.
To attend the launch event on 14 November 2014 at Lodge Farm, Westhorpe, please contact Tim Isaac, HGCA Regional Manager East, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07964 975078.
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