Six new AHDB Monitor Farms have been appointed to help farmers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland prepare for the many changes that lie ahead.
Collaboration, productivity, soil health and business resilience are likely to feature strongly during the three years of the programme as they are all hot topics identified by the new hosts.
AHDB’s Richard Meredith, who co-ordinates the Monitor Farm programme for arable farmers, said: “What makes this batch of Monitor Farmers unique is that their term will cover Brexit. Over the next three years it is likely that the farming industry will experience large changes in policy and trade. Monitor Farms are a vital part of the UK farming’s toolbox, helping the industry not just to survive, but thrive.
“We know from our annual Monitor Farm survey that those who attend the meetings find the programme helps them to improve their business decision-making. By being involved at this crucial time farmers can gain independent expert advice as well as sharing knowledge and experiences with their local peers.”
The six new farms, including one in Wales and one in Northern Ireland, bring the total number of Monitor Farms up to 29, including nine projects run jointly with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).
The new Monitor Farm hosts were selected by AHDB staff and board members and will be supported by a steering group of other local farmers and agronomists.
The farmers were chosen for their ability to hit the industry’s challenges head-on and to challenge their own thinking.
Richard said: “Being open-minded means they are receptive to trying out new technology and ideas on their farms.”
A steering group sets the agenda for each of the Monitor Farm meetings, making sure that the topics are the most relevant for the local farming community.
He added: “It has been a fantastic four years where we have seen the Monitor Farm programme go from strength to strength. The Monitor Farm ethos of ‘farmer-led, farmer-driven’ is still key to its success. Farmers who get involved in their local Monitor Farm programme have the opportunity to help drive and direct their industry into a successful future.”
The new Monitor Farms:
Downpatrick: Richard Orr, Meadow Farm, Co. Down
Duxford: David Hurst and Tom Mead, Law Farming and Bleak House Farm, Hertfordshire/Cambridgeshire (joint hosts)
Northampton: Rick Davies, MTH Davies, North Buckinghamshire
Pembrokeshire: Tom Rees, Dudwell Farm, Pembrokeshire
Petworth: Mark Chandler, G. Chandler Farming Ltd, West Sussex
Taunton: Richard Payne, Manor Farm, Somerset
Fact box: the six new Monitor Farms
Total arable hectares: 4,000+
Smallest business: 165ha
Largest business: 1,821ha
Crops represented: wheat, barley, oats, rye, forage rape, spring mustard, sugar beet, oilseed rape, potatoes, turnips, grass, spring beans, potatoes
Establishment methods include: plough, reduced tillage, min-till, direct drill
Non-arable activities: sheep, pigs, shoots, event-hosting, campsites, office units, industrial units, boxed beef, residential lets, turf business, grass for AD, contracting, groundworks and fabrication business, cattle, carp farm, liveries, grazing, solar PV.
Downpatrick: 19 June 2018
Duxford: 19 June 2018
Petworth: 21 June 2018
Pembrokeshire: 27 June 2018
Taunton: 3 July 2018
Northampton: 4 July 2018
To find out more or to attend one of the meetings, visit cereals.ahdb.org.uk/monitorfarms
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 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.
(Clockwise from top left): Tom Mead and David Hurst, Duxford; Richard Orr, Downpatrick; Richard Payne, Taunton; Mark Chandler, Petworth; Tom Rees, Pembrokshire; Rick Davies, Northampton.