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Est 1982

February 2021



It’s all change

PROPERTY PLEASANT RISE FARM Farm comes to the open market for the first time in 58 years.


Environmental philosophy behind contracting business


Nigel Akehurst visits small-scale organic growers who have quickly grown their small veg box business.

Farming is changing like never before. The opportunities are out there. CLM offers new ideas with traditional values.

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FARMING DOESN’T STOP, NEITHER DO WE Supporting British farms through thick and thin Even in these challenging times, support for our farming customers is only a phone call away.

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F E BRUARY 2 0 2 1

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Pros and cons of Brexit deal. Live exports are disruptive and expensive. Those who pay should have more say. Farmers urged to help shape standards. College’s future skills on display.






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People need educating. Nigel Akehurst visits small-scale organic growers Abby Nicol and Thad Skews at Pea Pod Veg market garden in East Sussex.


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It’s all change. Ten pages of expert opinion on the Brexit outlook. A Sussex-based contractor’s response to the idea of burning tree trimmings demonstrated not just his business acumen but his environmental philosophy.

A new year and time to look to new horizons.

Are we focusing on the right things? ® SOUTH EAST FARMER Kelsey Media, The Granary, Downs Court Yalding Hill, Yalding, Maidstone, Kent, ME18 6AL 01959 541444 EDITORIAL Editor: Malcolm Triggs Email: Photography: Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic PUBLISHER Jamie McGrorty 01303 233883 AD PRODUCTION Studio Manager: Jo Legg Graphic Designer: James Pitchford TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883


Kelsey Media 2020 © all rights reserved. Kelsey Media is a trading name of Kelsey Publishing Ltd. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden except with permission in writing from the publishers. Note to contributors: articles submitted for consideration by the editor must be the original work of the author and not previously published. Where photographs are included, which are not the property of the contributor, permission to reproduce them must have been obtained from the owner of the copyright. The editor cannot guarantee a personal response to all letters and emails received. The views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the Editor or the Publisher. Kelsey Publishing Ltd accepts no liability for products and services offered by third parties. Kelsey Media takes your personal data very seriously. For more information of our privacy policy, please visit Kelsey Media takes your personal data very seriously. For more information of our privacy policy, please visit . If at any point you have any queries regarding Kelsey’s data policy you can email our Data Protection Officer at Cover picture: Pleasant Rise Farm, Samuel & Son


2021. A better year for British farming?


Few people will be sorry to see the back of 2020, undoubtedly one of the most challenging years the country, and the world, has seen in recent history. As well as suffering alongside the rest of the population, the farming community had its own problems to deal with, from having to pour unwanted milk down the drain to coping with weather that simply wouldn’t follow the rules and handling the additional pressure that lockdown contributed to the mental stress experienced by those who already spend much of their working life on their own. But in some respects it was a good year for British farming; with crowded supermarkets seen by many as no-go areas, people turned to farm shops and online deliveries as resourceful rural businesses switched their focus, introduced new services and met local needs in an innovative way. Increased concern over the provenance of the food in their baskets also helped persuade consumers to buy more home-grown produce. There was a renewed interest in the countryside, too, with many people taking the opportunity presented by the hour of exercise permitted by the lockdown rules to explore their local woodland and fields. While this was a double-edged sword in terms of the potential for trespass, damage and left-open gates, it at least showed people the value of the countryside for which farmers willingly take responsibility. Despite the odd highlight, then, 2020 could never be considered a good year, unless dodging a killer virus, worrying about your job and the economy and playing Scrabble online are a few of your favourite things. 2021 promises to be better, although the good news took a while to make its presence felt. It was late in December when anxious fruit and vegetable growers were told that they could expect picking help this year from 30,000 overseas workers, thanks to the extension of the Seasonal Workers Pilot. It’s all a bit last minute and the figure is nowhere near what the industry had been asking for, but it could have been worse, and in 2020 it counted as good news. And it was Christmas Eve, no less, by the time the announcement came that the UK had finally scraped together a Brexit deal that would avoid tariffs and quotas on trade with the EU. Arable farmers used to getting the harvest in just as the first drop of rain splashes on the roof of the barn may have taken it in their stride, but the rest of us breathed a sigh of relief that a deal – by that stage, any deal – had been done. Time will tell as to whether it turns out to be a good deal; there are plenty of opinions within these pages, but it’s a deal, we needed a deal and we can only hope that it’s a sign that 2021 will be a MALCOLM TRIGGS - EDITOR better year for everyone.

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TRUCK MOVEMENTS A twice-daily coastal barge service delivering oil-seed rape from the Port of Tilbury to ADM’s processing facility in Erith has removed 36 truck journeys a day from already congested roads. The coastal vessel the Polla Rose takes the cargo from Tilbury twice every weekday, with each trip along the River Thames delivering 500 tonnes of the crop and giving ADM a greener supply chain in the process. Each seven hour round trip is managed by HCH Marine, whose managing director Nick Howard commented: “We’re very happy to have the support of both ADM and the Port of Tilbury and together we are looking forward to keeping river freight alive and doing our bit to keep road congestion down.” Gary Vincent, Asset Manager at the Port of Tilbury, said using the Polla Rose for the coastal cargo movement had been an operational success as well as providing a “greener supply chain solution” for ADM.


The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) was quick to offer advice to members after England once again went into lockdown in another bid to tackle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As well as publishing links to full details of the restrictions, the TFA highlighted the availability of one-off support grants of up to £9,000 that may be available to members running retail, hospitality or leisure businesses, depending upon the rateable value of the business. The association also pointed out that schools, while generally closed, remain open for the children of critical workers, which includes members of the farming community involved in food production. It also provided a link to a template letter aimed at helping food and farming industry key workers who might be stopped and questioned about their movements as part of the restrictions imposed under the lockdown.


While the last-gasp deal between the UK and the EU has largely been welcomed by the agricultural sector, the longer-term implications of the country’s new-found independence are more worrying, according to Sussex farmer David Exwood. David, an arable and beef farmer with 1,000 hectares at Horsham, said the zero tariff, zero quota deal struck on Christmas Eve, just one week before the rapidly approaching end-of-year deadline, had come as a relief to an industry that was worried about the implications of ‘no deal’. But while relatively happy with the agreement struck with our closest trading partners, David warned that it was other deals that could potentially be struck by a new ‘sovereign’ UK that could upset farming’s apple cart. “At the moment prices are holding up; we are getting the same returns for livestock and grain and although there is obviously some new paperwork to get to grips with and there are a few issues that still need to be straightened out, this is certainly better for farming than a no deal scenario would have been. “The problem will be if the UK now strikes a deal with a country like Australia, Brazil or Argentina, all of which produce beef at a much lower cost than domestic farmers. They will want access to that market over here, and we could find our supermarkets flooded with cheap meat we can’t compete with,” he said. His view was shared by sheep farmer and South East Farmer correspondent Alan West, who pointed out: “The longer-term outcome of ongoing trade negotiations with other countries around the globe, particularly Australia and New Zealand, may also put significant and enduring pressure on UK sheep producers.” The Tenant Farmer’s Association (TFA) was amongst those who welcomed the deal but pointed out the inevitable ‘red tape’ issues. “Although it delivers tariff free trade in goods between the UK and the EU, there will be some additional checks and paperwork to complete,” the association’s statement said. “The full impact of the agreement and the extent of any disruption at the border due to additional administration will not be determined for some time, but it is good news that UK farm produce has tariff free access to the EU market.” David Exwood, who farms as Westons Farm Ltd,


added: “Although trade flows will be unaffected and farm gate prices will generally be unchanged, there will be new border frictions which will have a cost and will take time to adjust to. These will, of course, have a disproportionately larger effect on smaller producers. “The thing to bear in mind, though, is that cost increases will affect trade in both directions, so there may be an opportunity for UK producers to pick up more domestic trade and capitalise on the public’s growing demand for sustainably produced, traceable local produce. In some ways, problems can be turned into opportunities.” Another issue David raised was new regulations around sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks, with inspections and specialist paperwork required for products of animal origin. “Some goods cannot currently be exported, such as seed potatoes and second-hand machinery, and while talks are continuing in this area, the restrictions are clearly a big problem for those people affected,” he said. Also causing concern is the fact that under the last-minute deal, British goods will need to meet stricter Rules of Origin requirements, which means, for instance that imported cane sugar refined in the UK will not qualify for tariff-free onward sale to the EU market. The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has suggested SPS checks and additional paperwork could increase farmers’ costs by between 5% and 8% for livestock products and up to 5% for crops. David was also concerned at the lack of detail within the new arrangements, particularly around the impact of the ‘level playing field’ aspects of environmental standards. “No-one is really sure how this will work or what the consequences of breaking ranks could be,” he said. “I think it will need a test case or two to establish the rules.”

The split from Europe means the UK can now set its own rules, with the early January launch of a government consultation on gene editing an example of the flexibility that the country now has. “This is one area that could prove to be a positive benefit for the UK,” David added. There have also been suggestions that the UK could ban farrowing crates and introduce a tariff on EU pork products which do not meet domestic standards. Alan West said that overall the sheep sector had been “able to breathe a huge sigh of relief with the outcome of the exit trade negotiations” but warned: “It is not quite a return to the status quo; we face a different reality and need to be willing and prepared to adapt to an evolving situation.” He acknowledged the “inevitability” of initial disruption and felt new bureaucracy could add up to 5% to costs. Alan added: “There are also some concerns in relation to the ability of our somewhat limited veterinary capacity in abattoirs to sign the thousands of Veterinary Health Certificates now required. “The reliance on EU nationals for much of the abattoir labour force is another issue that may need to be addressed at some time in the not-too-distant future.” On a more positive note, he added: “Once we have had time to adjust to the new bureaucracy and regulations, things should settle down quite happily; relatively tight lamb supplies and a reasonably strong demand should maintain or boost prices going into the new year. “As a result of our departure we are now in control of our own regulations, almost. Under the rules of the agreement any changes that we choose to make may be tempered by the EU, but this should not cause any problems as we now aspire to be ‘global leaders’ in regulatory standards in pursuit of new global markets for quality products.”




NEWS The owner of a Tunbridge Wells abattoir has said the live export of sheep and lambs to the continent is “completely unjustified and unnecessary”. Steve Bailey, owner of Forge Farm Meats, said the practice was disruptive and expensive to police, with exports from the port at Ramsgate regularly attracting noisy and disruptive protests. He said that despite a suggestion that part of the problem was a lack of slaughtering capacity in the South East, his own business could deal with the estimated 450 animals a week exported live to northern Europe. Mr Bailey was responding to a story in last month’s South East Farmer which suggested that banning live exports – something on which DEFRA has been consulting – was not as simple as protestors and the media imagined and referred to a general lack of abattoir capacity in the region. “The story suggested that about 22,500 lambs go out through Ramsgate each year, which equates to roughly 450 a week,” he said. “We have the capacity to deal with those animals humanely and prevent them having to endure an eight or ten hour journey that they don’t need to undertake. “The only reason that we export animals live is



AND EXPENSIVE so that the French, German or Belgian buyers can slaughter them in their country and label them as domestic produce because they like the quality of our livestock. “We should continue to sell them the meat they want but export it as carcasses, not as live animals that have to endure a long and potentially distressing journey. Live exports are just wrong and unjustifiable.” Forge Farm Meats was set up in 1976 and currently slaughters 3,500 animals a week, mainly sold from markets at Ashford and Hailsham. “When we take livestock from Scotland, the seller splits the journey either side of the weekend to give the animals a break,” said Mr Bailey. The South East Farmer story pointed out that there

APPLY NOW Applications for 2022 Nuffield Farming Scholarships opened in January with an online introduction to the application process hosted by Nuffield Alumni Officer Charlotte Merson and 2019 Scholar Sarah Pick. Potential scholars working within the farming, food, horticulture, rural and associated industries have until 31 July to apply for one of these valuable awards via the trust’s website at Around 20 Scholarships are awarded each year, giving successful applicants a substantial bursary to fund travel to study their chosen topic. Additional funding is also available for scholars to attend the contemporary scholar’s conference, training sessions and other events. In the words of the trust, a Nuffield Farming Scholarship is “an investment in the personal development and knowledge of the scholar, as well as that of their

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were a number of extra safeguards in place to protect the wellbeing of livestock facing journeys of more than eight hours, including on-vehicle drinking systems, ventilation systems and temperature monitoring. The story also said that the lack of volume slaughtering capacity in the South East meant that lambs purchased in Ashford Market could sometimes be transported across the country to an abattoir in South Wales before returning within days to a supermarket a mile from the market. DEFRA’s consultation on live exports was welcomed by the RSPCA, whose Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said: “There is absolutely no reasonable justification to subject an animal to an unnecessarily stressful journey abroad simply for them to be fattened for slaughter.”

respective industry. By sharing their findings and experiences, scholars bring fresh insight and ideas that inspire change and drive the industry forward.” Director Mike Vacher explained: “Nuffield Farming Scholarships provide a unique opportunity within the food and farming industry. Not only do scholars undertake an in-depth, global study about a chosen topic, but they are also in a unique position of influence to share these findings with the wider agricultural community and show the way forward. This opportunity provides the foundation for scholars to succeed in their own business as well as impact the wider industry. “Nuffield Farming fosters the careful development of future leaders, who will be vital as the industry explores opportunities and meets the challenges that exist outside of the EU.” With reference to the ongoing national lockdown, Mr Vacher stressed: “In light of the uncertainty surrounding travel and other restrictions, the Trust will continue to support scholars to ensure they are able to make the most of this opportunity and produce the high-quality work that has come to be expected of this experience.” Applicants must be between 22 and 45, resident in the UK or be working directly for UK agriculture and be well established in their career. No academic qualifications are required and scholarships are not awarded to anyone in full-time education or to further research projects.


> AHDB Petitioners Leading Kent fruit growers are among those backing the statutory levy that funds the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board but are demanding that those who pay it should have more say in how that “investment” is spent. Tom Hulme, of AC Hulme & Sons, based just outside Canterbury, and soft fruit grower Marion Regan, of Hugh Lowe Farms, near Maidstone, are members of the Horticulture & Potatoes Future Statutory Levy Working Group, which came together voluntarily “to work together for the benefit of all levy paying businesses”. A statement from the group stressed: “We believe in the fairness and value of a statutory levy and that our industry should work collaboratively to achieve market-led innovation, near market applied R&D, increased productivity and a world class sustainable industry. “The Group presents considered alternatives and draws inspiration from the successful levy models established in Australia and New Zealand.” The group has had discussions with senior members of the under-fire development board, including Chairman Nicholas Saphir, and has said it “commends the changes he is trying to make, especially the introduction of an automatic five yearly ballot”. The statement continued, though: “It is our belief that the proposed changes need to go further and faster. “Levy payers must ‘take back control’ of their investment funds and provide the strategic leadership within a lean and agile decision-making framework. The levy organisation should work to support this.” The working group is taking a more conciliatory approach than that proposed by the self-styled ‘AHDB Petitioners’, who have called for an end to the levy and whose views have been well covered in past months. “The petitioners just want to end the statutory levy immediately,” said Tom. “I can see that in

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some crop sectors there is a general feeling that the levy is just not required, but across the whole of horticulture this isn’t true, and it would be a loss to the industry if the ‘H’ dropped out of AHDB. “We’re just trying to encourage growers voting in the forthcoming ballot to engage in the discussion that we have started with the AHDB and be aware that there is an alternative route to the current status quo.” Following considerable pressure over many months, the board has agreed to hold a ballot on the continuation of a statutory levy in horticulture that will in effect be a ‘yes or no’ vote on the future existence of AHDB Horticulture. That will be followed by another ballot on the future of the potato sector levy. Tom said that while the working group “sees the statutory levy as the fairest and most valuable way to deliver the work that our respective crop sectors need to do to meet the many challenges we continue to face,” members were as “battle weary” of the AHDB in its current form as the petitioners and were “seeking a change agenda to make it fit for purpose”. He also warned that since any fundamental change would need Ministerial approval, a ‘no’ vote could see the AHDB in limbo for some time, perhaps as long as two years. “We want to see the organisation become more accountable, treating the levy as an investment by members and operating under new governance structures. It also needs to cut its operating costs because they have been out of control in recent years. At its best, though, it does a fantastic job of

supporting the industry. “The AHDB has said it is committed to reform and we want to work with the board to help create a grower-led body serving levy payers through proper governance and transparency.” Amongst other things, the working group is calling for root and branch reform of the existing levy organisation for horticulture and potatoes; transparency and proper scrutiny around levies, budget and costs; more focus on near-market research and development (R&D); easier online access to R&D reports and new co-funding mechanisms to help secure additional funding. It also wants levy-paying members to elect their sector board and panel members and wants levy payments to receive R&D tax relief The working group believes its proposed changes would deliver “a world leading, investor-funded service which returns significant and measurable benefits to levy paying investors in a highly challenging and fast evolving primary food and plant production landscape”. The AHDB Petitioners, meanwhile, have repeated their claims that proposed reforms to the levy body “do not go far enough and are too little, too late”. Flower grower Simon Redden commented: “Despite six months of consultation, AHDB has failed to come up with reform proposals that satisfy even its most ardent supporters within the industry. The fact that those who are already most involved with the current AHDB structure say their plans don’t go far enough shows just how out of touch the organisation is. AHDB simply doesn’t understand the modern horticultural industry.”







The UK’s leading farm assurance body, Red Tractor, is urging farmers to respond to proposed new standards across the scheme’s six sectors. Red Tractor has put forward uprated standards for beef and lamb, poultry, pigs, dairy, fresh produce and combinable crops and sugar beet and wants to hear industry views before finalising and rolling out the new benchmarks from November 2021. Red Tractor has developed the proposals over the past 12 months and says farming organisations, farmers, vets, processors and retailers have all been fully involved in drawing up the proposed new standards. Chief Executive Officer Jim Moseley said that while his organisation was “a proven world leader in food chain assurance”, it could not rest on its laurels.

He explained: “Red Tractor is recognised as a symbol of British food quality, but to maintain this our standards must continue to evolve with the times, to ensure they address changes in legislation and industry practice and reflect the emerging issues on shoppers’ minds.” He said the proposed changes aimed “to strike a delicate balance which protects and promotes our members and reassures consumers and customers, while acknowledging the implications of the challenges that the industry faces with future trade deals and the agricultural transition plan”. The NFU was quick to back the call for farmers to get involved in the online consultation, which is at Deputy President Stuart Roberts called on all farmer and grower members to contribute to


the consultation, adding: “It’s vital that farmers voice their opinion and continue to influence the continuing standard of assurance that the Red Tractor provides. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure that our standards on food, whether for animal welfare, food safety or environmental protection, meet the needs of both farmers and the public.” Red Tractor says the amendments are “primarily about streamlining, legislative compliance and responding to change” and include “simplifying some of the requirements for farmers to drive greater understanding and compliance, and rationalising standards which are common across multiple sectors, providing improved clarity for both farmers and their assessors”. Red Tractor has also taken on board recommendations made in a 2019 review of the scheme by Dr Jonathan Birnie which identified limitations in the current standards around animal and worker welfare and environmental protection. On worker welfare, Red Tractor points out that the UK agriculture’s health and safety record is poor and that farming is identified as an at-risk sector for labour exploitation. It adds: “Building worker welfare into the standards ensures members are taking sensible steps to protect the safety and wellbeing of workers on farm.” On environmental protection, Red Tractor plans to include the Farming Rules for Water, which are already included in legislation and aim to reduce soil erosion and nutrient run-off. The organisation says the requirements “have been adapted from the legal requirements to ensure they are meaningful and can be easily assessed”. Mr Moseley concluded: “Farmers have been an intrinsic part of the process in drawing up the proposed new standards, but now it is over to the membership and stakeholders to have their say. “Red Tractor was created to become a symbol of trust, safety and responsible production. Twenty years on, our purpose remains the same. Millions of shoppers look for the Tractor when they are buying food and drink, and consumer trust has never been higher, making us the most trusted food marque in the UK.” The full list of proposed changes and other information is available at The consultation closes on 5 March 2021.






Isuzu’s rugged D Max Utility is not the kind of Chelsea tractor you are likely to see parked outside Sainsbury’s or being used to drop Jessica and Tarquin off at the village school. This is a serious, no-frills workhorse of a four-byfour, and in that context it’s difficult to find fault with it. There is a clue to the nature of the beast in the ‘top features’ list on the Isuzu website, where “power windows” make an appearance. Useful, yes, but in 2021 surely only a ‘top feature’ in a pick-up that’s designed to do a job rather than impress the spec-hunters. When it comes to doing the job, the Isuzu excels, with thoroughbred handling, plenty of torque and Dealerships interested in supplying a no-nonsense cab that puts the driver in control vehicles for review should contact of both the vehicle and the task at hand. The technology sits behind the scenes but doesn’t need to cry out for attention. In two-wheel drive mode, this all-terrain twin cab delivers its considerable descent control and a ‘proper’ full sized spare wheel, the absence of which on so power through the rear wheels, which is the best configuration for towing, many other vehicles is surely a matter of regret. something at which the D Max excels. With an industrial grade tow hook at the The optimistic spec list refers to ‘manual air conditioning’, which feels a bit rear, the Isuzu can tow a class-leading 3.5 tonnes safely and without fuss. like referring to a jar of coffee, a kettle and a mug as a ‘manual automatic coffee It also boasts a reversing camera, making hitching up to the trailer a simple machine’, but the heating is certainly efficient and capable of doing the job on affair, as well as providing reassurance when manoeuvring around a busy early morning runs to the lambing pens in the spring. farmyard. Top-spec electronic stability control is another vital addition when With low and high speed four-wheel-drive options, getting to those lambing towing that kind of weight, and an impressive anti-lock braking system makes pens should be trouble-free even in the most taxing winter conditions, while stopping in a hurry as fuss-free as the journey itself. engaging those options is reassuringly fuss-free. The D Max feels as solid and Still with the technical side, the Isuzu of course includes hill assist and hill well-planted as it looks, with a purposeful poise that is backed up by good handling and plenty of controllable power. The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth, the turning circle feels impressively tight and all the switchgear is purposeful if unsophisticated. This is a pick-up that means business, though sadly that does mean that white van man will just keep coming at you down that country lane, even when the layby is on his side and all you have on yours is a foot of verge and a hedge. Despite its off-road capabilities, this is also a useable vehicle for other situations and cruises comfortably at motorway speeds, while the twin-cab set up is more than just an afterthought, accommodating my six foot seven inch son and his six foot girlfriend in the back with considerable ease. I confess that some of the pick-up’s more basic features did catch me out. I was disappointed with the reception from the RDS radio until I realised that there was an aerial I needed to extend (remember those?) but the Bluetooth connectivity and USB port provide useful additional entertainment options. Meanwhile, back at the village school, the rear tailgate highlights just why this vehicle isn’t ideal for transporting the kiddies’ games kit in the back. Built as solidly as the rest of the Isuzu, it drops like a stone once released and could break the wrist of the unsuspecting novice. And while on the subject of breaking things, it could be me, but I found it too easy to smack my left elbow on the capacious central console when changing into fourth or sixth gears, but that’s a minor complaint. I also found the condensation on the outside of the windows a trifle annoying on damp mornings, but remembering to wipe the windows is a small price to pay for such a dependable, go-anywhere farm pick-up. Overall this is a no-frills twin cab that knows its audience. Isuzu knows what matters to the farmers who make up much of its customer base and they continue to focus on that aspect of this rugged and reliable workhorse. © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021




Helmut Claas, the man behind the renowned Lexion, Jaguar and Xerion ranges, died in Germany on 5 January at the age of 94. Born in 1926 in Harsewinkel in North Rhine-Westphalia, still the home of Europe’s leading combine harvester manufacturer, Helmut Claas was the long-time managing director, chairman of the supervisory board and chairman of the shareholders’ committee of the Claas Group. The group employs more than 11,000 employees around the world. Claas UK’s sales, service and distribution site at Saxham, near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, employs more than 100 people, while Helmut and his wife Erika ran a farm nearby and spent a considerable amount of time in the area. A statement from Claas following his death described him as “first and foremost a farmer” who “enjoyed keeping in touch with farmers in the neighbourhood and took a keen interest in issues concerning agricultural firms”. Claas’ parents August and Paula managed a small agricultural machinery firm with a workforce of around 100. After completing an apprenticeship as a machine fitter and gaining other experience, son Helmut established a Claas distributor in France which now operates as Claas France SAS. He joined his parents' family firm in Harsewinkel in 1958, became managing director in 1962 and has remained at the helm through a number of restructures, most recently in 1996 when it became a joint-stock company. Following the success of the Dominator combine harvester, Helmut’s era saw the launch of the Lexion, which the company describes as the most efficient combine harvester in the world, together with the Jaguar forage harvester and the Xerion large tractor range.

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When smallholder and animal lover Adrian Kirkpatrick read two stories about livestock being rescued from local rivers in an issue of South East Farmer, he felt he needed to get in touch. Adrian is also a crew manager with West Sussex Fire Service’s highly equipped and impressively well trained Technical Rescue Unit, and in that capacity he knew that his team could have rescued the animals quickly and efficiently and without putting anyone at risk. “As someone with livestock myself, I could understand the farmers involved being desperate to rescue their animals from danger, but at the same time I know that without the right equipment they will always put themselves in danger in doing so,” he said. “We have a skilled, highly equipped, totally free service standing by to rescue animals from situations just like this, complete with equipment like rescue paths that allow us to walk on slurry, and we really would rather farmers called us out in the first instance.” The unit’s beginnings date back to 2001, when it was set up as part of the global response to the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. > Technical rescure unit – watch manager Michael Lewin (left) with Backed by government funding, the aim was Adrian Kirkpatrick and firefighter Dave Hall in front of the Unimog to create a specialist unit staffed by firefighters trained to deal with situations such as collapsed buildings and confined bottom of steep banks. spaces. Firefighters volunteered to join the 12-person team, which was also It often comes down to a calm approach from an experienced team. “We geared up to offer support overseas in disaster situations. were called out to find a showjumper had tried to leap a five-barred gate From urban search and rescue, the unit’s skill set increased, adding rope but had come down straddling it and was completely stuck,” said Adrian. rescue, cliff and crane situations and working in water and in confined “The people were making all kinds of dramatic suggestions, including spaces – such as farm silos – to the list of specialist incidents to which it anaesthetising the horse. We just took the gate off its hinges and laid it could respond. down flat, at which point the animal walked away, none the worse.” “At that time there were two fire stations in West Sussex that had some The unit is based in Horley, close to the Sussex/Surrey border and animal rescue equipment, but the service was a bit fragmented and if a call prides itself on a swift response across the county. It’s arguably even more came in from a farm it took that particular fire engine off the roster,” Adrian responsive overnight, since each member of the four-strong, on call team explained. “So the decision was taken to consolidate that equipment into takes one of the unit’s specialist vehicles home with them. the Technical Rescue Unit, at which point animal rescue became part of our Those vehicles comprise two Ford Rangers, one kitted out for animal remit.” rescue and the other designed for water rescue and holding rafts, inflatable Such rescues are now a regular part of the team’s duties, with calls to paths and lances, and two panel vans. One van is equipped for rope rescue farms and equine centres to deal with riders trapped under horses, animals and the other houses chain saws and a drone for incidents involving fallen in distress in horse boxes, and livestock in slurry pits or in rivers at the trees. “We are incredibly well equipped and we have the training to match,” Adrian commented. “It’s why we really would rather farmers in this part of the world called us before putting themselves at risk.” Adrian’s interest in farming – and in South East Farmer – stems from the Collection & fact that he has a smallholding at Crawley Down where he and partner Recycling of... Sophie Baker keep a small number of animals including pigs, cows, sheep All types of Farm Plastics and alpacas. Owning a smallholding was not something Adrian had ever expected. Redundant Agri chemicals “When I was growing up, I used to help out on a local ‘farm’ owned by an No Membership s elderly lady,” he explained. “I looked after her assortment of animals for rd yre oa fees eT t s many years, continuing to go over there when I was on leave from the Army. rdb a a C W When she died, she left it to me. Farm Workshop Wastes “Combining that love of animals and interest in farming with my day Waste Waste job helping to rescue livestock from difficult and dangerous situations is a Recycling Veterinary Waste Oil Experts privilege and one that I really enjoy.” Tel 01264 736733 Providing waste Waste To use the service, just dial 999 and explain the situation. solutions to Agriculture, Horticulture & Equestrian





OF REGENERATIVE West Sussex organic dairy farmer Dan Burdett has published his Nuffield Farming Report titled Regenerative Agriculture: Making the Change Happen. Dan visited farmers in the USA, UK, Ireland, France, Sweden and Australia and conducted phone interviews with others in South Africa and Zimbabwe because of travel restrictions. The aim of his research, sponsored by McDonald’s UK & Ireland, was to find out why farmers became involved with regenerative agriculture, the issues

AGRICULTURE they faced and how they overcame them. “For many farmers who wish to change their system to reflect regenerative agriculture, there is no shortage of information that can be accessed on-line, in books or in person,” his executive summary explains, before pointing out that actually making the change poses “challenges for a human race that feel more comfortable to follow the crowd”. The summary goes on: “For all the passion and desire for change, farmers still have to be able to

The report is now available at or can be downloaded directly at

stand apart from the crowd and be able to continue, despite the negative attention of those around them which can often lead to feelings of isolation. Central to overcoming the majority of these issues, the farmer needs to understand their purpose and to put this at the centre of their decision making. “It is also imperative that pioneering farmers are put at the heart of research and that their findings are disseminated through appropriate channels: by doing so it will be farmers that are kept at the heart of regenerative agriculture.”

Dan’s presentation as part of the Nuffield Farming Virtual Mini-Conference Series can be watched at


Supporting the rural community for over 230 years We have a real commitment to the rural sector, providing responsive and accessible legal advice to farmers, producers and their suppliers.



Dear Sir, With reference to your article on Page 8 of your January edition of South East Farmer, I would like to make a suggestion. As a veterinary surgeon, my primary aim is to look after animal welfare and I have regularly inspected horses, sheep and cattle for live export. Unless sheep are exported for breeding purposes it makes sense that they should be slaughtered as near to the farm of origin as possible. If the government can’t be encouraged to build a new abattoir in the South East Region, surely we should use/expand existing facilities (such as Forge Farm Meats in Tunbridge Wells) to carry out this work. Eryl V. Davies BVSc MRCVS, Paddock Wood, Kent

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For viticulturists in Great Britain

FIRST BOOKING Rankin the first exhibitor of many to book for new Vineyard & Winery Show



Event Director Sarah Calcutt 07827 642396 Booking enquiries Jamie McGrorty 01303 233883

24th November 2021

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Rankin Brothers & Sons, suppliers of bottle closures, became the first exhibitor for the Vineyard & Winery Show, as soon as the bookings were opened on 9 December. The show will take place on 24 November at the Kent Country Showground and will provide the perfect opportunity for all viticulturalists, winemakers, suppliers and the trade to come together. There will be a packed programme including technical talks from WineGB and tastings of the UK’s top wines. November is the best time in the wine producer’s year as harvest is over and there is a chance to draw breath before the new season starts. All events will be under one roof, so there are no worries that rain will stop play. “We are really happy to dive in and to be the first and it’s the first physical event we have booked for next year, so we are very much looking forward to it,” said Jim Rankin, Managing Director. We desperately miss the physical meetings, those spontaneous conversations and the spark that you can’t get with zoom, so this event is hugely important,” added Jim. “The UK’s vineyard and winery sector has reached a critical phase, so it’s right that we have our own `local’ expo, on our home shores. The sector has experienced such phenomenal growth over the last 10-15 years. We have built a solid reputation for the quality and uniqueness of our wines and we continue to receive accolades and awards competing against the very best the world can offer. So the expo is an invaluable opportunity for the sector and the supply chain to come together and for the suppliers to show how they can support the vineyards and wineries at a very local level. The sector needs a robust, capable and flexible supply chain and it needs reliable partners it can trust; partners who can help the producers achieve their ambitions for growth. The expo is an ideal forum for conversations, to build relationships and to explore new ideas and solutions. It’s also a chance to discuss our strategies on sustainability and climate change mitigation, through our activities and the design of products that are more environmentally positive,” commented Jim. “I would encourage everyone to dive in and take a good look at what our local supply chain can offer. There really is no need to jump on a plane; we can showcase our capabilities here and in a relaxed and informal setting,” added Jim.


Details on how to book an exhibitor place can be found on or feel free to call Sarah Calcutt on 07827 642396, or Jamie McGrorty on 01303 233883.



The government’s decision to allow 30,000 overseas workers into the country to help with the 2021 fruit and vegetable harvests, reported in last months’ South East Farmer, has been welcomed by the industry. The NFU said that the extension to the Seasonal Workers Pilot scheme was a “significant step forward”, but warned that the extension “does not meet the total workforce requirements” and pledged to work with government to find solutions. “Despite the known challenges of recruiting domestic workers, we will continue our efforts in this area with an enhanced Pick for Britain campaign, alongside our call for the existing Kickstart scheme to be adapted so it is more appropriate for seasonal roles,” the NFU said. David Camp, chief executive of the Association of Labour Providers said his members also welcomed the decision, commenting: “The pandemic has shown the vital role of food workers in keeping our nations fed.”

Farmers across the South East who supply produce to large supermarkets are being urged to spill the beans on any issues they are facing. Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) Mark White has launched the annual survey into how the sector is operating, with a particular focus on difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The office of the GCA has described the survey as “a valuable opportunity for suppliers to the largest supermarkets to tell the GCA about any Code issues they are facing and whether the regulated retailers are treating them fairly and lawfully”. It adds: “For the first time the survey will also ask suppliers to provide positive feedback to their retailers as well as saying what has not worked so well.” Now in its eighth year, the survey will be carried out by independent pollsters YouGov. The GCA says the survey has, in past years, “played an important role in helping the GCA to

ANNUAL SURVEY LAUNCHED achieve progress for suppliers, demonstrating where retailers’ efforts have improved Code compliance and identifying areas for them to make improvements”. Mark White said the survey would be “immensely valuable in helping identify the issues the groceries sector is facing as well as guiding future work”. He said he wanted suppliers to be “as frank as possible” and added that follow-up, detailed interviews would be held with some suppliers on issues raised by the survey. The survey, which closes on 21 February, can be accessed at








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Establishing a better way

…fo r 40 y ea rs 1981-2021



> Gillian Keegan MP with veterinary nursing students

> Gillian Keegan MP and Mims Davies MP with Principal Jeremy Kerswell and Assistant Principal Jo Buckley


Plumpton College took the opportunity to highlight its land-based training provision to a high-powered audience when it welcomed no fewer than two government ministers to its site. The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan MP, who represents Chichester, and the Minister for Employment, Mid Sussex MP Mims Davies, were given a guided tour of the campus near Lewes, meeting staff and students and learning how the college engages with land-based businesses across the South East For Ms Keegan it was her first visit to a landbased college since taking on her new role. She and Ms Davies were met by Plumpton College Principal Jeremy Kerswell and NFU South East Regional Board chairman David Exwood. The college has recently launched an adult retraining programme which aims to provide key employability skills and sector-based training to meet a need highlighted by employers who are facing a shortage of suitably trained workers that

COLLEGE’S FUTURE SKILLS ON DISPLAY has been made worse by the pandemic and by the impact Brexit has had on the labour market. Ms Keegan, who met viticulture, butchery and veterinary nursing students, said it was “great to see first-hand how the college is working with the local community to equip them with the important skills our land, food and agricultural industries need and to make sure they have the talent pipeline they need to thrive”. Plumpton has developed from its roots as an agricultural college into a specialist provider of land-based courses and now offers 19 different subjects. New lecturer Ben De Hallivand, who has worked within the agriculture industry, gave the

> Gillian Keegan MP with David Exwood from the NFU


two ministers a tour of the facilities at the college’s 750-hectare Lambert Farm. Jeremy Kerswell told the visitors that the college had been awarded funding to invest in new centres of excellence for the agri-food and horticulture industries. The agri-food centre is being built in the heart of the campus and the redeveloped horticulture campus within the Victorian walled gardens at Stanmer Park, Brighton, will open to the public as a visitor destination this spring. He said later that he was pleased the ministers were able to meet employers “to discuss how we work collaboratively to provide courses that meet business need”.


He explained: “To do this we have to continually adapt our programmes and ensure they meet the needs of the sectors we serve. Remaining agile within the current climate is key to the sustainability of land-based colleges, as is being able to continually invest in innovative ways to deliver the skills students need to thrive in the workplace.” David Exwood, a mixed farmer from Horsham, in West Sussex, said the college was “at the forefront of delivering agricultural and viticulture skills training”, adding: “It’s impressive to see how the college is working with industry partners to meet specific skills needs within the sector and how it has adapted to challenges posed by the current Covid-19 pandemic. “The meeting was a good opportunity to highlight the importance of retraining in the rural sector to the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan, and Mims Davies MP, while discussing the funding requirements of these courses. “At a time of great change there are always opportunities, and training facilities such as Plumpton are the key to unlocking those opportunities. As a rural business owner, I know first-hand how important it is for colleges to build industry partnerships so that the skills gap is addressed.”


British Wool has launched a major restructuring programme and cut the number of grading depots from 12 to eight to cut costs following the slump in the global wool market. Although the farmer-owned organisation has cleared the 11 million kg of unsold wool it had at the end of April, it says the market remains “extremely challenging” as a result of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Acting Chief Executive Andrew Hogley explained: “British Wool has managed to sell wool in decent volumes since August, which has allowed us to clear last season’s unsold stock, but prices are still severely depressed. “The global market faces an oversupply of cross-bred wool, mainly from New Zealand but also from other European markets. Although we have seen some more positive signs in recent auctions of some wool types, carpet wools remain under a great deal of pressure. The contract carpet market, which serves hotels, offices, cinemas, restaurants, airports, cruise ships, and the like, remains extremely depressed due to the closure of the hospitality trade.” He went on: “To maximise the value of producers’ wool it is critical that we re-shape the business in-line with current market conditions,” explaining that next season would see the closure of British Wool’s grading depots in Irvine, Porthmadog, Stamford and Liskeard, with the wool being allocated to other depots within the network. “The annual savings from these measures is estimated to be £1.5 million per annum. Based on our current level of wool intake this equates to a saving of 6p to 7p per kg,” he added. New intermediate depots will ensure producers still have a local drop point for their wool. There will be no onward haulage charges and all existing sites will remain open until the middle of February.

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“Look what I’ve got,” cried the exuberant child as she ran towards me with no concept of social distancing. With outstretched hand she unfurled her clenched fingers to reveal a small ball of icy particles. “I hope it snows,” she shrieked as she ran off to join the other child racing around in circles amongst the rushes. Their actions reminded me of my dogs when they have a loopy turn. “I sincerely hope it doesn’t,” I muttered under my breath, thinking of all the extra work snow creates. The sheep had plenty of grazing in this field, but under the circumstances opening the gate to allow them to find a more peaceful setting seemed sensible. The adult accompanying these children was by now close enough to talk to. “This is a hoar frost,” he proclaimed, before questioning me: “Why did all the sheep run to you?” I didn’t point out that the sheep had been spread out happily grazing until he’d arrived on the scene. “I’m their shepherd and they know me,” I replied. “Wow, I’ve never met a real live shepherd, how exciting,” he exclaimed. The information that no public right of way exists in these fields was lost on him. Not wishing to have to extract a bunch of ewes from the dykes, I asked him how far he was intending to go. I was relieved when he agreed not to go further than the gateway. Part of me was happy to witness urban dwellers’ appreciation of the countryside. However it would be better

if they could learn respect for animals and the environment. These people need educating, so they understand that certain behaviour can unwittingly have a negative impact. This is an important message that needs telling. The children I met were from Hawaii. This strange lockdown encounter in the middle of Pevensey marshes revealed that the gentleman looked after children in care. He described looking after under-age asylum seekers, Syrians and Kurds who’d made the precarious crossing on boats. He remarked how these children were a pleasure to look after, motivated and keen to work, in complete contrast to the attitude of UK children. I don’t doubt this observation and it makes me wonder what our society could do to rectify this. Due to lockdown, the Oxford Real Farming Conference was held online. I’ve long had the ambition to attend, so for £21 I purchased a farmer ticket. I was hoping to find the conference an uplifting experience, but was sadly disappointed. While I pottered in my kitchen, the iPad had pride of place on our table. Yes it was interesting and thought provoking, but sometimes downright annoying. While watching the speakers’ presentation, you could see the chat from delegates on the sidelines. Although distracting, it provided a platform for networking and it was intriguing to follow the conversation. I was dismayed by anti-livestock comments. There was much talk about regenerative,


organic, grass-fed, eco-friendly, rotation, hedges, fruit and tree planting etc. Along with calls for UK livestock production to be halved. The conference also embraced a global element. Climate change affects us all. We can learn from past mistakes, but now we should move forward and endeavour to build a food system that doesn’t cause harm to our planet. The crux of the matter is the ‘How’ we can achieve this. It’s not just farmers; the whole food chain needs to take action. Supermarkets got very little mention, but I think if retail cared less for their profit margin and more for the environment they could make a real difference. I got the impression that many speakers were ‘re-inventing the wheel’. The practices they talked about were carried out by our grandfathers but ousted in the name of progress. Rotation is hailed as a new-found revelation, yet this has been practised since Roman times. In the past hedges were maintained and preserved, but with calls for greater efficiency and government grants, many were routed. The apple trees in our garden were rescued from an uprooted orchard. Keeping your soil healthy is surely the base for all farming. One new element discussed was the suggestion that land prices could rise due to large companies paying for carbon sequestration to offset their carbon emissions. To me this seems morally wrong. Next year I’ll have to try The Oxford Farming Conference; better start saving up now. On reflection perhaps I’m better suited to practical

farming where I mostly know what I’m doing. Hannah and I have been busy attending to the new hedges we planted in March last year. Predictably during the dry summer, and despite watering them, we’ve incurred some losses which need replacing. Those that have flourished we’ve pruned to encourage bushy growth and freed from unwanted weeds. We’re hoping to establish more hedges and restore others by coppicing and gapping up. We’ve ordered stouter tree planting spades for the job. We’re grateful to Christine Meadows from The High Weald for her help and guidance through the process of the Landscape Enhancement Initiative to which we’re signed up. Lockdown put an end to beating duties, so our spaniels are helping with tree maintenance but get indescribably dirty. Kizzy, our not so useful kelpie/ collie, is exceedingly pleased with herself. Along with catching vermin and keeping an eye on the farmyard, it turns out she is really rather good at holding up the cattle in the back of the shed. This enables ‘the master’ to access the shed, fill the hay feeder and blow in fresh bedding without cattle escaping. Bless her, she’s always been frightened of sheep; who’d have thought she’d be so brave with cattle? It’s only taken her 10 years to find her vocation. I’m told it’s blue Monday and today Anna is rock’n and writing with grandma while her parents make cheese. The only thing blue around here is Pevensey Blue. Anna agrees with me it must mean it’s a good day to eat cheese... PS. On these dark evenings, English Pastoral, by James Rebanks is a good read. On iPlayer we’ve been binge watching – This Farming Life is totally recommended.

> Reading the paper with a little help from my friends

> Anna obviously finds helping Grandma boring/sleep inducing

> Inquisitive sheep checking on the progress of hedge maintenance

> Pruning and weeding

> Pruning

> Kizzy is so pleased with herself TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883





IN A POD This month Nigel Akehurst visits small-scale organic growers Abby Nicol and Thad Skews at Pea Pod Veg market garden in Hailsham, East Sussex.



Abby and Thad are passionate about growing delicious, seasonal organic vegetables for local people and are making it stack up financially. “Often people think you can’t make a living from small-scale farming, but our small business supports two full-time growers and one part-time grower,” said Abby. Over the past four years they have built a viable business model that feeds hundreds of households. Abby and Thad started Pea Pod together in June 2016, supplying vegetables grown at Little Pannel Farm in Pett to the Hastings community. At the time of establishing Pea Pod Veg, Abby was working for Pannel Organics, a six-acre market garden with around 4,000 square metres of indoor space run by Metske Van der Laan (now of Bore Place, Kent) supplying the majority of their

PEA POD VEG, EAST SUSSEX vegetables to veg box schemes and food shops in Brighton. Abby and Metske decided that there was potential for Abby to start a small veg box business of her own, using produce they grew together from Pannel Farm, to supply the local community in Hastings. Thad started as the delivery driver and began to help out on the farm more and more. From supplying 25 people, they quickly grew their customer base to 85 customers, all through word of mouth. Then in 2017 they found out they would need to find a new growing site. The lease on the Pannel Organics market garden at Little Pannel Farm came to an end in May 2018.


So began their Pea Pod land quest. Abby and Thad created a ‘land wanted’ poster and letter detailing their business model, growing

experience and wish list for their ideal plot. They began circulating these through various farming and growing networks in December 2017. It wasn’t easy finding suitable land but their search resulted in a few potential sites. “The big issue is lack of land for growers,” said Abby. They visited the different sites and narrowed it down to two suitable locations, eventually deciding on a two-acre field at Longley Farm in Hailsham. They signed a 10-year rental agreement and so the process of planning their own market garden began.


Presented with a blank canvas (a field of pasture), they designed the farm around their veg boxes and the different varieties of veg they grow >> through the season. They drew on a mixture


• Two acre organic market garden at Longleys Farm in Hailsham • Two full-time growers and part-time help with harvesting • Growing over 40 varieties of seasonal veg • Direct sales via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box scheme with 110 shares to households in Hastings • Wholesale veg to farm shops in Hastings and Brighton (accounting for 50% of veg production) • Active members of the Landworkers’ Alliance and Organic Growers’ Alliance • Helped to co-found South East Growers’ Group to build the network of local growers and encourage more on-farm learning through farm tours and skill shares


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OUT AND ABOUT WITH NIGEL AKEHURST << of experience gained by working on different farms and design tips from books. Of particular help was The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by JM Fortier, a Canadian grower and author. He outlines how it’s possible to make a living wage from farming without big capital outlay or acreages. They also listed Joy Larkcom, Kate Collyns, Charles Dowding and Elliott Coleman as helpful sources of information. Abby and Thad were able to use many of the farm design tips and techniques. By using standardised vegetable beds 100ft long by 4ft wide, they were able to use many of Fortier’s tables for sowing and estimating crop yields and values. The standardised beds also allow them to maximise productivity by using appropriate smallscale tools and harvesting by hand. This allows them to use more of their land for veg production compared to a larger scale site, where bigger tractor spacings would be required. Abby and Thad also found being connected to growers’ organisations helpful. “The Organic Growers’ Alliance magazine and the UK Organic Market Gardeners’ Facebook forum were invaluable for advice and speaking to farmer friends,” said Abby.


CROP PLANNING AND PLANTING With the majority of the 40-plus varieties of

vegetables being grown outside, the two growers start crop planning each year in January. This involves transforming spreadsheet data (sowing dates, days to maturity, estimated harvest dates etc) into a visual block diagram crop plan for the year. Each bed will often have at least two crops or more during the season. Abby and Thad order seeds through a variety of organic seed suppliers: Tamar Organics, Real Seeds, Vital Seeds, the Seed Cooperative, Kings Seeds and Moles Seeds among others. Their heavy clay soils take a while to warm up and they often find themselves frustrated as they aren’t able to start planting until well into spring, though Abby adds that, on the plus side, clay is very fertile. To improve the soil they use a mixture of organic farm yard manure (sourced from Hook and Son) and green waste compost. They also use small amounts of organic chicken manure, an effective fertiliser for their crops. To further build soil organic matter they grow green manures, which also helps keep the soil covered through the winter months.


In addition to growing in beds, they have three polytunnels for Mediterranean vegetables such as French beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in the summer. These polytunnels are also used to extend the season in the winter

> Thad Skews


months by being used for salads and leafy greens. Abby and Thad use hand tools for the majority of tasks, alongside a small BCS two-wheeled cultivator. This is used for shallow cultivation of the top few inches of soil to create a tilth to plant into and form raised beds, which helps to improve drainage of the clay soil and maintain the permanent beds. They don’t plough the land each year, instead using black tarpaulins to kill off green manures and weeds before reshaping into beds and planting.


Abby loves peas, which she enjoys grazing on in the spring. She is also a massive fan of Tokyo turnips, which she describes as “golf balls of deliciousness”. They also both like squashes, such as Crown Prince, Red Kuri, butternuts and Delicata, which are low maintenance to grow and very tasty in the winter months. Thad’s favourite veg are sweet red peppers and he has an ever growing appreciation of the brassica/cabbage family, whose members are full of healthy nutrients. The pair trial different varieties and crops each year, including Agretti (land samphire) and Aztec broccoli, both a hit with chefs. Their seasonal salad mix varies throughout the year and always includes at least five different leaves. It features the likes of summer purslane, little gem, lollo rossa, crisp red and green lettuce


and amaranth in the summer and frizzy mustards, mizunas, corn salad and mibunas alongside cold hardy lettuce in the winter. The smaller independent seed suppliers like Real Seeds in Wales were great for providing trial varieties, they said.


At the beginning of 2020 Abby and Thad decided to change their direct sales model from a veg box to a CSA box share scheme. It was a subtle but important distinction, they

explained. Whereas previously they were buying the vegetables from Pannel Organics (where Abby worked), they are now responsible for the planning, sowing, harvesting and delivery of all the veg to their customers. From June to December, 100% of the veg box contents >>

> Abby Nicol TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883




24 << comes direct from the farm. Instead of customers being able to pick and choose what they get and when (which is standard for large corporate box schemes), a CSA box scheme means customers are signing up to be part of a community that supports the farm, and receive what’s in season throughout the year. “There is a mutually beneficial relationship between consumer and producer. The producer is growing fresh, seasonal veg and the consumer is receiving super fresh, local veg and enjoying a greater connection to the farm, where their veg comes from and those who have grown it,” explained Abby. During late summer they hold an annual open day for customers and, Covid-19 restrictions permitting, they plan to have more community days at the farm. Abby and Thad have three sizes of CSA boxes; small (£11), medium (£14) and large (£17). The medium and large size are by far the most popular, containing between seven and eight items and nine to 10 items respectively. Each week Abby sends customers an e-newsletter containing updates from the farm, musings on the food system and recipes tailored to the seasonal vegetables in the box. Thad hand delivers the boxes to their customers every Thursday, dropping off over 110 boxes across Hastings.


No two days are the same at Pea Pod Veg. Abby and Thad work long days from spring through to the autumn to keep everything running smoothly. Spring is busy with seed sowing, preparing beds and planting; summer means plant care, weeding, watering and harvesting alongside sowing and planting; autumn is full on harvesting. The pair had part time help this year, with harvesting supported by Charlotte Still and Anne-Marie Watson.



Thankfully their produce speaks for itself and they haven’t had to do any marketing since they started out, relying solely on word of mouth to grow their customer base. They have a simple website,, which details more about their ethos and the seasonal veg they grow. At the time of writing they have a waiting list of 150 people. Their produce can also be bought through several local shops in Hastings,


25 Lewes and Brighton (Trinity Wholefoods, The Season’s, Lewes and Infinity Wholefoods). They also have an Instagram account (@peapodveg), where they post the occasional photo of the Pea Pod growing team having fun, along with lots of beautiful veg. They also post weekly “What’s in the box” photos from the market garden with a list of seasonal vegetables. For a more immersive visual insight into the inner workings of Pea Pod, check out their YouTube short film The Story of Pea Pod Veg, artfully shot and edited by Thad’s nephew, Saxon Bosworth and co-directed by Thad.


Both Abby and Thad point to the recent food shortages on supermarket shelves brought about by the first lockdown in March. Pea Pod was inundated with ‘panic’ sign-ups to the CSA box scheme and had to start a waiting list as they were unable to meet demand. “For years we’ve let the industrial food system and cheap food become the norm, but the recent crisis shows how fragile it all is,” said Abby. They believe the solution is to value local food growers, along with a more agro-ecological approach to producing food in harmony with nature. “We need more small scale,

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agroecological farmers to grow better food for our communities,” she added.


Abby, herself a new entrant to farming, is passionate about improving the perception of working on the land. After graduating with a degree in Geography from Edinburgh University back in 2009, she worked in the charity food sector, becoming disenchanted with a largely screen-based role. She felt disconnected from the food she ate and decided to get hands on and cycled around Spain spending time volunteering on farms through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) network. Abby returned to the UK determined to build a career in growing organic vegetables. She built up her practical skills by working on different farms, often alongside seasonal workers from Europe – many of whom couldn’t understand why she wanted to be a grower. Despite the naysayers, Abby reveled in the physical and mental challenge of growing veg. To build her knowledge she took several part-time courses through the Soil Association. Then a growing opportunity took her to Hastings in 2012 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Abby and Thad are active members of the Landworkers’ Alliance, a UK-based union of farmers, growers, foresters and land-based workers who work together to campaign for better food and land-use systems. To build a network of small-scale growers in the South East, Abby and Thad helped set up a growers’ group to share knowledge and skills. In the summer of 2020 a small group of growers attended a meet-up at Plaw Hatch Farm. They look forward to being able to organise more events and continue to build the community of small-scale growers in the South East. For more details, get in touch via


Having worked hard over the past three seasons to set up their market garden from scratch and develop a successful CSA box scheme, Abby and Thad are looking forward to a better work/life balance this year. They have no plans to increase the amount of veg they grow, apart from ‘making a few tweaks’ said Abby. Like most of us they are looking forward to things getting back to ‘normal’. They’d like to host farm walks and ‘grow’ better growers through their South East network. Mostly, they just want to demonstrate that small scale farming can be a valuable and exciting career choice for young people.







Different planning authorities have widely varying attitudes. They all broadly work to the National Planning Policy Framework, but their interpretations vary. Whether you have a residential, commercial or mixed project in mind, find out what your local authority’s attitude is to that kind of development. Some, for example, may be open to residential proposals if they’re falling behind on their targets for land allocated for housing. Build up a picture of the national scene for context, then layer on the local policy – in principle and practice. Also look for precedents in your area. Asking such questions might make sure you’re knocking on a door that will open relatively easily when shaping your proposal.


Post Covid-19, many people will be keen to move out of London and other South East towns and cities to rural areas. Factor in the increase in home-working, which will free some people from having to live close to railway stations and major roads, and new parts of the countryside will appeal to residential buyers. Having non-farming residents close to agricultural activities has the potential to bring conflict, but projects can be designed to minimise or eliminate this risk. Remember – even what you think are uninspiring farm buildings in unappealing locations could have potential. As estate agents say: It’s all about seeing beyond what’s currently there.


Retailers and other businesses may look to relocate from urban areas after the Covid-19 pandemic. With ever more going online, fewer need a traditional ‘shop’ with customer footfall; they’ll simply need a functional space from which to operate. Obviously one of the critical requirements is fast broadband.


One choice a landowner faces is whether to get planning permission and sell a building at that point or take it through to completion and then sell or let it. Many opt for the former because it avoids having to make such a big investment and limits exposure to risk. Take a barn that’s worth, say, £375,000 with residential consent. You could spend the same amount again developing it. If the housing market stays strong and it sells it for £1m, great – but what if the market goes wrong? Others may not have access to the money required or have the time or skill set required to oversee a development.


This partly depends on how much you need to raise money. Your instinct may be not to sell a barn as you’d lose control of the asset, but the Entrepreneur’s Relief aspect of current Capital Gains Tax rules means it might currently only be levied at 10% and there’s increasing concern that CGT (along with inheritance and income taxes) will rise to pay for the pandemic. So if there is some restructuring to do in the business – and/or perhaps debt to be repaid – now could be a good time to consider selling, especially if the building is ‘offlying’ and its disposal wouldn’t have any negative impact on the operational requirements of the farm.


Boris Johnson’s commitment to “build, build, build”, combined with the government’s determination to inject momentum into a Covid-19 ravaged economy, is prompting planning authorities to green-light decisions that, in times gone by, might have been refused. Even the lockdown does not seem to be acting as a barrier for planning permissions being granted.


A new 'use class' – E – was introduced last year which gives extra flexibility when it comes to changes of use. It groups together commercial, business and service uses, encompassing uses as varied as shops, offices, restaurants, gyms and nurseries. The use of a building can now change to another use (or mix of uses) within this Class E without the need for planning permission. So if you have a planning consent in place for a changed use of a building you may be able to change the nature/ use of the building without having to reapply.


Look at what others have done successfully (and not so successfully) around you and learn from them. The fact that somebody else has done something, two miles down the road, doesn’t necessarily preclude you from doing it successfully.


If succession is a subject which is looming ever closer in your family, then converting buildings to non-agricultural use (even just changing the planning consent) before assets are transferred from one generation to the next could be a catastrophic mistake. ‘Commercial’ buildings may not qualify for Agricultural Property Relief (APR). If, however, you run an enterprise from them yourself – even if it’s a non-farming one – it could qualify for Business Property Relief that effectively works in the same way as APR. The moral of the story: Take tax advice if succession is on the horizon.


MATTHEW BERRYMAN Director, CLM T: 07710 765323 E:


I’ve thought long and hard about what to write this month; the shorter the days, the longer it seems to take me. Life goes on, albeit at 100mph, with farming, home-schooling and occasionally some forage work. Straw appears to be non-existent and the price seems to be sky high. We have had a few signs that the price is coming back a little. I suspect that by the time harvest comes round it will be back to £60/ton but don’t quote me. Everyone will bale anything and everything in sight this year. Many small (and large) businesses have suffered as a result of Covid-19. At the present time, thousands of cartons of eggs are being donated to food banks as there is evidently a lack of consumer demand for eggs during lockdown. The majority of egg producers have seen their business halve since the start of the pandemic; unfortunately you can’t furlough a hen. The alternative is throwing the eggs away. In the build up to Christmas, business started to pick up but seemed to plummet in the New Year. Livestock feed prices seem to be high at the moment. Have you fixed your feed contracts? Rising demand, growing population, rising wealth and biofuels are all contributing to higher feed prices. These costs are set to rise again. If only the end product would increase. I’ve attempted to steer clear of discussing the Brexit theme, but while talking to our vet the conversation turned to our impending (dairy) farm assurance visit and all the paperwork that ensues with these ‘virtual visits’. The average farmer has to upload 187 documents to the online portal before the inspection can begin, ranging from rat bait plans to covid-19 contingency plans. The list is endless and doesn’t include the paperwork that the vet has to complete. Our vet happens to have a large number of large animal clients, and the average time for the vet to complete the paperwork is two to three hours. If you multiply this figure by 70 clients, before long you need a vet that just does TB tests and farm assurance visits. If you wish to transport livestock to the continent, the list becomes even more comprehensive. A 12-page document for a horse to go abroad has

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A HEN turned into a 36-page document printed and stamped in every language of every country the horse is going to travel through. This takes approximately three to four hours and the cost is unbelievable. I am a firm believer that consumers need reassurance that the food they are about to eat is safe and has complete traceability, but with the new rules and regulations coming into force with the Red Tractor scheme they seem to be treading on the toes of other organisations such as the Environment Agency and deviating into areas such as employment law. All employees should have appraisals, but surely it breaches GDPR rules to disclose them to Red Tractor? We can and will comply with all the new regulations; will chlorinated chicken have to go through the same process when it’s imported into the UK? On the positive side, the roads do seem a little quieter around us. Foreign haulage companies seem unwilling to commit to regular travel across the channel. Time will tell if that will change.

Hopefully it won’t mean shortages in the shops. I am loving this home-schooling business. Not having a school run is brilliant and it’s amazing how much I can achieve in a day. The children can assist me in their lunch break and are home in daylight hours. It’s definitely a ‘win win’ situation for me, although the food bill has gone sky high again. The ram has hopefully fulfilled his obligations and scanning is eagerly awaited. Sadly we said goodbye to Zara’s pony Crackle, who has gone to another amazing pony club home near Winchester, and we say hello to Bea. I do hope you are all staying safe and well and hopefully Covid-19 free. Roll on injection time and life returning to a little more normality.







No doubt many of you reading this will have received post concerning the current vote on the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) levy. You may have heard from both sides of the argument: No, we should vote against the continuation of the levy; Yes, the levy should continue because there is enormous value in the essential research and services provided to our sector. I’m going to start with some of the context and then work through my thoughts. I’m not going to try to tell you how to vote; I can’t do that, but there is a bigger picture that is under threat here. At a meeting hosted by British Apples and Pears, Rob Saunders, Chair of the Tree Fruit Panel, made a strong case for revisiting the recommendations in the 2005 report by Rosemary Ratcliffe. He first took the meeting through the history and development of the levy board which led to the current iteration. From the Apple and Pear Development Council in 1966, to the Apple and Pear Research Council in 1982, through the Horticulture Development Council in 2002, which was mainly about research, we arrived at the AHDB in 2008, when horticulture was folded into a larger organisation along with the other levy bodies serving cereals, beef and sheep, pigs, milk and potatoes – the stand out feature of these diverse sectors being their differing needs. The Radcliffe report recommended that a ‘New Co’ be established as a shared service model, taking care of the back office function, levy collection, human resources, IT, procurement etc, and that separate ‘Sector Co’s’ be established to meet the needs of their diverse interests. The ‘hub and spoke’ model showed great promise for delivering substantial savings. In horticulture, which contributes 10% of the levy income for the AHDB, it had been hard, historically, to manage the vast number of small projects that were commissioned to deliver what the panel wanted. Under the leadership of Nigel Kitney and Andrew Tinsley, our sector began to enjoy the fruits of a clear, five-year development plan. Larger, long-term pieces of research which benefitted our sector effectively ring fenced the funds, which stopped them being top sliced by the central organisation. Bear with me… Many people have struggled with the core

SARAH CALCUTT Executive Chair, National Fruit Show

AHDB strategy in recent times as it has come to be perceived as less relevant to growers. That was perhaps due to the ‘thought leadership’ culture that became pervasive and the feeling that panel work may have become side-lined by over-arching, cross sector projects. Duplication and investment in work that didn’t benefit everyone are core issues upheld by the ‘no’ group. But just think about everything that the AHDB has delivered; everything that a single-source, equitably invested hub of research and product approvals could deliver to benefit the industry. Now is perhaps the time, more so than in the past 40 years, when we should be working together, looking at what our industry needs to move forward.


We have a horticulturalist at the top of the organisation now. Nick Saphir knows what we need and where we need to head. We have an excellent head of horticulture in Hayley CampbellGibbons, who truly understands the incredibly complicated horticultural sector of the UK. Now is the time to consider also the wider benefits of having Rob Saunders and the tree fruit panel with Scott Raffle and the team firmly on our side when it comes to plant protection product approvals and the research our industry really needs. We need people who understand the applications, know the industry and who think of the whole industry when they are at work. Now is the time to look for reform, more transparent budgets, a review of governance, near market research requirements etc. In short, to return to the recommendations made by Rosemary Radcliffe in 2005… This is more important than feeling aggrieved at the recent past; this is about us all working together in the future to develop a world class sustainable sector, with explosive growth potential.


NEW TEAM, NEW FEATURES thing of the past by October, MFSS is planning a physical event that promises to be “a celebration of the outstanding work of growers in keeping the nation fed, as well as a showcase for innovation and production excellence”. Following the success of the ‘Love Cider’ Competition in 2020, this year’s show will include a wider range of products and an enhanced PR campaign to get the public to vote for their favourites. MFSS believes the competition “highlights the importance of cider as a national favourite and encourages producers to interact directly with their fans on social media”. The society, which ran a successful online


Facebook, love it or loathe it, is somewhere a lot of people share their opinions and fears, and it’s really easy for a negative post to get more traction than it deserves. There have been a series of posts recently in village pages about waste fruit being returned to the orchard floor; we all know this is a sensible practice for lots of good reasons, including the cost of sending it for anaerobic digestion, but not everybody understands that. So, please could you find time to set up a farm Facebook page or Instagram account where you can show people the beauty of your farms and teach them what you do and how you really care for the area you look after? Consumer insight shows they are further away than ever from primary production, and some simple messages about how fruit in the orchards feeds the birds they care so much for would have a lasting impact. I was reminded of the benefit of this by a series of posts we set up for the national British Apples and Pears account. Some gorgeous pictures of waxwings were shared with the agency; these lovely winter visitors were feasting on Gala that had been left on the trees and the response was phenomenal. It gave the team a great opportunity to expand on what happens in orchards at this time of year and there will be many more posts like it throughout 2021. If you are posting great things on your farm accounts, please let me know by emailing and we will share them. People are spending so much time on their social media accounts we might as well give them something lovely to look at!

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event last year, has said the evolution of the cider competition is part of a changing approach as the National Fruit Show develops its strategy towards its centenary show. That strategy “includes novel crops not traditionally grown in the UK, identifying new opportunities for producers in processing, alcohol and beyond, and helping growers find innovative ways to reduce crop wastage,” MFSS said as it launched the 2021 show. “This is a very exciting time for the industry and we are expanding and evolving the show to reflect the opportunities facing British fruit growers today,” said Sarah Calcutt. “We want to help them fulfil the huge potential in the marketplace and boost consumption of fruit and fruit products across the country.” In a further new development, Worldwide Fruit has been confirmed as one of the four platinum sponsors of the National Fruit Show for the first time. “We are delighted to welcome Worldwide Fruit as one of our lead sponsors,” Sarah said. “It’s a business with wonderful growers and an international heritage.” The National Fruit Show will once again feature a challenging and thought-provoking conference programme to run alongside this year’s show.

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The core team behind the Marden Fruit Show Society (MFSS) has been expanded as planning begins for this year’s 88th National Fruit Show, to be held at the Kent Exhibition Centre in Detling, opening on 20 October. With Sarah Calcutt confirmed in the new position of executive chair, MFSS has named Laura Larkin as exhibition manager and Norma Tompsett as competition manager. New to the trustee board are Edward Newling of Newling Fruit Growers and Jonathan Blackman of Hutchinsons, representing the East and West Midlands respectively, and Claire Seymour of NP Seymour representing exhibitors. With pandemic restrictions expected to be a



32 REAL OPPORTUNITY TO BE FRONT AND CENTRE What will this year bring to the rural sector post-Brexit? Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors


The Agriculture Act represents a significant policy change for the industry, introducing a raft of new schemes focusing on the environment, investment and farm profitability. Hobbs Parker Property Consultants LLP



Things will change materially for the industry: we focus on three elements, financial planning, funding and tax. Chavereys

IT’S ALL CHANGE Looking out from a shoot peg on a picturesque Kentish farm just before Christmas, the wind of change was most certainly in the air, along with the odd pheasant. Discovering my neighbouring gun was a senior government minister, I simply couldn’t resist asking at ‘elevenses’ if there was going to be a Brexit deal. No matter how any of us voted on 23 June 2016, none of us could have predicted the tumultuous journey to the point of us leaving the European

36 LEGAL BASICS TO BUILD A STRONG FUTURE How do you keep up with change and the legal challenges now posed? Gullands Solicitors


Now we’ve had a few weeks to get our heads around it and we’ve put together our tender to be one of the pilot operators, we’re very optimistic. A G Recruitment


Many farmers breathed a sigh of relief when a last minute trade deal was agreed between the UK and the EU, avoiding the threat of tariffs and quotas on agricultural exports. Wyn Grant


Diversification is hard work, and where capital is needed there is always the restriction of the lending sector. The Rural Planning Practice FEBRUARY 2021 | WWW.SOUTHEASTFARMER.NET

Union at midnight on 31 December. Mix in a global pandemic and a fiscal black hole, and it’s no wonder that some might still be scratching their heads in anticipation of the extent and pace of change that’s now inevitable. The Government has published its own outlook in The Path to Transition: An Agriculture Transition Plan (2021 to 2024). However, other than a commitment to maintain current level of overall funding for the duration of this Parliament, they can no more than the next man in anticipating changes in market

INTRODUCTION BY: forces and consumer habits, in some cases arising from events beyond our shores that are streamed in an instant on social media. In turn, my feeling is that we must make our own plans and look to execute them as best we possibly can. After all, it was Churchill who aptly stated: “Fail to plan then plan to fail.” Indeed, with history dictating that opportunities will arise in the face of adversity, I would encourage you all to consider where these might appear and strive to harness them. After all, landowners and farmers hold the key to three of the fundamental elements of life; food, fuel and shelter, if you include land on which to build new housing and communal infrastructure. While food production has rightfully dominated farmers’ mindsets in the past, there’s no reason why other ‘goods’ can’t be successfully produced alongside food as sustainable and diverse products. With emerging and rapidly developing markets, such as carbon/environmental offset and enhanced levels of local leisure and recreation, the opportunities,

in particular in the more affluent South East, look relatively abundant, especially if we factor in a substantial intake of the populous from the wider metropolises. Despite the pending demise of the Basic Payment Scheme and the uncertainty of monies to be realised from the likes of the Environmental Land Management scheme and snap/pin-pointed grant funding, I remain confident in the robust rural economy being able to overcome such unprecedented challenges, move forward and prosper on the world stage. This will only be achieved, however, if those working within it are prepared to adopt a holistic approach and apply some lateral thinking to the decision making process. As a multifaceted land agent of some 25 years standing, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work for a variety of clients, including tenants, landowners, local authorities, institutions, celebrities and high net worth individuals. In adopting a position of ongoing analysis and assessment, those who have

proved to be most successful have had a cognitive plan from the outset and have subsequently been able to realise and ready resources and allocate them where best and most profitably deployed. Those with extra drive, determination and ambition have often carefully considered what has gone before, identified issues and options they might face in any journey and made decisions that remain continually under review so as to enable fluidity and flexibility within an ever-changing trading environment. This process has often been aided by pragmatic and thought-provoking professionals like myself, who now find strategic advice, and the introduction of specialists whenever needed to deliver upon the same, an increasingly important part of their own business model. So back to the government whip, who interestingly revealed he was a Remainer at the outset but an avid Brexiteer by the end of the transition period. As well as reassuring me that there would be a deal, he shared my view that this newly found independence, while problematic during initial decoupling, had the potential to make Britain great again. Whether or not you share in this optimistic analogy, we are all going to have to embrace significant change in the coming months and be positive and dynamic in doing so.


ANDREW SAMUEL MSC MRICS Managing Director T: 01435 810077 E:

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“May you live in interesting times” seems an apposite New Year wish for 2021. What will this year bring to the rural sector post-Brexit, the continuing impact of the pandemic notwithstanding? To add to those factors we have the roll out over time of major new regulation directly affecting the rural sector. First on the list of changes, the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) is to replace the BPS (with a clear message of support for environmental improvement to land). This change is likely to come fully on-stream by 2024. We await the commencement of the NFU “test and trial”, so watch this space for feedback from those who volunteered to stress test ELMS. The scheme will have a practical legal impact such as a requirement for amendments to covenants in farm business tenancies, and may also lead to an increased length of their term to facilitate long term projects. The second major piece of legislative change on the horizon is the Environment Bill, bringing significant changes in the shape of environmental tests for air quality, waste, resource efficiency, water and nature. These elements are individually big ticket items for the rural sector and present scope for meaningful engagement with long term arrangements in place on the land. Feeding into this is the on-going pressure on farmers to consider the alternative use of land, from battery storage to solar and wind farms. When this is coupled with the drive towards increased priority for the environment these sectors are likely to expand. As is ever the case in the South East, land is being targeted for development, and promotion agreements are likely to become commonplace.

Likewise there are likely to be further opportunities for change of use of both buildings and land. This will probably be a move away from pure agriculture to recreational and leisure as well as classic development. In considering both promotion and change of use opportunities, it’s essential that landowners take early advice from specialist rural planners and lawyers and run ideas past their tax advisers well in advance of making any changes. Lastly, an issue of growing awareness on the part of landowners is getting the structure of the farming operation clear, with the landowner becoming more involved at the heart of running the business rather than being a passive landlord. The reason for this is to maximise the potential for tax planning on death. The future of Agricultural Property Relief is uncertain, and the sector will almost certainly become more reliant on Business Property Relief, for which it is important, where possible, to run a rural enterprise as a properly constituted business with the correct documentation in place. All authorities, and particularly HMRC, respond


well to good documentation, so whether that means having in place a written partnership agreement, minuted partners’ meetings showing that the farmhouse is central to the farm, documented woodland management plans, written contract farming arrangements, or all of the above, they will help to build the case for potential tax relief. The truth, of course, is that the full impact of these changes will not be fully understood until they are in place and even then not until the limits and exceptions are tested. However it does seem that change often equates with opportunity, and it’s areas of impending change that the rural sector should spend serious time exploring. Rural Britain has a real opportunity to be front and centre in the environmental arena not just as custodians and managers of our countryside but also as producers. After all, more than ever, it remains the case that this country still needs farmers to produce our food, despite the current challenges and future changes that must surely remain a central component of the UK business plan as well as that of the individual farmer.


Partner, Rural and Agricultural Property T: 01323 435900 | 01424 457500 E:

GRANTS AND SUBSIDIES The Agriculture Act represents a significant policy change for the industry, introducing a raft of new schemes focusing on the environment, investment and farm profitability. Through the agricultural transition plan, the Government sets out its vision. It’s a useful starting point, although currently it does not provide all the answers and we await detailed, costed guidance.


Basic Payment Scheme: Cuts made from 2021, deeper than originally envisaged, with payments ending in 2028. Entitlements are likely to be “de-linked”, removing the need to match against land. Woodland grants: The Woodland Carbon Fund currently pays up to £8,500 per hectare for new tree planting, with the potential to increase income through carbon credits. With the Government’s manifesto commitment to increase woodland cover from 10% to 12% in England by 2060, we expect woodland creation and management to form key components of the new schemes. Countryside Stewardship: The existing Countryside Stewardship Scheme will remain open until 2024. The government intends to remove some of the bureaucracy which has affected uptake in the past.


The focus of policy centres on the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS), which consists of three themes: 1. The Sustainable Farming Incentive: Open to everyone supporting environmental husbandry such as improving soil, water, and hedgerows. Farmers are likely to opt for “packages” tailored to the farm type, with differing levels of management and payment. Available from 2022. 2. Local Nature Recovery: Creating, managing and restoring habitats, such as species-rich grassland. Similar to the Higher Tier of

Countryside Stewardship. Expected in 2024/5. 3. Landscape Recovery: Major changes to land use in order to significantly enhance the landscape, restore wilder landscapes and meet national targets. Likely to involve collaborative activity, over large areas. Expected in 2024/5. In addition to ELMS, a number of schemes will focus on increasing farm productivity and investment and are anticipated to be rolled out from 2021: • Farming Investment Fund: Grants for investment in new equipment and technology aimed at increasing business performance. Eligible investments might include robotic technology and equipment for processing agricultural products. • New Entrants Scheme: Funding to assist with accessing land and infrastructure. • Slurry Investment Scheme: A grant which will pay a proportion of the costs of covering an existing slurry store or creating new stores to meet environmental requirements. • Farming in Protected Landscapes: Payment for environmental and access improvements in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. • Animal Health and Welfare: Promotion of higher-welfare animals above required standards. Potential for a “payment by results” approach.


The details aren’t known yet, but grants and subsidies have been around for decades and many of the criteria are likely to be similar. • Does it meet the scheme requirements? For larger projects, writing an expression of interest and a proposal to demonstrate how your project fits within the aims of the grant can be required. • Value for money: Grants for capital equipment or building projects are likely to require two to three

individual quotes, to ensure value for money. • Finances: Most grants fund a percentage of the costs, with the farmer paying for the total up-front and claiming the grant element back. It is vital you have the funds or have secured the finance for your project before applying, to ensure financial feasibility. For significant projects your bank or our team of Agricultural Mortgage Corporation Agents can assist you with loan applications. • Planning Permission: As an example, the Slurry Investment Scheme starts in 2022. Planning permission for this or any development project will be required prior to the acceptance of a grant proposal, or the grant will be conditional upon such consent. Our planning team is experienced in farm building, storage, diversification and rural tourism ventures.


In short, yes. An exit scheme, or retirement fund, is proposed from 2022. It will enable an existing claimant to receive a lump sum payment based on the remaining BPS payments payable through the transition period.


At first glance the schemes look complex, but they offer significant opportunities for proactive farmers to invest in their business. Our team is experienced in grant funding, environmental schemes, planning applications and AMC finance. Call us today for a no obligation chat.

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“We have to be grateful for so many things Britain has brought to Europe – during the war, before the war, after the war… but now they have to pay!” – a direct quote from the wonderfully impartial former president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker! Time will tell if our industry will have to pay as a result of Brexit or indeed if we will benefit, writes Nick Holmes of Chavereys. What we do know is that things will change materially for our industry and I want to focus on three elements, financial planning, funding and tax. All of these elements dovetail into one another and all of these will be impacted by Brexit, in my opinion.



When I use the phrase ‘financial planning’ I am not talking about putting money into ISAs or pensions. I’m talking about something far more fundamental. This is the financial direction that your business will take in light of Brexit and the changes we now know will impact our sector. The most obvious impact is the BPS phase-out and the introduction of the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS). The reality is that most farming businesses and landowners will be materially impacted by this change. For in-hand farmers, the loss of BPS is likely to be materially damaging; for contract farmers this may well be the end of the road; and for landlords be prepared for your rents to crash – at least, this is what the doom mongers would have us believe! Personally I don’t see it. Yes, subsidy is an important part of many farmers’ incomes, but most farmers tend to evolve well and markets tend to surprise us; as I write, wheat is at £215/ tonne. Furthermore, the world is embarking on a journey to try to achieve net zero carbon emissions, and farmers and landowners will be a core cog in the machine that makes this happen. There will not only be money through ELMS but there will also be tonnes and tonnes of private

BREXIT IMPACTS THREE ELEMENTS sector money that flows into the industry to buy carbon offsets or further develop renewable technologies. Once upon a time I worked for a company whose strapline was “The future’s bright – the future’s Orange”. Well now, it seems, it’s green. If my positive prediction is correct, then why do you need a financial plan? Quite simply because the opportunities will take time to come and, unfortunately, for some they will never arrive. The frustrating part of the future farm policy in England is that we have no clarity on what these replacement environmental schemes will really look like in financial terms, but even so we cannot ignore the change that is coming. Therefore my advice is to plan ahead on a high level basis over the next five years. The starting point for any business has to be an understanding of how the BPS phase-out will impact on cash flow and what the opportunities are likely to be to replace this income or to cut costs. We should always remember the great adage that ‘turnover is vanity and profit is sanity’, and therefore cutting costs and streamlining businesses should be as much of a focus as replacing lost income. Any forward-looking bank is going to demand a financial plan from any reasonably geared business, so be prepared for this.


This first element leads me neatly onto to the second element, which is funding. Funding encompasses a whole range of sins, be it traditional bank funding, grant funding or asset finance. I am going to focus on bank funding. In recent years I have seen the levels of debt on most balance sheets skyrocket. There are various reasons for this. The first has been a significant increase in asset values. The second an appetite for banks in general to support agriculture and estates. The third is the amazing amounts of liquidity within markets, created by global monetary policy and the resultant historically low interest rates.

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Over the past couple of years I have seen a marked change in the attitudes of banks towards our sector and I expect this to continue. This change is to focus more on businesses that have a realistic ability to service and pay down debt and not just businesses with enough collateral. I expect this process to continue and we have to consider how Brexit will further impact on this and the evolution of the banks’ attitude to our sector. I am not convinced there will be a significant direct change in the banks’ attitude from the macro implications of Brexit other than in very specific sectors such as those that are labour hungry and likely to remain so, intensive horticulture being an obvious candidate. Inevitably the banks have been asking what plans are in place to replace labour if it becomes unavailable. My own view is that the problem will solve itself, and in reality those labourhungry sectors have been worried about labour availability for years and in practice most have coped. The biggest likely impact on the banks’ attitude is the change in agricultural policy. We have no idea how the removal of subsidy and the current government’s agricultural policy will ultimately impact on incomes and land values. We only have to go back 15 years and land was regularly changing hands at £2,000 an acre. Today we sit at a current value that averages somewhere around £8,000 an acre. Many farming businesses have loan to value ratios around the 50% mark. This means there is £4,000 of debt to every acre. If land values halve or worst still fall to levels seen just 15 years ago we will have a tsunami of defaults and some very red faced bankers. In my opinion this means banks will start to rationalise their loan books and indeed they already are, just very quietly. The banks will continue to weed out those businesses with unsustainable debt levels and will seek to trim debt levels where gearing is too high. For most of you this funding element is critical and therefore my advice is to review

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your funding structure now and avoid the bank making the decision for you.


I suppose I couldn’t write an article without mentioning Covid-19. We all know that tax will have to change as a result of the massive increase in government debt, but I believe tax was always going to change for our industry, regardless of the pandemic. I believe this change will again be driven by the change in our government’s attitude to agriculture and land use. We have to ask ourselves if the specific tax reliefs that our sector enjoys are important enough to stay, or put it another way, should be protected. Agricultural Property Relief (‘APR’) being the most high profile candidate. I struggle to see why our government would protect a relief that applies specifically to agriculture when in reality our politicians see

the countryside as an environmental landscape and not an industrial one. Perhaps this is a controversial comment but I also believe the majority of our population thinks the same. The tax system in the UK is far too complicated and far too expensive to administer. When you look at the likely evolution of our tax system following Brexit you have to consider where government’s focus is going to be. I believe this focus will be on a low carbon, high-tech economy, and therefore tax reliefs and incentives will focus on these. Perceived passive wealth will inevitably come under attack. Where we have to focus our politicians as a sector is on the low carbon part of the economy. We must continue to champion our industry’s ability to help get the UK to net zero. We should also remind them that food security is pretty important, too! In other words our message to government should be that our specialist tax reliefs, such

as APR, should be protected because we are critical to the solution, though if many of you won’t actually farm in the future under ELMS, the question is how will you achieve APR on a farmhouse; the simple answer is that you won’t, and for many, Business Property Relief may become a distant memory where investment activity starts to outstrip a diminishing trading activity. The message here is that all sensible succession planning should be implemented before the inevitable changes.


When you put these elements together, the message is to look ahead and have a financial roadmap that considers all three. My professional life has taught me that you ignore change at your peril, but if you embrace change you will thrive. It is not “Au Revoir,” Mr Juncker! “It is goodbye!”

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LEGAL BASICS The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated change for many business sectors and farming is no exception. Combine this with Brexit and this change feels fast and possibly daunting for many. How do you keep up with change and the legal challenges now posed? Here are a few pointers to keep your business and personal interests on track.





Start with the basics and ask: Is it time to change? Should you operate as a sole trader, traditional partnership, limited liability partnership or a limited company? Do you have family members or investors who would like to be more involved or who would like to take a step back from the business? Now is a good time to plan ahead, to think about issues such as protecting your family assets and the succession for the business. Review these options regularly, including the use of trusts to hold assets and money for future generations and where possible to maximise the opportunities for using tax reliefs available. Alongside this, review and update your Will regularly to ensure it still reflects your wishes and to ensure the continuation of your business interests.


Are you in business with someone else and do you have an agreement with them setting out matters such as how the business should be run, how the finances should be dealt with and how you may withdraw from the business? It is ideally important to decide these matters at inception while you are still friends because, if things go wrong, it may be costly to extract yourself and your finances. It is never too late, however, to put an agreement in place.


The Governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s move towards green policies will bring legally binding targets for farmers and landowners to help it achieve carbon neutral goals. With this in mind and alongside Brexit you should review any existing contracts you have in place to identify any risks of non-compliance within them. Also review future work practices to ensure they will be compliant or can be easily brought into line with any new legislation. Where contracts with customers or suppliers increase in value, this


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equates to an increase in exposure in the event of a default by either party. It is advisable to review all contracts carefully before they are entered into. In particular, you should consider limitations of liability on either side in light of the implications of a default. Today much business is conducted via the internet. The same considerations apply although they are often forgotten in the immediacy of the medium. You should be careful to ensure that your terms and conditions apply where required. Your contracting party may seek to impose its own provisions. Careful drafting will avoid problems.


Employment contracts should be reviewed regularly as it is an area of law which trips up businesses of all sizes, especially where procedures are not followed. Before advertising new vacancies, make sure those involved in the recruitment process have an understanding of equal opportunities and draw-up a job description and a person specification. Think carefully when writing the advert and use a standard application form.


You may need to seek investment for your business in the future, perhaps to finance diversification plans, and this could be by way of bank finance or loans from third parties. The lender is likely to seek some additional security. This could be by way of a debenture or mortgage. Alternatively, guarantees may be demanded. The implications of security should be considered carefully, and the documentation reviewed prior to completion.


How and when you exit the business should be considered if you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t plan to hand it on to the next generation. It could be by way of a sale to a third party, a management buy-out, a flotation on the stock market or a winding up. The process needs to be managed to protect your interests. You may be asked to stay on for a hand-over period or to take deferred consideration, dependent on the future profits of the business. All such arrangements must be structured to ensure that the desired outcome is reached. The buyer will undoubtedly seek assurances as to the assets of the business and its liabilities following due diligence. Due diligence can be onerous and time consuming and it is advisable to seek legal assistance to ensure that potential issues are identified at an early stage, avoiding delays at a later date. It also results in your lawyer being aware of all the facts, which is vital in protecting you from future liabilities under the assurances as to the assets and liabilities. Whatever your thoughts on Brexit, the future will always be brighter for those businesses that plan and are ready for the next chapter.


> Doug and Estera Amesz

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Having shared the agricultural industry’s concerns about Brexit ever since the 2016 referendum, I was relatively relieved when DEFRA announced the one year extension of the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP) in December. It was obviously a bit frustrating to receive the news days before Christmas, when people were beginning to think about the festivities rather than work, because we were champing at the bit. It was far better though, than being confronted with one of the worst-case scenarios the industry had been dreading in the months leading up to the decision. Now we’ve had a few weeks to get our heads around it and we’ve put together our tender to be one of the pilot operators, we’re very optimistic. Sitting here in mid-January, I could complain that we don’t have enough time to get things done for this season, but the extension is a very good step in the right direction, and in my opinion it should get the UK agricultural industry through this year. The purpose of the pilot is to spread the visas across the country’s agri-business sector as efficiently and effectively as possible, to ensure that farmers in every sector have enough labour to be successful. This is a huge task and needs to be looked at industry wide. At AG Recruitment we are focused on recruiting seasonal workers for agricultural businesses in the UK, which gives us unique insight into the challenges facing our sector. Already we are working closely with farmers the length and breadth of the country to ensure that in the limited time available their labour needs can be met. There will be plenty of challenges. As the pilot is unlikely to get off the ground until early April – four or five months after we’d normally have started recruiting labour for the upcoming season – there is no point denying we have a very tight time frame to operate to, but blaming Brexit or Covid-19 isn’t going to get us anywhere, and it certainly will not fill the fields, orchards and vineyards with pickers. Over and over again, however, especially in the past few years, the agricultural industry has proved it can deal with pretty much anything; so once again we will pull our sleeves up and meet this challenge head-on together. Last year, we brought around 6,000 seasonal workers into the UK for our clients, all of them through our eight overseas offices – four each in Romania and Bulgaria. With the 30,000 SWP visas coming into play post-Brexit, we are going to see a significant transition from Bulgaria and Romania to

Ukraine and other non EU-countries. In 2020, Bulgarian and Romanian seasonal workers represented roughly 85% of all the seasonal workers on UK farms. In 2021 that figure could drop to less than 60% and, depending on how many pre-settled workers choose to return from Bulgaria and Romania, potentially as low as 40%. It is very important that the industry uses the 30,000 SWP visas wisely, and it clearly necessitates a change in direction for us. Our existing offices will remain in place, but if we’re part of the pilot we will open three in Ukraine and test out other EU markets too, with a view to the future. Covid-19 was the curve ball from hell in 2020, and the industry did a remarkable job of dealing with it. However, a lot of uncertainty remains around how the restrictions will affect things through the next few months, and so it’s hard to predict accurately how many pre-settled/settled workers will return to UK farms this year. Even as the situation begins to improve in the UK with the vaccination roll-out, that is unlikely to be mirrored in every overseas country from which we recruit. We may be an attractive option to seasonal workers, but whether or not they will be able to travel is as yet unknown. While 2021 is our primary focus right now, DEFRA and the industry need to be thinking about 2022, because the extended pilot scheme is a one-year fix and we need a long-term method of recruiting seasonal workers that provides growers with confidence for their future. The Government insists (and the industry broadly agrees) that the agriculture industry moves towards greater automation, but we must see a medium-term to long-term commitment from DEFRA to access seasonal workers from outside the UK to give the industry the continued incentive to invest. Two more things. Firstly, congratulations to the NFU and UK growers for the lobbying work that helped to ensure this pilot extension takes place. And last, but not least, thank you to the industry for the support it has shown us in our bid to become one of the operators on the pilot scheme. It’s humbling, it means such a lot and it makes all the hard work our team puts in very worthwhile.


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Many farmers breathed a sigh of relief when a last minute trade deal was agreed between the UK and the EU, avoiding the threat of tariffs and quotas on agricultural exports. This would of course have affected some sectors more than others, notably those farming sheep. Such enterprises exist within the South East, but they are more characteristic of remote hill farming areas in all the four nations of the United Kingdom. I must admit to having a personal interest as my brother-in-law and nephew are sheep farmers in a remote part of Wales. They have merged three farms in order to run as lean and efficient an operation as possible, but the whole enterprise is reliant on selling sheep for meat and the price they receive is influenced by the 40 per cent or so of total output that goes to mainland Europe. The price received for wool scarcely covers the cost of shearing, if that, and rental income from properties and telephone masts is very much secondary. The suggestion made by one politician that sheep farmers could shift to beef ignores the realities of production. Farmers are generally enterprising and keen to keep input costs under control. One farmer I know in Yorkshire produces honey with a distinctive taste from the moors, but still principally relies on his contract with a leading supermarket. The more general point here is that the basic payment received by farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy is being replaced by a smaller domestic payment that is being phased out more quickly than some had anticipated, particularly for larger scale farms. Other new forms of payment will be available, principally the Environmental Land Management scheme, although that is still being developed and tested. Along with other payments, it will fall well short of compensating farmers for the loss of the basic payment which made the difference between profit and loss for many farm enterprises. It will also involve form filling, along with monitoring of outcomes, and is likely to be more suitable for farmers in remoter areas. This is not necessarily a bad thing from an overall policy point of view, but it may prove challenging, for example, for larger scale arable farmers in South East England. In areas like the South East there are, of course, opportunities for diversification that may not exist in remoter areas, particularly those

Wyn Grant is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Warwick and author of books and articles on agriculture including The Common Agricultural Policy. that are less suited to tourism. In this area as well, farmers have been very innovative in the range of ideas they have put into practice. There can, however, come a point where one is no longer running a farm business, but a farm that enhances other projects such as wedding venues, restaurants, shops and petting zoos. It is, of course, a personal business decision how far to go down this route, and a note of caution is necessary for late adopters. Much of


the low-hanging fruit has already been taken. The capital costs can be considerable and the skills required can be very different from decisions about what to plant, when to spray and when to harvest. That said, many farmers manage to both farm and run complementary businesses. Agriculture was the dog that didn’t bark in the night time in the very long legal text arrived at between the UK and the EU. Indeed, listening to the discussions during the negotiations, one was left with the impression that fisheries was the really vital sector, despite the fact that it accounts for a smaller share of the economy than agriculture. Fish did enjoy considerable symbolic value in terms of ‘taking back control’. There was an annex on trade in wine. This is not really my area of expertise, apart from enjoying it and investing in one well-known business in the South East. As with most such agreements, the devil is in the detail, but I would have thought that at first glance it was broadly acceptable to those growing grapes and producing wine in England. In simple terms what the annex says is that EU and the UK should import and consume each other’s wine, although the flow is clearly from the EU direction. The documentation required is limited to a certificate which can be produced electronically. The self-certification is limited to 11 relatively straightforward questions. The agreement will be reviewed after three years, a shorter period than for fisheries. At the time of writing, it is too early to assess the impact of new arrangements on trade flows. It should be noted that tariffs do apply to the re-export of some food products. Non-tariff barriers do exist in the form of complex customs declarations, and some smaller firms across the economy have stopped exporting to Europe at least for the time being. Perishable fish exports from Scotland have been held up because of incorrect paperwork and are then no longer fresh enough when delivered. Chilled meat shipments have also been held up. The British Meat Producers’ Association has stated that UK firms face a competitive disadvantage because of the requirement to complete an animal health certificate for every delivery of animal origin product to the EU. There are also new standards on wooden pallets and crates that may trip up the unwary. Some of this may, of course, simply amount to teething trouble with the new arrangements that will be sorted out and settle down in time, but they hardly make food trade easier.

The word diversification conjures up the usual long-established suspects such as business units, horses, holiday cottages and glamping. The reason they remain popular is that they are tried and tested, familiar to planning authorities and ‘safe’ for the most part. For anyone contemplating diversification of these types of businesses the list of considerations for planning is fairly obvious: access, impact on the landscape especially in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), the presence of habitat for protected species and the need for mitigation. If conversion is proposed, the main consideration is whether or not the building is reasonably sound. The more obscure limitations are the proximity to ancient woodland (now a planning Holy Grail), flood risk and, on occasion, contamination. Impact on the setting of listed buildings and scheduled monuments should be taken into account, too. A sound business plan is also useful and will be required where grant aid is being requested. Diversification is hard work, and where capital is needed there is always the restriction of the lending sector. Having said that, a friend’s parents gave him the deposit for a house which he promptly invested in developing a very successful shooting ground; finance can come from other sources, such as Folk to Folk. Glamping in all its forms is fun. Clients of The Rural Planning Practice offer various types of glamping accommodation including repurposed old-fashioned Oakley type horse boxes, buses and even Pink Floyd’s former road home. Glamping can be enhanced by other ‘added value’ activities and products including a catering service, foraging for food, a cookery school or ‘adventures’ such as quad biking. In a post Covid-19 world, the opportunity to meet face to face and enjoy ‘experiences’ will be greatly valued. People are also realising that a small but beautiful wedding or party can be very special, opening the way for small but unique venues. Post Brexit, as we are discovering, exporting


WILL BRING ENHANCED INCOME cheese to Europe is hard work. Having said that, we have an expanding domestic market for local produce; for example, the Cornish Box Company and the Jurassic Meat Company in Dorset, which will deliver to you that taste of the south west. The burgeoning wine industry in the South East and beyond is yet another opportunity. One cannot fail to be impressed with the enterprise developed at Tillingham, near Peasmarsh, where a hotel and vineyard were developed around a very ordinary set of traditional farm buildings. It has successfully turned itself into a destination. On the horse front there is a large market for riders seeking to ride ‘off road’. I was impressed by a farm in the Chilterns which provides parking and clearly waymarked routes for day visitors with their horses, and space for camping or glamping for those wanting to stay longer. Other clients are developing competition venues. I am currently working on two worthwhile projects for people with learning disabilities. One project is a ‘care farm’ where participants are taught horticulture and animal husbandry, which brings all sorts of other benefits including that all important self-confidence. Care farms can be made to work with more conventional farming set ups and are a way of achieving a modest diversification income with a worthwhile outcome.

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With the new mantra of ‘public money for public goods’ comes a growing understanding of what is called ‘natural capital’ and biodiversity offsetting. Natural capital is what it says on the tin; your farm, its woodland and waterbodies; all have the capacity to add to biodiversity. The use of land to develop habitat and for translocation of species requires commitment to that land use, but with more and more areas being taken for development, developers are seeking landowners willing to help. Development of housing or for business has to be a very productive diversified use of land but is clearly not reversible. If you have land reasonably close to civilisation you need to ensure it is promoted as part of the ongoing search for sites that every authority is duty bound to carry out. As we are all aware, sites that even ten years ago would have been out of the question are now built over. The demand for affordable housing is unmet and rural exception sites can bring enhanced land values. There is also the option of ‘build to rent’. Diversification in all its forms will hopefully bring enhanced income, some personal satisfaction and even amusement for those involved. It is also likely to bring pleasure, perhaps with better understanding of the countryside, to an increasingly urban population that does not have the privilege of living in the rural environment that so many of us hold dear. > Tillingham


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ENVIRONMENTAL PHILOSOPHY BEHIND CONTRACTING BUSINESS As an established supplier of woodchip for biomass boilers, Josh Penrose knew that the large tree trimmings he saw being burned on a bonfire could be put to a better use. The Sussex-based contractor saw the wood as a renewable resource and arranged to take it back to his yard for chipping, demonstrating not just his business acumen but his environmental philosophy. He applies the same thinking to the slurry application side of his business, where his aim is not just to empty the lagoon but to spread the valuable nutrients and trace elements it contains on fields that will gain the most benefit from it. “Slurry is not a waste product that needs to be got rid of, but a cost-saving,


yield-enhancing soil additive,” he commented. Penrose Contracting, based at Willets Farm, Chiddingly, has grown steadily since 2012 and specialises in forage harvesting as well as in woodchip supply and slurry application. After starting up on his own, Josh now employs up to 14 people during peak periods. That business growth has benefited from the support of Agrovista’s Ben Thorpe, who has worked closely alongside Josh in a professional relationship the contractor describes as “simply invaluable”. As Ben explained: “Penrose Contracting carries out a range of contracted services for many of my clients, so it is in their interests for me to support Josh and give him any technical backup he needs. Agrovista has a large,


specialist knowledge base to call on, and I am happy to share that knowledge with someone as committed to providing a first class service as Josh clearly is.” One of the areas where Ben’s advice has been useful has been in carrying out inter-row grass drilling in maize crops within South East water catchments. The aim is to reduce run off of soil and nutrients into watercourses, while also boosting carbon capture, benefiting the land and the water. Josh has also seen improved field worm counts using this practice. It is a specialist job which needs the right choice of grass which won’t compete with the crop, and needs careful planting at just the right distance from the maize. It’s also critical to sow the grass at exactly the right time. Josh carries out the work using an adapted combination drill that he conceived and built himself, and has seen impressive results. “Ditches locally are now running clear, proving that less topsoil is reaching the watercourses,” Ben commented. While the contracting business started, not unusually, with Josh offering a range of arable services such as ground preparation, hedge cutting and drilling, it was only about a year later that he spotted a niche in offering a new approach to slurry removal that focused on the benefits of putting a clearly valuable by-product to the best possible use. While he started spreading slurry using an umbilical system, Josh has since broadened his approach, again with the aim of offering a more environmentally sound and productive service to farmers. “Because the umbilical system relies on pumps and on a clear run from the lagoon to the field, you really are limited to spreading the product on nearby fields,” he explained. “Not only does that mean that fields further away are missing out, it also runs the risk of creating nutrient instability on the nearby fields, which can suffer from too much phosphate if you aren’t careful.” It was to provide a more comprehensive service that in 2013 Penrose Contracting invested in its first slurry tanker, allowing it to deliver vital nutrients to fields more than a kilometre or so away. With the increasing focus on making the best use of those nutrients – and bearing in mind the

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current focus on ammonia release – the company is moving away from application by splash plate and instead using dribble bars or shallow disc injectors. “This is a valuable resource and it makes sense to put it where it can do the most use,” said Josh, “rather than just splashing it across the field.” He added: “According to technical data on the DEFRA website, using a dribble bar reduces wastage by 35% compared with a splash plate, using a trailing shoe cuts it by 65% and spreading it via a disc reduces it by 90%. Add to that the likelihood of stricter regulations around ammonia in future, and the argument is pretty conclusive.” There will always be a place for umbilical slurry application, not least when bad weather means a speedy service is essential and might make it difficult for tankers to access fields. “We offer a comprehensive choice, but whatever approach we take we strive to deliver the best possible service,” said Josh. The company has also recently introduced a ‘nurse tank’ service, taking slurry to a stationary tank on a field edge and using an umbilical system, >>





<< dribble bar or deep leg injectors to spread it. “It’s a way of getting the slurry out to fields on the edges of the holding when the field conditions mean tankers could not travel without putting mud on the road,” Josh explained. Given the value of the commodity in the average slurry lagoon, Josh also uses agitators to make sure not only that the whole lagoon can be emptied but that the solid and liquid elements are mixed into a homogenous and more beneficial whole. “Consistency is key,” he explained. “Whether that’s in the slurry we are spreading, the carefully screened woodchip we supply or the forage crops we cut, we aim for a reliable, repeatable end product.” Using an agitator to break up the solid crust around the edge of the lagoon is so efficient that one of Josh’s clients has not had to bring in a digger for the past six years. Josh is keen to offer an analysis service for the slurry he delivers so that farmers fully appreciate the benefits of a home-grown input that reduces fertiliser costs while improving soil health and boosting crop growth.



After earning a National Diploma in Agriculture from Plumpton College in 2008, Josh worked his way around America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Although the family farm, Burgh Hill Farm, Chiddingly, had by that time been rented out, Josh was soon offered some contracting work locally, and jumped at the chance. “I never believe in turning down an opportunity, so I picked up a secondhand John Deere 7530 and a few bits of kit and started out,” he said. “I did 3,600 hours in that tractor in the first year.” Helping and inspiring him both then and now has been wife Charlotte, who deals with the paperwork generated by a thriving business. Penrose Contracting also operates a Pottinger forage wagon that runs alongside the self-propelled forager as a cost effective alternative in lighter forage crops which does not compromise on quality. The woodchip side of the business started in 2015. “Woodland management has always been a passion of mine and I have great memories of spending time as a youngster in the forest with my father Antony, who is

Specialists in wood chipping & agricultural contracting • Suppliers of Biomass wood fuel • Coppicing and Wood Chipping • Forage harvesting and Forage wagon • Cultivations and Drilling • Precision low emission Slurry application with Tanking and Umbilical

> Josh Penrose

very supportive of what I am aiming to achieve within the business.” Antony also has his own woodchip-powered boiler, which has given Josh a useful insight into the product and allowed Penrose Contracting to refine its service. The business also converts waste material from Copford Saw Mill into woodchip. As with other aspects of the contracting business, Josh began by working with Ben Nicholson in Ockley and using his chipper, focusing his own efforts on hauling the timber and distributing the end product. Now he not only has his own chipper, but a full range of tree shears, grapples and all other necessary machinery, together with extraction and haulage kit – everything that is needed to harvest, chip, screen and deliver it. Josh is always looking to acquire more standing timber, working with landowners to provide a resource within woodland management schemes. “You can’t stand still; you have to keep moving on,” he said. “Margins are smaller, machinery and labour costs are higher – you have to get the maximum output from your investment.”

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My prescient comments last month proved to be correct when I said there was “nothing to stop wheat reaching new market high levels”. It came to pass; May wheat futures on 15 December were £194, they increased to £217 on 18 January and have now lost £12 per tonne, being £205 on the 22 January. This may be just profit taking, as derivative markets are more likely to respond – to, say, rain falling in South America – but that does not make physical grain any easier to buy in the cash market. Apart from a brief period back in the disastrous year of 2012, the current levels are the highest seen in the 21st century, and they still have the chance of remaining so for the next month or two. Over the past months, I have identified that the reasons for this are: China’s sudden increased demand for soya, then maize, and its barley demand switching from Australia to France; the knock-on effect on Russia and Ukraine prices, as a lack of port capacity in the US meant China switched to these origins; finally, in December Russia imposed an export tax to try to reduce its internal price and restrict exports, none of which has worked. The extended ‘lockdown’ in the UK, France and Germany is a two-edged sword. As I have said before, ‘demand destruction’ came and went last time but it did not last. This time beer sales and therefore malt offtake are most affected so far. It may be that some end users won’t mind some ‘demand destruction’, especially if they are short of stock.

Unlike the market, Brexit went out with a whimper; with no levies on grain exports to the EU, barley continues to be shipped. On the other side, UK flour millers are now able to carry on buying German milling wheat, and they are, for the rest of the year. They have been using it since harvest and they want the continuity of quality, in some cases preferring it to home grown. With UK wheat still in short supply, new crop cargos of French feed wheat are already being purchased to ensure there is sufficient to cover their July and first half August positions. On the back of our firm old crop wheat markets, new crop has edged up with it. The AHDB Early Bird Survey has published a planted area; if combined with an average yield of 8.3 tonnes per hectare, it would mean a wheat crop of 15.1 million tonnes, compared to 9.5 million this year. Our farmers’ groups in the Midlands reckon this to be optimistic as some have only planted 50%, with southern farmers having planted a lot more. But it’s mostly sat in very wet conditions and is unlikely to look much good for at least a month and the black grass situation has still to be addressed. That said, at 15 million metric tonnes, plus the usual 1.5 million metric tonnes carry in of old crop, you have the game changer! That means the UK wheat market shifts from the minimum import price (which has given ELVED PHILLIPS us great price protection this year) to competing with cheaper Openfield origins for exports. However, we have a long way to go before that


becomes fact, if it ever does. Meantime you still have amazing prices which are inverse to new crop by about £40 per tonne. That means two things for sure. Firstly, almost nothing will be carried from old crop into the new. Secondly, however much the end user is held to ransom now, by being forced to pay up for the old crop, they will not buy one tonne more than they have to at those differentials! So, whether it’s French new crop or early cut UK wheat and barley, they will switch to that at the first chance and at that point these high prices will be history. Now that may not be until June or if and when there is any real ‘demand destruction’ beforehand, but the music will stop one day. So my comment last month about the “trend being your friend” is still valid. Even with the recent downturn these are fantastic unexpected prices on old crop and should tempt even the most bullish long holder into selling some more. So it’s the same advice as before; smaller parcels marketed at exponential price increases can never be wrong. The UK still has to import a lot of wheat and maize to see it through until even the French new crop arrives, so use this time to sort out your new crop marketing strategy. Whether it’s pools, trackers or direct marketing, you can probably adjust your original feed wheat budgets from £150 to £170, but don’t forget to sell some, if your crop development looks about right. To reiterate, there remains a long way to go on old crop and even more on new, but when selling it’s better to get out at ten minutes to twelve o’clock rather than one minute past!



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STEPHEN CARR Arable farmer


GREENER ALTERNATIVES I’ve never been one to spend a great deal of money on a farm 4X4. If I have any spare cash, I prefer to invest it in machines than will make me savings in the field, like a more efficient fertiliser spreader or an upgrade in my cultivation equipment. So, provided my truck gets me from A to B, anything will do. For decades, then, I have been scraping around the farm in a Land Rover 90, which is so old it was manufactured long before anyone thought to call it a ‘Defender’. I bought it very second hand for £2,000 20 years ago and it is now written down to a value of £25 in the farm accounts. It has a canvas tilt that is great in summer but decidedly chilly in winter. On the face of it, then, my farm 4X4 provision is very economical. But, as anyone who’s run an old Land Rover knows to their cost, they are not necessarily the most reliable of vehicles. They suffer regular problems, including a capacity for eating universal joints on the driveshaft and a tendency for the chassis to rust. Endless repairs become tedious but, increasingly, there is another difficulty with my not very reliable old workhorse: air pollution. When I first fire it up in the morning, so alarming is the cloud of black smoke that belches out of the exhaust that I have to drive quickly away, fearing the health consequences of breathing in the dangerous ‘particulates’ C now identified as a major health hazard with diesel engines. But driving any sort of fossil-fuelled vehicle, let alone a 36 year-old diesel-guzzling- M smoke-stack of a Land Rover is also becoming less and less acceptable Y from a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint. CM So I find myself considering greener alternatives. But, as yet, 4x4 MY electric vehicles aren’t very thick on the ground. Land Rover has produced a new Defender in ‘hybrid’ form, but the electric mileage range seems likeCY a token gesture (27 miles) and the £81,000 price tag is surely a joke as farCMY as working farmers are concerned? K So what to do? With the sale of all petrol and diesel cars due to be illegal in the UK by 2030, it is predicted that by 2024, 230 different electric vehicles will be available to British consumers. My latest brainwave is to wait until Tesla or other brands of electric vehicles become so thick on the ground that the drive mechanisms from insurance write-off s can be purchased cheaply. Then one of these can be slipped into my old Land Rover in place of the 2.5 litre diesel engine, along with some rechargeable batteries. Surely this is the perfect solution to my farm 4x4 requirement? Not only does it avoid all the emissions from the manufacture of a new vehicle, but

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it will leave me with a stylish retro-look truck that will turn heads wherever I drive it. Best of all will be watching the faces of my fellow farmers as I silently pull away from the forecourt of my local agricultural engineers in my 1985 Land Rover… reaching 0-60 in 3.1 seconds. Tempting as all this sounds, such a conversion will have to be cheap. Nothing I have seen so far about my farming future in the UK post-Brexit, particularly the swingeing cut in Basic Payments this year, leads me to think I will soon have surplus cash to splash on anything remotely flash. JB 2020 Adverts V1.pdf





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IS IT DRAINAGE OR WATER MANAGEMENT? Dick Neale, Hutchinsons’ soils expert and technical manager, shares his point of view.


Drainage is generally considered to be the process of emptying a place or mass of liquid. In the relationship with soil, drainage is about controlling any excess water beyond that which the soil can naturally hold or store. It is key to understand the component of water storage in soil. Just being focused on moving water through and out of soil as quickly as possible during wet winter periods ignores the needs of crops later in the year, when they will be reliant on the soil’s ability to store and then release that water. Without a focus on storing water during the winter, there will be no water to sustain growth in the summer. There is an increasing realisation that our soils are becoming degraded. This occurs most rapidly and severely at the soil surface, where we focus cultivations and where the weather has most direct impact. The past two seasons have seen severe ponding of water at the soil surface following periods of heavy rain. Some of these ponds disappear in two or three days, while others persist for weeks. Where ponding occurs, the first area to inspect is the soil’s ability to allow water to infiltrate the soil

surface. This is not drainage in the accepted sense; the drainage out of the soil may be working fine, but without the ability of the water to infiltrate the soil surface, it can never reach the drains and, equally, it cannot be stored for future use. Water management is about controlling the infiltration, flow, storage and release to plants of that water, which is fundamentally different to the focus of getting water out of soil as fast as it falls. Maintaining drainage via the jetting of pipes, cleaning of ditches and installation of moles is of course vital in high clay level soils where naturally impervious layers of clay exist, but the need for water to infiltrate the soil surface must be an area of focus; it’s where things are going wrong. Surface stability and ability to allow water entry is down to soil aggregate stability. Aggregates are built and stabilised via natural processes, organic matter, roots, microbiology and worms. There is no machine you can buy to sort this – in fact cultivation implements are the single most disruptive tools in aggregate destruction. That does not mean there is no place for an appropriate cultivation, but it must be utilised in conjunction with natural soil surface protection and

stabilisation. These only come from biological processes; cover crops shielding the soil from direct rain impact and roots stabilising the moved soil and managing water, worms moving soil and creating bio pores for water movement to depth and the aggregates themselves, providing resilience to weathering and the pore space for long term water storage. Cover crops are not practical in every situation, and species make-up of that cover is vitally important within the water management cycle. However, volunteer growth or crop residue can be employed successfully to reduce soil surface degradation and capping; there is a good reason why stubble fields often remain pond free and walk clean after heavy rain whereas the cultivated seedbed next door is ponding and you sink to your ankles. This is because we have destructured the soil and disrupted water flow through excessive or unstable cultivation, whereas the soil below the stubble remains in a naturally structured state with the surface protected via the standing stubble. It’s important that we learn from what we observe.


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Welcome to 2021, a new year and time to look to new horizons. We have finally managed to “get it done” and become an independent and sovereign country free from the shackles of the EU and its burdensome administration; fortunately, we managed to leave with a deal, which has secured (largely) the European market for our lamb and sheep meat, a very significant positive deal for the sheep sector. As with any major change, the transition has not been without its issues, but considering the last-minute decision and the lack of time in which to adapt to the new systems that are now in place, we have managed quite well, although some hauliers would probably not agree. Whatever the timing, it was inevitable, with the UK (or most of it) now classified as being a third party trader, that there would be some teething issues. For the sheep sector one of the major concerns must be the hold-ups generated by veterinary certification problems at abattoirs, although even here we have been relatively fortunate, since lamb and sheep meat is not quite so time critical as fish and white meats. For the latter, delays at ports due to incomplete, inaccurate or missing paperwork for perishable products has cost some producers tens of thousands of pounds. But let’s not dwell on the problems; this is a time of new opportunities, of new horizons, a time to focus on the positives. Now is a good time for producers to take stock and reassess their position. OK, we still have no clarity as to where access to support is going to take us in the next five or ten years, or what changes to legislation we will see. There will, no doubt, be some who take the decision to forgo continued support, but I suspect there is a significantly larger proportion who will adopt a rather more pragmatic approach. The only clarity we do have is that the future direction of support measures will not be aimed at production but at the delivery of “public goods”, not a precisely defined term but a package that will undoubtedly include fresh environmental

ALAN WEST Sheep farmer

measures in the broadest sense of the word. Future measures will encompass the wider environment, the one in which we all have to live. Air and water quality will be part of this, as will carbon reduction, which will almost certainly be a dominant consideration. These are all spheres in which we, not just as sheep producers but as part of a wider farming community, can play a significant role; the way we manage our soils can make a significant contribution to improving all of these critical areas. There are issues arising from these areas that affect us all, an obvious example being the negative impact that changes in weather patterns over the past few years have had on the sector; just how much these changes have been influenced by increased levels of CO2 is, to a degree, irrelevant. There are not many (at least this side of the Atlantic) who would deny that human activities have made some contribution to the changing weather conditions (or weather patterns) that have generated significant problems, not just for the sheep sector, but for farming in general. I have spoken to a number of sheep keepers recently who, in the light of quite significant challenges generated by a series of hot and dry summers, have reduced ewe numbers in an attempt to equate forage demands to tight supplies of grass over the summer grazing season, a situation that has been exacerbated by the effects of several very wet winters. Having struggled to keep sufficient grass in front of ewes after two years of drought conditions and wet winters, I have certainly adjusted my ewe numbers. In addition, conversations with several scanners would seem to indicate some very variable and disappointing scanning results this season, due largely, I suspect, to inconsistencies in ewe body condition going to the tup, again probably as a result of tight grass supplies at a time when ewes should have been regaining condition post weaning. As individual producers there is nothing we can do to influence the weather, but as an industry we are able to make a contribution to preventing further deterioration by supporting a cut in future CO2 emissions and possibly even helping to soak up existing CO2. The livestock sector, particularly ruminants, have become an easy target for some of our critics, most of whom have their own agenda to pursue; we have been vilified for our supposed contribution to CO2 and methane emissions and their contribution to global warming. Some claims are grossly exaggerated, but we cannot deny that we do make a contribution. Methane is a product of rumen fermentation, fact; we can reduce levels of production by adjusting


feeding regimes for our sheep, but we can’t stop them. Methane is, however, a bit of a red herring. It is a powerful greenhouse gas that does make a significant contribution to global warming, but it is short-lived and is broken down quite readily in the atmosphere. Methane produced today simply replaces that produced 10 years or so ago, and it has always been thus. Efforts to reduce methane from our sheep could, potentially, contribute to a net reduction in atmospheric methane, rather than preventing increases. The situation is not quite the same with CO2. Since we began cultivating soil to grow crops, we have been releasing CO2 that had been locked up in the soil, perhaps for millennia, largely bound up in organic matter. It is here that we have the potential to provide the greatest impact; simply by adjusting our methods of production and adopting practices and systems that contribute to rebalancing soil health, by regenerating the soil biome and building up levels of organic matter, we can once again begin to sequester potentially huge quantities of CO2. A healthy and biologically active soil is able to produce healthy crops with much reduced levels of inputs, further reducing global warming by reducing the contribution made in both the manufacture and use of artificial fertilisers. Since reading English Pastoral, I have been motivated to explore and research some of the wider aspects of sustainable and regenerative



FOR UK LAMB We have seen an extraordinary past few weeks January was £113, up by some £27 on the year. for the livestock industry, with a late Brexit deal Top runs of hoggets in recent weeks have included ELWYN DAVIES Reporting on the sheep bringing much relief to the sheep sector, hogget 64 Beltex cross (43 to 47kgs) to £129 (average £125) market at Ashford prices rocketing to unprecedented high levels from R Tilley, Surrey; 188 mainly continental cross T: 01233 502222 early in the year from an already strong base and (42 to 48kgs) to £130.50 (average £120) from M R a new record of 154 cull cows on the second week Woodroofe, East Sussex; 120 mainly continental cross in January at Ashford Market. (40 to 45kgs) to £131 (average £118) from J Wayman, Already in the first three weeks of 2021, 238 individual vendors from West Sussex Surrey; 80 Charollais cross (40 to 49kgs) to £122 (average £118) from S T Phillips, right around the South East to Hertfordshire have sold stock at Ashford Market, Kent; 129 Suffolk x Mule (41 to 50 kgs) to £124 (average £115) from H J Hecks & Son, with 60 individual buyers from 18 different counties, from as far west as Dorset and East Sussex; and 138 Charollais cross (33 to 41kgs) to £117 (average £105) from Carmarthenshire, as far north as Yorkshire and Lancashire and from the Midlands Beslee Farms, North Kent. A pen of 44kgs superb Beltex crosses topped the pence and Eastern Counties. This highlights the strength of the live auction markets, a per kg at £130 (295p/kg) from C A Worley Farming Ltd, Maidstone. facility to accommodate large numbers of stock with a competitive auction to set the The prices have been equally bullish in the store hogget and cull ewe sections. price. There is no better way to market your livestock and long may it continue for The demand for the stores has improved due to the strong prices available for the the benefit of the whole industry. finished product and the abundance of keep available. Best stores are now selling As previously reported, the sheep trade has been strong all season and December readily around £100 and only small, long-keeping sorts have made below £80. In carried on in much the same vein, with overall averages around 210p/kg and recent weeks the best ewes have attracted prices in excess of £100, with superb finishing towards 230p/kg by the end of the month. On average these prices were continental crosses up to £145 from A Denning, Kent; Suffolk cross up to £118 from some 25p/kg or approximately £10 per head above those achieved last year and T Masters, Sussex; best Mules and Romneys mid £90s and the majority of plainer some 40p/kg above the five-yearly average. As usual the market between Christmas leaner sorts £50 to £75. and the New Year saw the peak of the December trade, with the best lambs The future looks bright, with supplies remaining tight for the rest of the hogget attracting good premiums in excess of 250p/kg, an overall average of 230p/kg and season as national slaughtering of the 2020 crop of lamb has been slightly higher gross prices up to £119 for the best heavyweights. than the previous two years due to earlier marketing and uncertainty surrounding Without doubt there was some anxiety within the industry, particularly amongst Brexit. those with finished lamb ready for market, as both sides struggled to compromise As a consequence, the carry over of hoggets into the first quarter of 2021 will be and finalise a deal on Brexit and punitive tariffs on sheep meat became a real threat. down on previous years and this will certainly be the case in the South East, with As a result, throughputs at markets nationally were slightly up on the year, many producers selling earlier in the year due to the drought, and the majority with Ashford selling just short of 7,000 head in December, up by 5% on 2019 of specialist finishers of store lamb in our area are reporting lower numbers. In figures. This resulted in exceptionally tight supplies early in the new year, and addition, recent statistics on UK flock numbers have also been revised downwards, prices just rocketed with overall averages around 270p/kg, best export type with the June census indicating a drop of 3% in breeding sheep, the lowest level handy weights close to 300p/kg and heavyweights selling readily in the £120 since 2012. to £130 bracket. The overall gross average at Ashford Market on Tuesday 12 Keep the stock coming; we have the buyers and competitive prices to match.

agriculture. I am not an advocate of organic sheep production, an area I have investigated several times over the years and that works well for some but does not suit my situation; conversely, the more I have read about and understood regenerative agriculture, the more convinced I am that it is one of the ways in which sheep production may be able to move forward and make progress in a manner that may be in tune with future support measures. If it isn’t, it certainly should be.

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Sadly, there appears to be more positive work carried out in this direction in the USA, often considered to be the rat’s nest of intensification (in reality 21% of US farmland is under regenerative agricultural systems), and Canada, than in the UK. There are some UK producers who have picked up the baton and appear to be rapidly catching up with developments across the Atlantic, but I suspect that much of the potential for progress in the UK is inhibited by entrenched attitudes. I am not saying that regenerative agriculture is

the solution to all of our problems; likewise I would not be so bold as to advocate that it is what we should all be doing, but it does seem to tick quite a few boxes and may be at least part of the solution in mitigating the impact of some of the issues that we have faced and will continue to face. For anyone who is interested in exploring this further, Dirt to Soil by Gabe Brown is an excellent read. He’s American but, hey ho, now we are an independent and sovereign country we shall be looking west across the Atlantic rather more.


ADVICE FROM THE VET As the mild and wet winter seems to be endlessly dragging on and the limited supplies of straw and forage from the meagre harvests of 2020 are dwindling, now is the perfect time to look ahead towards turnout and plan for the coming grazing season, writes Jack Balkham BSc (hons) BVSc MRCVS from Westpoint Sevenoaks and Ashford. As turnout approaches, we move our attention from diseases of housing (pneumonia, lice and ringworm) to those more prevalent during grazing and what we can do to lessen the risk or impact of these diseases and optimise herd performance. The primary diseases we concern ourselves with at this time of year are lungworm, leptospirosis and clostridial diseases. This list of diseases is far from exhaustive, though, and I hope that these and others are covered within your farm’s herd health plan.



Lungworm, or husk, is a common parasitic disease of cattle caused by the worm Dictyocaulus viviparous. It is primarily a disease seen at grazing, with animals infected by ingesting parasitic larvae from pasture. Adult lungworm, present within the lungs of cattle, produce eggs which hatch to become larvae which are subsequently coughed up and passed in the faeces of the cattle. These larvae then develop to become infective over the course of approximately one week on the pasture, at which point they may be ingested by cattle, migrate and mature to become adult lungworms themselves, approximately three weeks after ingestion. The clinical signs will vary in severity but include an increase in respiratory rate, weight loss, reduced yield, coughing (from two to three weeks after infection) and death. Although the disease is treatable using avermectin/milbemycin anthelmintics, losses may still occur in an outbreak situation. Cattle will develop an immunity after one to two


months to lungworm if exposed at low levels, but this is unreliable and so vaccination should be considered where there is a deemed threat of lungworm. It has been estimated that outbreaks of lungworm will cost between £50 and £100 per head, with additional losses of £3 per cow per day for milking cows (COWS, 2020). Outbreaks are most commonly seen in first and second season grazing animals, with larvae numbers greatest in mild and wet summers where pasture is heavily stocked. Disease prevention may be achieved through vaccination or repeated use of anthelmintic treatments. Considering the desire to reduce the development of resistance within worm populations to wormers, the former is a more desirable approach. Bovilis® Huskvac has now been available for a number of years and has been successfully used on many farms. It is an oral preparation with a basic dosing schedule with animals over eight weeks of age receiving two doses, four weeks apart, to be completed two weeks before turnout. As with any disease treatment or prevention programme, please discuss this with your vet to ensure an appropriate and targeted approach on your farm with regards to the assessment of specific risk, implementation of diagnostic testing, the implementation of relevant treatment and preventative measures.


Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of cattle that may also be passed to humans (causing influenza-like symptoms). There are several

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> Westpoint_It is prudent to vaccinate all stock pre-turnout


different strains of the bacteria but the most important are Leptospira interrogans serovar hardjo and Leptospira borgpetersenii serovar hardjo. Cows become infected through contact with urine, semen or reproductive fluid of infected animals or from sheep and shared watercourses. Leptospirosis is primarily a reproductive disease of cattle, with losses seen through abortion and infertility, although reduced yield, jaundice and urinary infections may also be seen. Because the major risk of the disease being introduced to the herd comes from sheep or shared watercourses, summer is the highest risk, so it is prudent to vaccinate all stock pre-turnout to provide protection for the herd and staff.


Blackleg, botulism and tetanus are just three of the major clostridial diseases of cattle. Clostridia are bacteria which readily multiply once an animal has been infected, often leading to sepsis and death. A cow becomes infected with clostridia by ingestion or inoculation with their spores (via a graze or wound), which are highly resistant and remain in soil for years. Due to the severity of clostridial diseases and the relatively inexpensive nature of the vaccine (from approximately 60p per dose), protection against these diseases of grazing animals is highly recommended and I advise you to speak to your vet regarding vaccination. Identify risks specific to your herd and plan ahead as we look forwards to summer 2021, and with some proactive health planning let’s ensure it’s a healthy and productive one!



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There was a sheep bonanza at the start of the year, with old season lambs fetching the highest prices seen. A general shortage of numbers throughout the country resulted in a fast trade for all old season lambs sold, with more desperately wanted in all areas. Lambs are trading up to £140 per head on a regular basis, with market averages over £110 for several weeks running. This included all lambs and all weights. There was a remarkably strong trade for lambs weighing 37kg to 39kg if of good conformation and finish. The trade had a slight blip just before the end of the 2020 due to the uncertainty of Brexit, but that was soon forgotten. Even closing down the catering and restaurant trade did not seem to affect the large lambs, which were keenly sought by all buyers. As always, presentation was important and those vendors who managed to keep their sheep dry and empty saw the benefit. The year has started off tremendously well for sheep producers and let us hope it continues. The cull ewe trade is also benefiting from a sharp rise, reflecting the increase in old season lamb trade. Cattle numbers are desperately short in Colchester and many more could be sold to advantage. Due to a lack of numbers, buyers were unable to support us as they would wish; please do contact us if you have anything that you wish us to advise on. In excess of 60 prime cattle are wanted every week to satisfy normal trade, without the uncertain buyers who turn up. It is frustrating that with more buyers present than there have been for many years, there are fewer cattle forward. The store cattle trade is still strong for those forward, but as usual at this time of year numbers are short. The high feed costs and general lack of bedding has affected the number of people with cattle in yards, which is disappointing. TB regulations are also causing uncertainties, and many of the traditional feeders in the Essex/Suffolk areas do not have cattle. Again, please contact us if you have any to sell; we have a ready demand and we need to maintain that demand. The cull cow trade was also increasing as the year drew on, as would be


A six-week campaign to encourage British shoppers to buy lamb is estimated to have generated an additional £2.45 million in sales, The Make it Lamb campaign, which brought together the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and its Scottish and Welsh counterparts, ran in July and August last year to capitalise on the barbecue season. Data shows that the £440,000 campaign generated a return of £5.59 in retail sales for every £1 spent on the activity and drove an additional 272,000 shoppers to buy fresh lamb. The cross-channel mix of promotions reached 74% of British households and resulted in over half a million visits to the industry bodies’ consumer websites. Make it Lamb built on the success of its predecessor, Make it Steak, which saw beef revenue grow by almost £10 million across Britain.

expected. This is still a very strong section of the beef trade. The pig trade is in the doldrums, with falling prices each week, and any pigs that are not on a contract or regular sale are difficult to place to a realistic level. It is strange when the lamb trade is so dear that the pork trade is so low, with 75kg deadweight pigs coming to roughly the same as a 44kg liveweight lamb. The cull sow trade is also in the doldrums, with low price levels for all stock sold due to issues on the continent. We do need to see a change very soon in the pig trade otherwise the few remaining independent producers will find it difficult to continue. With the high cost of soya, and feed wheat and barleys at exceptionally levels, there is little light at the end of the tunnel. As always we strongly recommend that all producers use the live system to maximise their return and see transparency in their pricing.

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> The old herd under their airy new roof in Northern Ireland



With our break from Europe resolved, one wonders how much real thought has taken place over Britain’s longer term food security – particularly by DEFRA and the NFU. Has their populist backing of environmentalists like Chris Packham, George Mombiot – and perhaps even Greta Thunberg – over the proposed planting of countless millions of largely unproductive deciduous trees annually on 30,000 acres of England’s productive arable and livestock soils rather blinded their senses? This grand scheme is on land which, regardless of climate change fears, will be increasingly needed as backup replacement for crops from Europe, indeed the globe, as world populations continue to explode. Perhaps our administrators and designers should be focusing more urgent attention on aircraft and on diesel and petrol engined vehicles and their likes, rather than on taking good arable land out of food production. The world has been quick to see the beneficial effect of less use of all these things this past difficult year, as fewer flights and less traffic have clearly improved air quality; one can presently see the stars much better on clear nights. These changes could perhaps also have helped repair the huge hole previously reported in the ozone layer over the southern hemisphere. Nature is a great healer and any damage is probably not irreparable. Playing down these positive things might well prove that gloom mongers around the world really don’t want any good climate news, rather preferring to make their living spreading bad news? “Bad news sells newspapers,” they always said. Now it is available to everyone via instant headlines on the internet, pushing as many lies ‘across the ether’ as truth. Are they deliberately keeping all good news to a minimum and just picking up on the negative stories? The obsession of some, labelled these days as ‘influencers’, seems to many of us actually involved in growing, rather than just talking about growing, quite terrifyingly stupid. Their enthusiasm over planting such huge areas of trees, of rewilding farmland, and the influence they have on actual policy makers, appears almost frightening. The utter rubbish these people talk about rewilding, introducing alien species of predators, the deliberate neglect

(by our useless, limp, Environment Agency) of many rivers, winter flooding even more valuable farmland for wildfowl… The fact that some in higher positions of influence now even talk in similar language (think Michael Gove and George Eustice) is increasingly disturbing. There is some personal interest here because, as some readers may recall, we have spent time and funds over the past ten years planting trees on hill country and even on mountain sides ‘north of the border’. But this is on land which has either been given up as stock country or has never really been viable for growing anything other than trees. This is a policy clearly supported by some more progressive Scots, of which thankfully there are many, so there remains strong support, in the way of establishment grants, for the work.

to record these things so long ago? Does it not seem the height of irresponsibility to even consider annually planting 30,000 acres of some of our perfectly workable, fertile soils with trees when the land may well be needed for feeding and housing our population? And that may be the case a lot sooner than many may think. But then, what do I know? I’m only a farmer.



Our trees will not be fit for commercial harvesting for some 25 years (during which time they will be quietly absorbing carbon) and are obviously considered valuable enough to warrant useful levels of Scottish Government support. This comes from a political group (the Scottish National Party), which is not always inclined to do positive things. The crop is generally utilising land which wouldn’t grow anything else, unlike the generally more workable land south of the border which English politicians, of both main parties, seem to be falling over themselves to sterilise for ever. Once given over to trees, the practicalities/cost of restoring it to its former condition are quite prohibitive. Meanwhile our increasing housing and industrial development is fast reducing Britain’s diminishing workable acres (please, no longer hectares) to a scarcer national asset by the year. Yes, the climate might well be changing, but it has been changing since the planet formed. I have seen changes during my own lifetime and made observations. Weather runs in cycles, some long some short, and while we hear weather forecasters telling us “it’s been the hottest/driest/wettest spell ever recorded,” that means little. I have seen some Alpine glaciers retreat some 1,000 to 1,500 ft, up some of the most famous mountains in the world in the past 60-something years, but who can conclusively prove that these glaciers have not ‘gone up and down’ quite regularly over the past eons? So, while those forecasters might say “ever recorded” or “since records began”, who was there


We had some pleasing news of my old herd in Ireland just before Christmas. You may recall they have gone back into another robotic set up and are clearly enjoying life. A bunch of first calving heifers born, bred and partly reared here in Sussex have recently calved down and are producing between 32 and 40 litres a day. They remain a pure British Friesian herd. Those yields must compare favourably with those of more milky, boney Holsteins and these animals will last and perform many years longer than Holsteins. Paul Smith, their owner, is also developing and setting up a business marketing a ‘stock friendly’, airy cattle roof with polycarbonate roofing. Have a look at it on the net, under ‘Greenhills systems’. The cows in the pictures are my old herd, lying around basking in the publicity. And, by the way, I have no financial interest.


I do, though, have a small interest in my new book about my past 20 years in farming, priced at only £11 in the UK, with £2 from each sale going to RABI and lots of pretty pictures. Contact

NICK ADAMES Former dairy farmer





We all agree that in principle prevention is better than cure. Vaccines are a remarkable invention and have had a major impact on the worldwide incidence of animal (including human) diseases and have even led to the complete eradication of several diseases e.g. Rinderpest in 2011 and Smallpox in 1980. There are 38 cattle vaccines and 18 sheep vaccines currently licensed for use in the UK. It’s true that in recent years the sales of vaccines have increased and sales of antibiotics decreased, but there is still considerable scope for further increasing the use of vaccines in the control of farm animal diseases and further decreasing antibiotic use. Reasons often quoted on farm for not using a vaccine are either the cost of the vaccine or concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine. A bad experience with an expensive vaccine can prejudice future vaccine decisions. Often there has been an over reliance on the vaccine to the detriment of other basic hygiene measures. Vaccines are improving and new farm animal vaccines are being developed and launched on the market, in stark contrast to the absence of any new antibiotics being developed for farm animal use. It is vital that professional advice is sought on the choice of vaccine used and that that advice is based on an accurate diagnosis and a knowledge of the range of vaccines available so that a bespoke vaccination programme can then be created. This will reduce the chance of vaccination failure and increase the chance of it becoming a cost effective exercise. Here are a few vaccines that I feel are under used: • Footrot vaccine in sheep • Blackleg vaccine in cattle • Pneumonia vaccine in calves • Mastitis vaccine in straw yarded dairy cattle Last month saw funding approved for field trials of a cattle TB vaccine to start now, so maybe one day that will be added to my list too, and yes, I have had my Covid-19 vaccination!


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With face-to-face events cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, members of the National Register of Sprayer Operators (NRoSO) are being encouraged to sign up for an online course. Both City & Guilds and the NRoSO board are ensuring members can continue their essential training and gain NRoSO and BASIS points by switching to annual training online at The course content, supplied by the same team as is responsible for the annual training event, will be similar to that on offer at the face-to-face events. Operators can choose to take an Arable or Fruit version of the course, with both providing eight NRoSO or BASIS points. The cost is £30. Robert Lockhart, Chairman of the NRoSO board, said that in the absence of face-to-face training, it was vital that operators could still access this important resource for their continuous professional development (CPD) training. “Many operators rely on the NRoSO annual training event to gain their required CPD points,” he said. “Regardless of the Covid-19 crisis, farming continues, and operators still need to keep up to date with industry changes as well as complying with crop assurance requirements. “This is why we have worked hard to continue to provide our members with the chance to meet their CPD commitment and gain their points in the most effective way. While we acknowledge online learning will not suit all operators, we have worked

01227 763939



hard to make the course as easily accessible as possible for the vast majority of people.” The course is available until 30 June 2021, with NRoSO members able to sign up at any time. It is expected to take about two hours. Operators can take a break and return to the course at any time but have until 31 August to complete it.

The UK’s split from the EU at the end of 2020 also marked the country’s return to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV), recognised as the reference body for technical regulations in the EU Great Britain and Northern Ireland was a member of the group from 1973 to 2004. Although it withdrew to cut costs, it enjoyed ‘special status’ with the organisation while the UK was a member of the EU. Ever since the Brexit vote in 2016, UK industry bodies, academics and wine experts had argued for the UK to rejoin the OIV to make up for it no longer being part of the EU Wine Management Committee and allow it to play a part in shaping the rules around wine. The UK, ranked the 10th biggest wine market in the world in 2019, is the OIV’s 48th member country. Around 95% of wine drunk in this country is imported.


The arable course is divided into four parts, looking at current issues, tests and training, preventing pest trouble in store and staying safe and legal on the road. The dedicated fruit version features three lessons, including foliar nutrient use and application and biopesticide use and application.

CHEERS! The OIV’s Director General, Pau Roca, toasted the UK’s return to the fold with a bottle of English sparkling wine, noting that the UK was one of the largest wine markets in the world and although only a small player in terms of production, it had seen “exponential growth” in recent years.


In November last year The Agriculture Act 2020 received Royal Assent, bringing with it fundamental changes to the financial support system available to the farming industry. For landowners and farmers entering into farm business tenancies (FBTs), what does this mean and what can we expect as we move forward in the agricultural transition period? As a reminder of the changes, the transition period we are now in will see a move away from the Common Agricultural Policy and a new farm support system will be developed. Direct support payments under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which are currently paid based on the amount of land farmed, will be phased out between 2021 and 2027 and new schemes will be developed based on environmental and animal health and welfare improvements and reduced carbon emissions. From 2021 a phased reduction of BPS payments will commence, with greater reductions seen in higher payment bands. Payments will be reduced until the final payment for the 2027 scheme year and no payment will be made after the 2027 scheme year, unless the transition period is extended, which the Secretary of State can do by regulation. It is planned to replace the BPS with delinked payments from 2024 until 2027. Delinking means that a claim for direct support will not be dependent on occupying land and delinked payments will not be impacted if the party receiving the payment expands or reduces their farming operation or even stops farming completely. If a recipient continues to farm they will have to comply with all applicable standards regarding the environment, plant health, animal health and welfare. Eligibility for delinked payments will be based on a reference period. Although the detail of this has not yet been finalised, it is likely that it will be necessary to have been eligible for and claimed under BPS in a particular scheme year or years. DEFRA will consult with those in the agricultural sector prior to the reference period and before the decision on when to introduce delinked payments is made.


OF CHANGE The Agriculture Act 2020 and Farm Business Tenancies It is anticipated that a lump sum payment scheme will be introduced in 2022. This will give farmers the chance to take a lump sum payment in place of annual BPS or delinked payments. There will be a consultation on the rules for lump sum payments before they are finalised. The lump sum payment scheme is being promoted to assist farmers to retire if they wish to do so, therefore it is possible that such a scheme may be targeted at certain age groups. Landowners and farmers entering into FBTs will undoubtedly be concerned about the possible impact of the proposed changes to direct payments, given that details are evolving and will continue to do so over the next few years. For tenants there may be concern about their ability to pay FBT rents due to the reduction of payments and income into their farming business. This is of particular concern if their business has also been adversely impacted by the current Covid-19 pandemic. For landlords, particularly in relation to existing FBTs, the concern may be that there is no certainty that they will be able to get future payment rights back at the end of the tenancy because the new terms introduced by the changes will not be referred to in the majority of agreements. To mitigate concerns about the impact of the changes, introducing flexibility into an FBT is one solution. Landlord and tenants with existing FBTs should consider the possibility of agreeing a variation of the terms to allow for additional

flexibility during the transition period. For those considering entering into new FBTs it is important that the drafting allows for flexibility and includes provisions such as an indemnity to compensate the landlord for losses incurred as a result of any loss of entitlements or any replacement payment scheme. Another option is to include mechanisms for the landlord and tenant to agree substitute provisions if the changes mean that the commercial effect of the original provisions in the FBT is materially altered. It is likely that we will see the impact of the Agriculture Act 2020 emerge throughout the transition period and this will require landlords and tenants to adapt as the new system evolves. The key is to draft as flexibly as possible during such periods of rapid and significant change to ensure that all parties with either existing or potential FBTs are protected. You should seek legal advice before entering into, or seeking to vary, any legally binding agreement with other parties.


Partner, Brachers LLP T: 01622 776458 E:

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Alfriston, East Sussex

A mixed commercial and residential holding in a stunning rural location within the South Downs National Park incorporating an extensive range of accommodation and diverse sport, leisure and tourism enterprises developed since the 1960â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, all offering excellent potential for further enhancement and income generation. EPC: C, D & E ratings IN ALL ABOUT 90.36 ACRES Available as a whole or in up to three separate lots. For sale by informal tender. Tender deadlne 12 noon Thursday 18th March. E SAL ED E R AG

Catsfield, East Sussex

Offers in excess of ÂŁ2million


Lower Dicker, East Sussex

T 01435 810077 E


Russell Parkes Matthew Braxton

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GUIDE: £2,350,000 - £2,500,000

93.5 ACRES

SYMPATHETICALLY EXTENDED A beautifully situated small country estate, approached down a long drive, with farmland views and set within the centre of its own 93.5 acres, is for sale with Batcheller Monkhouse. Rette Farm comprises a well-presented Grade II Listed farmhouse, sympathetically extended over the years to form an excellent and very comfortable family home. Since purchasing the property in 2016, the current owners have undertaken a number of improvements. It includes a principal bedroom with en suite dressing room and bathroom with five further bedrooms. Rette Farm is situated at the end of a 0.4 mile sweeping gravelled private driveway with ample parking space, extensive level lawn, areas of orchard and a variety of trees and shrubs. The stone wall-enclosed section of garden has a heated swimming pool, is very sheltered and incorporates a stonebuilt garden/play room 26’5 x 15’10 with separate pool room. There is also a hard tennis court and a productive fence-enclosed kitchen garden. The Annexe Cottage is an attractive single storey

cottage recently converted into very comfortable secondary accommodation. There is a living room/ kitchen, utility room, two single bedrooms and a bathroom. The farm buildings are of mixed ages and construction. One section is formed into three loose boxes with other storage areas, the remainder being original pole barns, originally used for cattle, hay and machinery storage. The total area is about 6,250 square feet. Planning permission RR/2018/3024/P, decision date 16 November 2020, has been granted for the

conversion of the existing stone outbuilding, barn, store and stables to form four holiday let units with additional mezzanine communal area within the main barn complex and replacement ground floor livestock area. . There are about 15 acres of mixed woodland, 9.3 acres of which were planted in 1997, with the remainder being hedge-enclosed pasture fields with sheep-proof fencing and having water connected. In addition, there is an attractive and secluded pond. In all about 93.5 acres

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There was a sense of inevitability about the housing secretary Robert Jenrick’s decision on 16 December 2020 to abandon a revised formula (dubbed the “mutant algorithm”) that was supposed to calculate the starting point for how many houses each local authority in England might have to build. From the moment the housing secretary published a consultation on planned changes to the current formula in August 2020, it was clear that there was going to be trouble. The revised formula was designed to ensure not only that the government would meet its target of building 300,000 new homes a year, but that they were built where housing pressures were greatest. Those pressures, partly measured by changes in affordability over the past ten years, unsurprisingly turned out to be in affluent Tory suburbs in the South East. That answer was never going to satisfy the Tory MPs who represent those suburbs. More than 80 had signalled their intention to rebel, including Theresa May, the former Prime Minister. Representing a complete U-turn, the formula has essentially been fudged to give a more palatable answer. Instead of building the new homes where people want to live, they will now be focused where Tory MPs think they should live. That is in England’s 20 largest cities and urban centres (which are predominantly in Labour control).

It is hard to see how this is consistent with the Government’s objective of levelling up (it would mean that almost one in three new homes is expected to be delivered in London) or how it fulfills the commitment, repeated many times, to focus additional homebuilding in the country's least affordable areas, many of which will now see no change in their housing need figures.


The intention to prioritise brownfield sites and optimise the conversion of under used space in urban centres is clear and the allocation of additional funding to support this is welcome. Many centres have untapped potential to incorporate more homes. The Government clearly hopes its proposed extension of permitted development rights will accelerate delivery. The reality, however, is that this is likely to produce types and tenures of homes which respond to only a fraction of the market’s needs. In particular it will deliver insufficient family and affordable housing, both of which are in such short supply. There is growing evidence that the effects of the pandemic have shifted housing demand away from city centres and towards locations less dependent on a daily commute, and where facilities for home working and access to gardens and green space can be more easily met. The revised approach does

nothing to address these needs and potentially exacerbates the constraints on the supply of new homes in such areas. It is to be hoped that in its promised updating of national planning policy the Government recognises that meeting needs is not all about the numbers; the quality, type and tenure of homes is equally important. It is clear that the Government has missed an opportunity to radically change what it has acknowledged to be a broken formula. The onus must therefore, in this context, be on local authorities to plan proactively for the homes that are needed. For authorities across the south, a positive mindset is essential to support the delivery of new homes if extreme affordability issues are to be addressed. This will be ever more important in those areas where the behavioural shifts of 2020-21 have increased pressures on local housing markets, to ensure that housing options are open to all, and not just to those who can afford rising prices. Paradoxically, there is clearly a view in government that the less challenging targets for the majority of non-urban authorities will ease the Local Plan making process, perhaps encouraging them to progress with their plans more quickly. As a specialist land promoter, Catesby Estates keeps fully abreast of new policy announcements and can advise landowners on new opportunities for development that may arise.

Could your land have development potential? Find out more about land promotion


Associate Director, Planning, Catesby Estates plc T: 01926 836910 E: W:




GUIDE: ÂŁ1,350,000



A beautiful parcel of land extending to about 142 acres, approached off a country lane on the edge of the popular Chiddingly village, is on the market with Batcheller Monkhouse. The land at Barn Farm enjoys a beautiful rural location about 0.3 of a mile to the west of Chiddingly village. It is an excellent block of farmland laid to pasture, mostly level but with gentle gradients in places and the highest point being towards the north east. There are interspersed woodland shaws and a pond as well as a small stream. The farmland benefits from beautiful views


towards the South Downs and is well maintained, generally in good heart and divided into a number of fields. The boundaries are principally delineated with stock-proof fencing, together with hedges and

trees. In all about 142 acres. The agents are seeking unconditional offers subject to contract only for the freehold interest(s) of the site.

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OIEO £2,000,000

90.36 ACRES



Samuel & Son are delighted to offer Pleasant Rise Farm to the open market for the first time in 58 years. The 90-acre farm estate is magnificently located in the extremely popular village of Alfriston, nestled in the Cuckmere Valley within the South Downs National Park, 10 miles from the county town of Lewes and within three miles of main line rail services to London. The property offers extensive accommodation, with eight dwellings in total. The original farmhouse, dating back to the 1950s, has been significantly extended over the years and now comprises a split-level residential complex providing a range of one, two and three bedroom accommodation. In addition there are two further residences set separately from the main house. A significant feature of the property is its long

history of sport, leisure and tourism diversification, dating back to the 1960s. Pleasant Rise Farm established the first indoor tennis facility in the South East. Built in 1976, the indoor tennis court is housed within a fully enclosed 60ft x 120ft steel framed barn and is complemented by three outdoor tennis courts, all of which have long served as a community facility for tennis and various other sporting uses including badminton and cricket training. The camping and caravanning business has been developed by the current owners over a number of years and comprises a Certified Location touring caravan site and a sizeable camping field which is presently operating under the 28 day permitted development rule. The property is situated in a hugely popular tourist area and there is good potential to extend the campsite season.

Two separate stable yards serve the property, offering 19 loose boxes in total, various outbuildings for storage and a 60ft x 120ft outdoor manège, all operating as DIY livery. The land is a combination of fence-enclosed pasture fields and scarp land on the steeper valley slopes, interspersed with pockets of woodland and scrub. From the northern ridge there are the most magnificent views in all directions, including south to the coast, and there is direct access to the South Downs Way, which passes the property. The property’s unique make up and location holds significant alternative use potential and provides a rare investment opportunity. The property is offered for sale by informal tender, as a whole, or in up to three lots with a guide of OIEO £2m. Tender deadline is midday on Thursday 18 March.





AFTER EXTRAORDINARY 2020 Agricultural land values rose by an average of 3% in 2020, with record low supply and relatively robust demand helping to underpin values, according to land and property specialists Strutt & Parker. Analysis of the Strutt & Parker Farmland Database, which records the details of all farms, estates and blocks of publicly marketed farmland in England over 100 acres in size, shows the average price of arable land was £9,300/acre, with the average price of pasture at £7,200/acre. About half the arable land sold in 2020 made £8,000 to 10,000/acre, with about 30% selling for £10,000/acre or more. “A combination of low supply and sustained demand means that average prices remain firm. Indeed, the consistency of average prices in recent years is a remarkable story; the 2020 average arable price of £9,300/acre is exactly the same as the fiveyear average,” said Matthew Sudlow, head of estates and farm agency.

“However, there is a significant range in values between the top and bottom of the market – from £5,200/acre to £17,500/acre – with location and consequently a property’s appeal to lifestyle or other non-farmer buyers being a critical factor. “In the second half of 2020 we saw strong interest in residential farms and estates, particularly in the south and west of England, from buyers seeking a change in lifestyle as a result of Covid-19. Rollover buyers, along with private investors, continue to be active in many regions, viewing farmland as a safe, long-term investment. We have also had an increased number of enquiries from overseas. But at the same time, there are now instances where some of the best quality land is selling for the least amount of money, because it is located in less appealing areas to non-farmer buyers.” Mr Sudlow said that even without Covid-19, 2020 was always going to be a momentous year for the farming industry, given that the sector faced a new Agriculture Bill and uncertainty over whether there

would be a Brexit deal, as well as dealing with the pressures of one of the worst harvests in decades. It is the first time since 2009 that fewer than 200 farms and estates were offered for sale in England. Mr Sudlow said that while landowners were beginning to gain a clearer picture of the future following the Brexit trade deal and the passing into law of the Agriculture Act, he expected the volume of land coming to the market to remain tight in the short term. The other big questions affecting the market outlook are connected with whether the government chooses to make changes to Capital Gains Tax or introduce a wealth tax as a way of paying for the Covid-19 pandemic, he said. The cut in Basic Payments could make farmland less attractive to investors as the guaranteed income associated with farmland will be removed over the seven year agricultural transition period, but there are many reasons why people buy land, many of which are not directly related to its ongoing profitability.

Chiddingly, East Sussex

Hooe, East Sussex

Guide Price £1,350,000

Guide Price £650,000- £700,000

About 142 Acres approached off a country lane

96 Acres, and approximately 10,000 sq ft of buildings Approached from the A259 via a track to the buildings which have power and water connected. The land stretches to the south with wonderful views across open marshland towards the Downs. Available separately some 87.3 acres on Pevensey Marshes.

The land is principally pasture and is well-maintained, with boundaries being largely stock fenced and with hedges and trees. There are also woodland shaws, a pond and a small stream. In all about 142 acres. Apply: Battle Office 01424 775577

Battle 01424 775577

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Apply: Battle Office 01424 775577

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COMPLETE OUR CROSSWORD TO WIN One bottle of Gribble Bridge Sparkling Rosé and five bottles of Red Love® apple juice









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Disregarded (9) Fence support (4) Unhappy (9) Creep furtively (5) Metal rod with point at one end (4) The crime of telling a lie under oath (7) A person who studies moths (13) ------- dog, animal trained in detection (7) Wading bird (6) Large wave (7) River in Sussex (4) Weather event (9) Small bird often seen near farmland (9) ---- swan (4)

1 2 4 6 7 10 13 14 15 17 18 19 22 23 24

Insistent request (6) Japanese dish of rice and raw seafood (5) Below freezing (3,4) Monetary unit (5) Colour (7) Not adulterated with another substance (4) Lover’s quarrel (4) A person who holds the title deeds of a field/farm (9) A way of cooking steak (4) Lie (3) Dairy product (5) Finish (3) Sauce of garlic, olive oil and salt (5) Used to deter burglars (5) Sturdy patterned shoe (5)


19 24


1 6 8 9 11 12 14 16 18 20 23 25 26 27


Crossword by Rebecca Farmer, Broadstairs, Kent

PRIZE ANAGRAM: Brassica (8)

To enter, simply unscramble the

anagram (8) using

the green squares. Email your replies with your name, address and phone number to Correct entries will be entered into a draw which will take place on 22 February. The winner will be announced in the March edition. TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883




Love is in the air! We’re offering readers the chance to win one bottle of Gribble Bridge Sparkling Rosé and five bottles of Red Love® apple juice. Biddenden Vineyards is Kent’s oldest commercial vineyard producing award winning wines, ciders and juices. For more information about the vineyards, please visit or call 01580 291726. *Subject to availability


E 8






I 11















P 16




















































H 18



































R 21





O 26




R T 25





M 12




13 14









Correct answer: Cooperia oncophora LAST MONTH’S WINNER: S Andrew from Felbridge, West Sussex




The asset finance provider for the Farming & Agricultural community in the South East. At One Threadneedle we offer more than funds - we unlock possibilities and enable growth. We thrive on building a trusted and open relationship with our customers, ensuring we understand everything from the bigger picture, to the smallest level of detail. To see how we could support your business contact our Field Based specialist Sean Phelan on 07887 737 549 – email or call the office in Tunbridge Wells 01892 489 489 LOCAL


21, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN4 8AE •




One Threadneedle is a credit broker, not a lender. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (839978)

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