New Monitor Farm in Ouse Valley

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“As a farmer it’s very easy to stand back but you need to be challenged,” says Ouse Valley farmer Rick Davies.

Rick is one of the latest to join the AHDB Monitor Farm programme, where farmers meet at a host business to share ideas and expertise and learn from experts.

He said: “There is a lot to be learned from other farmers. It will be good to get a group together to talk openly.

“I want to dig deeper into our business, to focus more on my costs.”

During the three years of the Monitor Farm programme Rick hopes to increase his business resilience, reduce fixed and variable costs while maintaining crop quality, and improve soil health for a healthier crop.

Rick grows milling wheat, spring malting barley and HOLL oilseed rape, all premium crops which require careful treatment to make the most of the premiums available.

He said: “If I’m looking at reducing fixed or variable costs, I need to make sure that we either don’t lose the premium, or that any premium lost is offset by the reduced input costs. However, I would usually prefer to grow crops for the premium.”

The Monitor Farm project will bring huge benefits to his business, Rick said, as well as the local agricultural community which, being at the border between three counties, is often under represented.

“It’s great to have a local Monitor Farm project and the benchmarking will be particularly useful. Benchmarking will make us think about exactly why we do what we do.” Rick said.

Benchmarking with AHDB’s Farmbench software is an important part of the Monitor Farm project, where a small group of farmers compare, confidentially, their business costs to learn where efficiencies and savings can be made.

The launch event will be held on 4 July at Newton Lodge Farm. For more information, contact Harry Henderson, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager, on harry.henderson@ahdb.org.uk

Rick Davies farms 404ha at MTH Davies, between Northampton, Bedford and Milton Keynes. He grows milling wheat, malting spring barley and HOLL oilseed rape, all for premium markets. The soil is a mixture of sandy loam, corn brash, silt and heavy clay loam. Crops are currently established with a Claydon-based direct drill and Rick would like to look at other systems of establishment. As a family-based business, MTH Davies has a number of diversification activities to spread risk, including boxed beef, office and industrial units and residential lets.

AHDB Monitor Farms bring together groups of farmers who want to improve their businesses by sharing performance information and best practice around a nationwide network of more than 30 host farms. Monitor Farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which works with the industry to improve performance through knowledge exchange and benchmarking with AHDB’s Farmbench.

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