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May 2021

GROWERS FACE RECRUITMENT CRISIS INSIDE Nigel Akehurst visits a thriving dairy goat and cheese business A busy year for Southern Farmers Spring property review

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® 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

MAY 2021





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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: W B Chambers Farms Ltd

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Pig farmers in call for support Sustainability the priority for farmers. Farmers urged to link up with schools. £30 million redevelopment. Fertile Ground report sets out NFU’s agenda for growth.










The disappearing hurdles mystery.






Lambing done, now where is the grass?












Nigel visits the Blunt family at Greenacres Farm in East Sussex to find out more about their thriving dairy goat and cheese business. Up in arms at blatant bullying.


The pandemic may have made the past year more complicated for Southern Farmers, one of the South East’s leading agricultural buying groups, but it certainly didn’t make it any less busy. 14 pages of land and farms for sale and advice on the spring property market.


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Forcing a BBC u-turn


Farmers have long been leaders in the use of technology, operating GPS systems that far outstrip anything on offer to the average motorists and able to operate complex cold store and grain store systems from anywhere in the world with the aid of a smartphone app. Increasingly they are also using another relatively new invention, the sometime curse that is social media, to engage with the world and raise the sector’s profile with a wider audience. In a bid to press home messages around food security, the quality of British food, carbon reduction measures and the benefits of buying locally, some farmers have built large online audiences. The increasing popularity of watching online broadcasts from farming ‘celebrities’ has clearly been boosted by the Covid-19 lockdown, something that has at the same time increased the interest in the farm-to-fork message highlighting the quality of the UK’s produce and the high production standards its farmers follow. While many young people are more engaged with Facebook than with farming, the rise of initiatives such as Farmer Time, featured in this issue, are increasingly helping to introduce the younger generation to the people and the methods behind the food that appears on their plate after a day at school. It says much about the public perception of the industry that when asked to draw a farmer, the children’s work still featured tweed and a mouthful of straw rather than a laptop, a GPS receiver and an app-heavy mobile phone, but that’s unlikely to change any time soon – and would we really want it to? This issue features a number of other stories about efforts that the industry is making to connect with young people, and while events such as Living Land moving online may be a compromise forced upon the organisers by Covid19, it’s likely that the tech-savvy youngsters will be quite happy with the change. Meanwhile one television programme that links the generations, Blue Peter, found itself under fire after one Welsh farmer took to social media to lead a fierce campaign against the programme’s bid to persuade youngsters to become ‘climate heroes’ by switching to plant-based food. The programme was a clumsy and misguided attempt to influence children’s eating habits and missed an opportunity to stimulate a wider debate around seasonal food and sustainable agriculture. The BBC paid a high price, quickly backing down, changing the message on the CBBC website and visiting a farm in Wales to make amends. In uniting to force the Corporation to back down and make amends, farmers proved not just that they have a strong and coherent message on protecting the environment, but that they have enough social media savvy to get that message across when it matters. It’s not just football fans who can shout loudly enough to MALCOLM TRIGGS - EDITOR bring about a major u-turn.

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While fruit growers are again facing a staffing crisis, South East Famer has been told that new recruitment agencies are being prevented from working efficiently by government red tape. The Government’s decision to allow 30,000 overseas workers into the country this year in an extension of the seasonal workers pilot scheme was welcomed as an answer to the recruitment problems facing the South East’s growers. But the owner of one of two new companies selected to help find and recruit a skilled picking workforce has said that his hands have been tied because he is not yet allowed to announce he has won the contract. South East Farmer has agreed not to name his company. “We are waiting for the formalities to be completed, but in the meantime we can’t tell people that we have been selected as one of the two new operators,” he said. “I have been in Ukraine for two-and-a-half weeks now, putting everything in place, but there is a limit to what I can do if I can’t formally announce that I have been signed up to do the job. “The Home Office needs to do its due diligence, and I understand that, but we’ve been waiting for five weeks and growers are running out of time. We are being told that far fewer workers with settled and pre-settled status are showing any interest in working on UK fruit and vegetable farms this year, so it’s vital that we bring in the 30,000 workers DEFRA has agreed the industry can have. “We should be bringing people in ready for the beginning of May, but at this rate we will be lucky to hit the beginning of June, and that will be devastating for the industry. The Home Office seems to have pinned its hopes on settled and pre-settled workers coming forward, but from what we are hearing, that’s simply not happening.” Tim Chambers, of W B Chambers Farms Ltd, based just outside Maidstone in Kent, confirmed that the crisis was rapidly becoming serious. He predicted a shortfall of up to 15% on the 1,500 to 1,600 seasonal workers he relied upon and said fruit simply wouldn’t be harvested. “We will just walk away from the fields,” said Tim, whose family business is one of the biggest growers of soft fruit in the country. “We are very worried about the situation. By introducing this scheme the Government set itself up as the labour agency of last resort for UK farming and they simply aren’t taking that responsibility seriously. “Even if this red tape is sorted and the recruiters start working now, it’s almost too late. The workforce will need to sort out visas, medical certificates, Covid-19 tests, etc and most of them will have gone somewhere else – Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, for instance – before the companies are given clearance to get on with the job. It’s almost as if the Home Office had set this scheme up to fail.”


PIGS NEED CASH INJECTION With the Government itself pointing out that pig farmers’ incomes have fallen by 87% over the past year, an Essex breeder has joined calls for a Covid-19 support package to be provided. The pig sector’s call for a £3.2 million cash injection to recognise the impact of overweight pigs on producers' businesses received a welcome boost when DEFRA’s own Farm Business Income figures estimated that average pig farm incomes had plummeted from £37,000 in 2019/20 to just £5,000 in 2020/21. Those figures struck a chord with Jack Bosworth, who runs an arable and pig operation with his father Stuart at Spains Hall, Willingale and is an active member of the National Pig Association (NPA), which made the original request to government. “Pork is 20p a kilo down on this time last year. We sell around 280 pigs a week at between 80 and 90 kilos, so that equates to a fall of £5,000 every week on last year’s income. Add in the fact that feed prices are currently high and you can see the problem.” The industry has been facing a ‘perfect storm’ of issues, with falling prices, rising costs, the general disruption caused by Covid-19 and restricted access to the market in China all contributing to the crisis. DEFRA highlighted a 5% rise in input costs, while the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s data on pig farms’ financial performance reveals that positive margins of £14/head,

£10/head and £7/head in the first three quarters of 2020 slumped to a negative margin of -£6/head in the fourth quarter. “The pig sector has never enjoyed the luxury of subsidies, but these are challenging times, and with so many different elements being thrown at us we need a little bit of help,” said Jack. “Even DEFRA is now projecting incomes falling by an astonishing 87%, so they must surely accept that farmers need support. Everyone talks about the challenge facing pubs, and I have every sympathy with their plight, but I’m sure that even pubs haven’t seen their income fall by that level if they have taken steps to adapt to the pandemic, like offering takeaways.” While support would clearly be welcome, Jack said that it was secondary to the fundamental issue of tackling the cause of the problems. “No-one is going to turn down help, but it’s more important that we get things back up and running and sort out issues like access to China,” he said. “In the long term, ensuring these problems don’t happen again is more important to the industry. “With our cost of production higher than the sale price, it has been extremely tight here. We are used to working within volatile markets, but the addition of Covid-19 and Brexit-related issues really did create a situation that we wouldn't want to encounter again, and more importantly couldn't

encounter again, without significant support from above. “Prices have picked up a little in recent weeks, but feed is still expensive. We are hoping for a better finish to the year and we want people to keep buying British pork, but it’s proving to be a painful and challenging time.” The NPA’s request, supported by processors, follows similar schemes in Scotland and Northern Ireland that reflect Covid-related losses suffered by producers. Covid-19 outbreaks in pork plants have caused a backlog of pigs, which has in turn led to higher carcase weights and subsequent price deductions being imposed by processors. At the same time, exports to China from a number of key plants have been suspended. The NPA’s March request to DEFRA was for a £3.2m compensation package to reflect deductions made for overweight pigs. Chief Executive Zoe Davies said the department had “taken a very keen interest” in the plight of the pig sector in recent months, and while she admitted this kind of support would be unprecedented, she said these were unprecedented times. “The entire UK pig sector has been hit by this situation, and given that compensation has been paid to other sectors, such as dairy, we believe we have a very justifiable case," she commented.


The death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has had the unexpected effect of delaying the launch of the BPS lump sum exit scheme consultation that DEFRA had been expected to publish in midApril. With all but essential Government communications postponed during

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the period of mourning following Prince Philip’s death, the situation has been further complicated by the start of the local election ‘purdah’ period, during which the Government is also prevented from making non-essential announcements. The consultation is now unlikely to see the light of day before early May.





A flagship countryside event has been moved back two weeks to take advantage of the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions across the country. The LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) charity has decided to move its Open Farm Sunday (LOFS) event back to 27 June. LOFS Manager Annabel Shackleton said that by that date, with restrictions eased, events would be able to go ahead “with minimal risk, giving our farmers and the public confidence to enjoy a safe, informative and fun day out on farm as they always have”. The organisers believe the event will be more popular than ever this year after several months of restricted activity and with many country shows cancelled. With that in mind LEAF is encouraging as many farmers as possible to open their farm gates in June for socially distanced farm walks and talks. Host farmers are also being asked to use a booking system this year to avoid overcrowding and keep staff and visitors Covid-safe. “Big events may not be practical this year, but if the public is surging to the countryside, we’d love to see hundreds of smaller events taking place,” said Annabel. “This is an excellent opportunity to share the farming, sustainability and food production story, but also, crucially, how to respect the countryside as we head into the summer holidays.” Although the last weekend in June will be the ‘official’ 2021 date, farmers wishing to host visitors on the Sunday before or after will have access to the same LOFS support and resources.



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The first of a number of online discussions hosted by the South of England Agricultural Society saw Heather Wildwood talk to members about the vital need to get succession planning right. The society is aiming to hold four online technical forums a year – even after the coronavirus lockdown ends – and there was an impressive turnout for the first one, entitled Taking charge of your destiny. Heather, who runs Saviour Associates, a consultancy that offers leadership training across the industry, stressed the value of family meetings and the importance of making sure that both the older generation and the younger had a clear idea of what they wanted from the transfer of the business from one generation to the next. The series of free forums, aimed at active farmers and growers across the region, will continue with


The power of the environment to power the bottom line on Wednesday 12 May at 6pm. Forum organiser Duncan Rawson explained: “Production methods are being challenged by new policies and by issues around chemical availability and its use. The way we have produced food over the last few decades needs to change. But this is not something to fear, this is something to embrace. We can feed the nation while doing right by the environment – in fact we can embrace the environment to help us farm more effectively, and dare we say it, more profitably.” Phil Jarvis, Head of Farming, Training and Partnerships at the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project, will lead the discussion. To register, email


> Simon Budden

> James Loder-Symonds

> James Mayes

South East farmers swept the board at the Yield Enhancement Network (YEN), Wheat Quality Awards 2021. The Gold Award for harvest 2020 went to Simon Budden of Netherley Farm Partnership in Hampshire, while James Mayes, of Bentfield Bury Farms, Essex, was runner up and James Loder-Symonds, of Nonington Farms, Kent, finished in third place. The awards, sponsored by UK Flour Millers, recognise “excellence and innovation in achieving high yield and quality in Group 1 milling wheats” and attracted entries from across the country. Simon’s entry yielded 11.98t/ha and was said to demonstrate excellent grain analytical quality. “Dough quality was good and the baked loaf was excellent, with white breadcrumb colour and good texture,” judges agreed. Simon said the most important part of entering the competition was the YEN report provided at the end of it, adding: “This year we entered wanting to showcase our normal farm practice. The report provides a lot of detail for us to take forward


and look ahead to next season to hopefully improve on our yields.” Dr Sarah Clarke, ADAS Research Scientist, said that with last season being a challenging one for growers, it was “great to see some really high-quality entries”. She added: “Whatever the season brings, growers can benchmark and learn more about their quality from entering the YEN Wheat Quality Awards. They can also think about carrying out tramline trials for nutrition programmes to see what could be achieved on their farm.” Joe Brennan, Senior Technical Adviser for UK Flour Millers, said: “This was the fourth year of the competition and it is reassuring that despite the differences season to season, there are growers who achieve excellent wheat yields alongside fantastic breadmaking quality. Recognising and understanding how growers accomplish this is key to ensuring a steady supply of domestic wheat for the milling market.” The top three farmers produced a video commentary on their harvest 2020 entries. It can be seen at YEN Wheat Quality Award: Winner Biographies Harvest 2020.


PRIORITY FOR FARMERS A record-breaking number of farmers are planning to invest in energy efficiency and adopt other net zero measures on farms, according to tbe NFU’s latest confidence survey. While the survey shows that short and mid-term confidence among British farmers has remained negative for the third year running, their intentions to invest in energy efficiency are at the highest level recorded, while plans to invest in diversification and skills and training are also highlighted. The NFU says the survey results signal “just how important sustainability and efficient food production is for farm businesses, and, in the year the UK hosts COP26, how British farmers are best placed to deliver climate-friendly food”. Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “It’s fantastic to see so many farmers making plans to implement net zero measures on their farms, whether it’s investing in energy efficiency or carbon storage, especially at a time when business confidence among farmers is so low. “As a nation we stand tall when it comes to climate and environmentally friendly food production, and we can’t take this for granted. Nor can we ignore the fact that overall farm business confidence has remained negative for three years running and the significant impact this is having on businesses and their ability to invest in things that would support increased sustainable food production.”

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He warned that farmers’ “huge potential” to contribute to the Government’s green growth ambition “[would] never be maximised if a lack of confidence, certainty and opportunity holds British farming back”. And he added: “The industry is facing serious changes and farmers need to know that the Government is not only supporting them but investing in levelling up urban and rural areas to provide the same opportunities for rural businesses as those in towns and cities enjoy. “Confidence can be boosted by something as simple as ensuring farm businesses have access to efficient broadband, which is so crucial. “If more than half of farmers are already preparing to invest in planting trees and improving soil health, just think how much we could achieve if farmers are given more confidence, and crucially, more opportunities, to invest in their enterprises.” The survey shows that: • 69% of farmers plan to improve soil health or carbon content • 51% plan to plant trees • 38% plan to enlarge or extend hedgerows • 35% plan to invest in more renewable energy generation (37% of farmers are already producing or using renewable energy) • 35% plan to invest in low carbon agri-technology such as precision farming or livestock monitoring.


APPOINTS NEW CEO Tim Rycroft has been named as the new chief executive of the troubled Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Currently chief operating officer of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Mr Rycroft will take up his position at the Stoneleigh-based levy board on 31 August 2021, replacing Jane King, and will seek to stabilise an organisation that has seen its operation come under fire in the past few months. Recent ballots look to have sealed the fate of the compulsory levy on both the horticulture and potato sectors, with Environment Secretary George Eustice set to make a final decision shortly. While Mr Rycroft plans the way forward for the AHDB from September, Interim Chief Executive Kent Boyns, currently the board’s chief finance and operations officer, will hold the reins. While at the FDF, Mr Rycroft has been responsible for strategy and corporate affairs as well as overseeing the federation’s policy on diet and health and on competitiveness. He is also a former government special adviser. Welcoming the new chief executive, AHDB Chair Nicholas Saphir, said: “His experience, both in his previous commercial and FDF roles as well as his knowledge of the industry, makes him ideally equipped to lead the significant change that we have started to introduce to the organisation.”





SERIES OF LIVESTREAMS Living Land, Kent County Agricultural Society’s (KCAS) free event for schoolchildren, is set to return as an online event this year, launching on 6 May with a series of livestreams aimed at teaching viewers about food and farming. The Virtual Living Land livestreams will be supported by a large collection of pre-recorded videos that will remain available throughout the year for teachers and students to watch at any time. Aimed at helping children in years 3 and 4 learn about food and farming, Living Land usually invites schools to the Kent Event Centre to see a

variety of educational displays, but the ongoing pandemic has prompted the switch to online for this year. Students will be able to watch a collection of videos covering all aspects of farming and agriculture, including rearing livestock, tractors and machinery, and growing vegetables. There will also be a series of livestreams on which children can ask questions of farmers and food producers. KCAS chairman James Forknall said: “We were really disappointed that we could not run the Living Land as normal in 2020 so we were determined to bring it back in some form. We

decided to take the event online so we could continue to provide this valuable learning resource to as many school children as possible. “We already have some fantastic content lined up. Videos covering everything from lambing and egg hatching to harvest and tractors will be included. We are also organising activity packs for schools to request to provide a hands-on element to the Virtual Living Land.” After 6 May the resource will remain accessible for teachers, parents, and students to revisit throughout the year by signing up at


Children’s author Deborah Chancellor has written a series of books for young children about where food comes from in a bid to improve their understanding of the food they consume. Milly Cow Gives Milk, which is endorsed by the Royal


Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) and illustrated by Julia Groves, is the first book in the four-part ‘Follow my Food’ series. It is aimed at pre-school and key stage one-aged children and follows a day in the life of Milly the cow.

THE NEXT GENERATION Children at Oaks Primary Academy, part of Leigh Academies Trust in Maidstone, Kent, are amongst youngsters at 600 schools across the country who are benefiting from the Farmer Time initiative. The initiative, launched by the Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) charity in 2017, links farms with schools via digital channels, and has so far given nearly 16,000 pupils a better idea of what farming is all about. LEAF is now urging more farmers to sign up for the project, which has been so successful that there is now a waiting list of 200 schools keen to be matched with their very own farmer. The number of children benefiting from the initiative has doubled since the last academic year, while the Farmer Time Impact Report for 2020 revealed that 100% of farmers enjoyed the experience, 96% will be continuing with it and 71% spoke to children about careers in farming. Oaks Primary Academy is matched with Will Evans, whose family has been farming in Wrexham since the 1700s, producing beef cattle, arable crops



and free range eggs. He described it as “a simple solution to show young people where their food comes from”. Before their first video call with Will, teacher Aoife Mehigan asked her children what they thought farmers looked like and was presented with drawings showing mainly males sporting tweed, a cap, straw in their mouth and a sheep dog by their feet. “When we Tweeted these to farmer Will, the reactions from the farming community were excellent,” she recalled. “And when they met Farmer Will for the first time on Skype, the big question was: ‘Where is your hat?’” As well as posing questions to Will, the children have enjoyed a video tour of the farm, including footage of a calf being bottle fed in the barn, Storm the horse and his cattle.

Aoife commented: “Quite a few children were unaware of different life cycles, the types of animals found on a farm and the difference between a farm and a zoo before contacting Will.” Carl Edwards, Director of Education and Public Engagement at LEAF Education, said the charity had “already seen the incredible impact Farmer Time is having on educating, inspiring and engaging children with farming, how their food is grown and where it comes from” and was hoping other farmers would sign up to help children “broaden their horizons after such a constrained time during the pandemic”. To support the initiative, sponsored by Sainsbury’s, Strutt & Parker and G’s Fresh, visit

NEW FARMING MAGAZINE FOR KIDS A new farming magazine for young people is designed “to help dispel farming myths”, according to its founder, cattle farmer Emma Smith. Launched in March, The YoungStock is a 32-page publication aimed at budding young farmers and children with an interest in farming and the countryside. It celebrates the environment, food production and seasonality and is also designed to engage children from a non-farming background. Emma, who is not from a farming background but whose ambition to work with animals developed into a career in agriculture, became the youth coordinator for The Hereford Cattle Society in 2016, where she facilitated workshops and events. “I quickly found myself enthused to complete a Masters’ Degree in Children’s Publishing and realised there was a gap in the market, and so combined my passion for farming and education,

and The YoungStock was born.” She said her vision for the publication, aimed at seven to 11 year-olds, was about “empowering the younger generation to think about the perceived issues surrounding agriculture for themselves, while engaging as many different voices as possible to showcase the wide range of careers available in the industry”. She added: “I want to shine a light on our farmers and our food producers and to provide our young readers with facts and information to enable them to make informed decisions by themselves. But it is also about encouraging reluctant readers and enticing non-farming children into our vast, knowledgeable industry.” The first edition features skidsteers and alpacas, dairy farming in Cornwall and livestock in the USA, as well as touching on hard-hitting messages around Avian Flu, owning your own farm and Brexit.



Young farmers across Essex have teamed up with agricultural dealer R W Crawford and Massey Ferguson to mark what would have been their annual show weekend with a Covid-secure drive-in cinema and tractor run. The pandemic forced the Essex County Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs to cancel last year’s Essex Young Farmers’ Show and switch to an online programme. Now the federation faces a significant cash shortfall following the cancellation of the event for the second year running. Undaunted, it will instead host a drive-In cinema showing Grease on Saturday 15 May, followed by a tractor run the following day, thanks to support from R W Crawford and Massey Ferguson. See or email

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NEWS Taking advantage of the new opportunities and meeting the new challenges in agriculture means growing the right crops, and that means buying the right seeds. Nick Green, who set up Newtone Agriscapes at the end of February, combines his practical farming experience and technical expertise to offer informed and useable advice to growers. Based in Wye, Kent, the new business, which is already on the books of buying group Southern Farmers, supplies grass seed for

SEEDING NEW GROWTH agricultural and domestic use, wild flower mixes and seeds suitable for cover crops, game cover and environmental stewardship use. “Agriculture is changing and I felt that with my knowledge and experience I could provide a useful service for farmers looking to take advantage of the new opportunities out there,” Nick said.

“I can help with the technical side of the new requirements in order to help farmers achieve subsidies via the likes of the new Environmental Land Management scheme, as well as making sure they integrate into existing farming systems. I plan to offer advice and technical support as well as supplying carefully selected seeds.”



A £30m redevelopment aimed at improving productivity, boosting crop profitability and generating new skilled jobs is underway at NIAB EMR at East Malling in Kent. Construction has started on the regionally significant food-related Growing Kent & Medway initiative that includes new glasshouses, offices and labs at the site. The investment aims to transform plant-based scientific research facilities across the South East and strengthen the competitiveness of Britain’s horticulture, food and drink industries. £18 million from the Government’s Strength in Places Fund has been boosted by additional funding from the East Malling Trust and commercial partners to back an initiative that will build upon more than a century of strategic and applied horticultural research at the site. Due to be completed by the end of 2021, the redevelopment will deliver modern research facilities and new science projects that NIAB EMR believes will maintain its “global leadership in horticulture innovation”. Managing Director Professor Mario Caccamo

said the facility would be “better placed than at any time in the last decade to help producers rise to the challenge of climate change, reducing import dependency and improving the country’s food security”. He added: “The state-of-the-art plant growth facilities will enable our scientists to accurately manage the cropping environment and test the response of fruit crops and novel technologies to help improve productivity and crop profitability and generate new skilled jobs across the sector.” The development will be part of the site’s Advanced Horticultural Technology Zone, which is already underway thanks to earlier support from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund, and features new science buildings, state-of-the-art glasshouses, a green energy resource and other related infrastructure. East Malling Trust Board Chairman Dr Oliver Doubleday said: “The delivery of this ambitious project follows our vision to see East Malling continue to develop as a global innovation centre. “The modernisation of the site was long overdue and will support the team at NIAB EMR to remain at


> Professor Mario Caccamo oversees demolition at NIAB EMR the cutting edge of technology. We are very excited to be able to support this development and look forward to continuing our partnership with NIAB EMR to deliver world-class science at the service of the UK’s growers.” The new glasshouses will be used by the scientists to improve industry profitability by developing new varieties and improving plant health and resistance to disease by undertaking controlled trials in crop production, breeding pathology, entomology and plant health.

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Dear Sir, I have to say I was astonished by Mr Murfet’s response to my letter (“Risk to bees in Northern Ireland”, South East Farmer, April). The major beekeeping associations including the Ulster Beekeeping Association, the Irish Beekeeping Association, the Federation of Irish Beekeepers, the Institute of Northern Irish Beekeepers and the Native Irish Honey Bee Society – associations covering the whole island of Ireland, North and South – are all against these proposed imports. So also are the major beekeeping associations of Great Britain. This is not without good reason, and in the current times we are all too aware of how easily disease can spread! If Mr Murfet believes Irish bees are Buckfast bees, he is very ill informed. Our native bee is the Dark European Honey Bee, Apis mellifera mellifera, also called the Black Bee. This bee was once widespread across northern Europe but has been decimated in most of Europe, including the island of Great Britain, through sustained importation of non-native species. The island of Ireland, though, still retains strong stocks of Apis mellifera mellifera and great efforts are made to conserve and study these bees to ensure their survival. Ireland has a unique genetic resource which needs to be protected for the sake of its future in Ireland but also in European Amm breeding programmes. An interesting paper online at is entitled A significant pure population of the dark European honey bee remains in Ireland. Were Mr Murfet to read it, he might be enlightened as to why his new commercial venture is so undesirable. A recent survey by the National University of Galway (NUIG) confirmed that about 90% of beekeepers in Ireland work with Amm (out of 350 respondents) and there is a significant interest in using the local bee. A separate survey by the Irish Beekeepers’ Association showed that 82% use Amm, only 7% used Buckfast, 2% other and 5% do not know. Mr Murfet is engaged in an enterprise which will do untold damage to beekeeping in Ireland and in Great Britain, and the tragedy is he doesn’t even understand, or want to understand, it. Aideen Day, Kilkee, Clare. Patrick Murfet of Bee Equipment responds: My company has been supplying Buckfast bees into Ireland for as long as I have been in business, as has another major importer. That aside, the majority of the bees that my company will import directly into Ireland will travel to our apiaries to the north. We do not want them to be in Ireland any longer than necessary and it is our intention to move the hives on to new owners as soon as possible. To explain, without drones no genetic material can be passed on. The hives all have queen excluders on the fronts, thus preventing any drones from leaving the hive. It takes approximately 40 days for a drone to sexually mature. Hence we have two safeguards; no drones on landing and when re hiving, and an excluder to stop any strays leaving.


Dear Sir, You have had a busy postbag! I am delighted to have provoked a reaction from David Steed. Steed by name and steed by nature, but sadly he didn’t read my letter carefully enough before indignantly mounting his charger! My message was simply that too many of us old farmers are reactionary and inflexible in our opinions, while so much around us is changing, sometimes for the worse but often for the better. Too many of us are also capable of egregious hypocrisy. I am sorry if David felt insulted, but I argue my case from within farming and haven’t voluntarily listened to the Archers since the late 1950s.


© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021 Articles offered for publication, aimed to inform, should be accurate and coherent, unlike Boris Johnson’s contributions to the Telegraph. The nub of my last letter was to take issue with Nick Adames’ opinion that all was well with Brexit; that ecologically minded folk are just useless ‘tree-huggers’; that planting Sitka spruce is a green solution. None of these are true, nor amusing. He has been at it again this month, arguing that cattle culled for a positive TB test and a ‘negative’ post mortem examination have nothing wrong with them. This is simply incorrect and it is mendacious to spread such misinformation. He ignores the science like the antivaxxers. He was also wrong about the Ozone layer and alien species! I may, however, still share his opinions that TB causes a lot of stress and on the apparent influence on government policy exerted by the PM’s current unelected ‘bedfellow’. She is, however, a good naturalist! I was delighted to learn of David Steed’s tree and hedge planting. I have had much pleasure from the same and am pleased to say some of my oaks have also reached 10m. This winter I have personally planted some disease resistant elm whips (40cm), though will be lucky to see them reach more than four metres. I will, however, take issue with some of David’s opinions. He objects to UK sheep being exported live to France to then be labelled French lamb. We have been doing the same here for years. More Scotch beef comes into London than is ever reared in Scotland, and Irish beef killed in Northern Ireland comes across the Irish sea as UK beef! He is also wrong to decry magpies predating nests. Ecosystems are complex and self-regulating, and predators are an essential part of that system, however distasteful their actions may seem to us. The hypocrisy is that we blithely raise and release 40 to 50 million pheasants annually in order to fill them full of lead for fun. Magpies predate to survive. Alien, in ecology, has a very specific meaning. It has not co-evolved, which is crucial. Happily the tools to ‘remake’ Neanderthals are almost with us. It will be technically possible within about 50 years, but may not be necessary as many Europeans (including Brits) already have quite enough Neanderthal genes. Mike Kettlewell, Over Norton, Oxfordshire



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David Exwood, arable, beef and sheep farmer and farm shop proprietor, Horsham, presents the first in a new series of contributions from front line farmers. Who would have thought that a year into the global pandemic there would still be millions of workers in the UK on furlough and that this situation is likely to be continue for months to come? While it has been a vital lifeline to many, it’s clear that it would be unthinkable as a longterm economic model. The financial and social cost to the country will be felt for years to come. Farming, to its credit, has largely carried on as normal. But there are parallels with the debate on future land use in the South East. Has doing nothing become fashionable, and is it really

sustainable to pay people to do nothing? At a time of a big economic reset in farming, as we move away from direct payments, we are also seeing a rise in competition for land use from all sorts of directions. Whether it’s nitrate reduction schemes, rewilding, carbon offsetting or tree planting, all are alternative uses for land that generally involve doing and producing very little. They are already taking large tracts of land, and perhaps this is only the beginning. At a time of such uncertainty in agriculture, the lure of money for doing very little could become



overwhelming. Why mess around with crops, animals and the weather when you can have guaranteed payments for very little risk? Many agents are advising the land owner to ditch the tenant or contractor and take the certain cash. And who can blame them? Don’t be fooled by the near record prices in grain, beef and lamb at the moment. Without direct payments, will farming be able to outbid everyone else for land in the South East? You might say leave it to the free market, but even a Conservative government agrees there has to be some measure of home food production, and with the global debate on carbon heating up, political interference in agriculture is only going to increase. So how do you make the case for farming against these powerful forces? We at NFU South East can see that we have fantastic farmers and huge potential in our landscape. We have globally competitive businesses that have the climate, soils, markets and infrastructure to be proud of. They are well connected, capitalised and creative and are amongst the most sustainable food producers in the world. The team has written a report called Fertile Ground which shows what we have, what we can do and what we need to succeed. We are taking it to every non-farming organisation, politician and body we can think of. We want to shout about how good we are, how much we have to offer and what we need to thrive in the future. The easy thing to do with land in the future is to shut the gate, call it rewilding and take the taxpayer cash. But to abandon any concept of the value of using land for food production in an uncertain world is reckless to say the least. This isn’t about farming every acre, using every input and tool regardless of the environmental cost. This is about using land to achieve a balance of everything. Carbon capture, clean water, making space for nature, renewable energy and yes, productive, sustainable, globally competitive food production, right here where so many people live and work. The best businesses are already doing it, but there is so much more we can do. Now isn’t the time to furlough farming. Now is the time to do the hard thing and learn how to do it all at once. We think there is much fertile ground for farming in the South East. I hope you agree. Otherwise, where is your food going to come from?

NEWS Long-awaited face-to-face meetings between landowners, farmers and suppliers are likely to be at the top of the agenda at the inaugural AgriSouth 2021 event at the Faversham Showground. After a frustrating year of cancelled shows, the free event, scheduled for 20 May, will focus on research, technical development and innovation by showcasing an extensive arable crop trial area. The event is registered with the National Register of Sprayer Operators (NRoSO), with two continuing professional development (CPD) points on offer for those who attend. Organisers point out that at “this crucial time for all sectors of UK Agriculture, politically and environmentally”, farmers are “looking towards a sustainable future for agriculture that will require sufficient food to be produced for a growing world population while natural resources are conserved – something that can only be done by using the latest innovative and smart technologies adapted to meet the local conditions”. With that in mind, AgriSouth will showcase products, services and technologies across the industry aimed at helping farmers and landowners future-proof their businesses and remain efficient and profitable.


TOP OF THE AGENDA Technical event partner NIAB TAG will unveil a range of field-based arable demonstrations and trials that will allow visitors to interact with leading industry experts, including a variety of demonstration trials in winter wheat and winter oilseed rape. Additional agronomy and soil management demonstrations will be presented by Yara Agronomy, Agrovista and Charton Manor Contracts. NIAB TAG’s involvement as a technical partner with AgriSouth has been led by Keith Truett, NIAB’s regional agronomist for the South East, who joined the organisation four years ago and has 20 years’ experience of farm agronomy. He is chairman of NIAB TAG’s Kent Technical Committee, which takes an independent, science-based approach to technical information. Alongside an extensive seminar programme sponsored by Kreston Reeves, AgriSouth will also feature an interactive workshop led by Dr David Jones, the Natural History Museum’s earthworm

expert, one of the creators of the soil and earthworm survey and the founder of the Earthworm Society of Britain. Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU Chief Adviser, will be presenting a seminar entitled Renewable Energy and Climate Change. A senior NFU adviser since 2007, Jonathan leads a small team providing analysis and advice on energy and climate change to the NFU’s management, office holders and members. His background in university and government research covers energy and climate policy, plant physiology, biomass fuels, bio-based products and other renewables. The organisers are urging farmers across the South East to “come along, enjoy some hospitality and consider how this event could affect your planning at one of the few gatherings of agricultural industry machinery, supplies and service specialists in the South East for 2021”. The showground is at Staplestreet Road, Faversham, Kent ME13 9HY.

BUCKS COUNTY SHOW CANCELLED The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced the organisers of the 2021 Bucks County Show to cancel the event scheduled for 26 August. Charlotte Patrick, from the organising team, said that “while the ongoing vaccination programme is progressing well and should be commended, it has nevertheless become increasingly evident that it would not be prudent to hold

the Bucks County Show this year. “This has been a very difficult decision to make, but, as our pre-planning for the 2021 event would now be starting to reach key deadlines for confirming major contractors, the committee felt it had no other option than to make this decision now and focus our efforts on the 2022 show.”


Kent-based scientific research charity East Malling Trust has appointed Dr Celia Caulcott and Tim Chambers to its board as trustees. Formerly Vice-Provost (Enterprise) at University College London, Dr Celia Caulcott was responsible for developing and supporting the university’s innovation and enterprise strategy. Before that she worked at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. She currently chairs the Board of Trustees of the Quadram Institute, which undertakes important work in the field of food and health. Tim Chambers is managing director and third generation owner of Chambers Group, which specialises in berry, currant and stone fruit production and packing for leading UK supermarkets. The Chambers family can trace their farming heritage in Kent back to 1624, when James I was on the throne. Dr Oliver Doubleday, Chairman of East Malling Trust, said: “For more than a century the trust has been an advocate for scientific advancement to support, strengthen and sustain the competitiveness of the horticulture industry. We are very fortunate in securing the services of these two highly qualified industry experts.” The new trustees will help the trust continue to support the work of NIAB EMR on the 500-acre estate and create a new research campus.

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> Dr Celia Caulcott

> Tim Chambers






Where have my sheep hurdles mysteriously disappeared to? The Easter hunt begins. If I offered chocolate eggs in exchange for hurdles, might they magically reappear? It’s a reoccurring theme when lambing preparation start. Hurdles get scattered far and wide, bolstering up weak places in hedges. They might be a quick fix, but I’m fairly sure I stipulated my shiny purchases were strictly to be used for pen building only. However I’ve found some in the cattle yards, in random gateways, making dens and guarding the fire pit. They’re not looking so smart, and they don’t fit together as seamlessly as they did. But doing the job they’re designed for will make a pleasant change for them. If Nigel had his way, he wouldn’t pen any ewes and lambs; he says I mollycoddle them. If a ewe has carried her lambs for five months, I think it’s worth giving them a little attention for 24 hours to set

them off on the right foot. With a starting date of 14 April, I wasn’t expecting a ewe to appear with one lamb in tow on April Fools’ Day. She didn’t reveal any birth details. This lamb didn’t look single size, and mules are apt to produce multiple lambs. I’m suspicious, but the flock was running over 50 acres of land which includes several ponds, woodland and shaws, which provides plenty of cover for sneaky ewes. Unfortunately it is also home to several predators. Incidentally I’m rather enjoying seeing the increased numbers of pheasants around, in particular Mr Reeves’s. He must be three years old now. Floss, our spaniel, gets all of a quiver when she spots him. I tell her he is off limits. The Reeves’s cockbird looks magnificent, especially when the sun glints on his plumage. I was amused when he appeared to have collected up a harem of six hen pheasants. He was intent on chasing off the competition, sending other cock pheasants

running. I’m not sure he won all the battles, because next time I saw him one of his tail feathers looked damaged and he was on his own. But at least he’s managed to evade the foxes. The next morning a second ewe had lambed, but this time it was more obvious where her labour had taken place. There was one large lamb slightly wobbly on his feet and close by lay one large half eaten lamb and afterbirth. This young ewe was overwrought, and I had no chance of catching her. The lamb was a quick learner and tanked after its mother as best it could. I did manage to catch it to dip its navel in iodine. For a couple of days I only glimpsed these two from a distance, exiting the field as I entered it. When I did next get close enough to observe the lamb, it looked empty and gave a plaintive bleat, it ran up to another ewe as if looking for extra rations. The ewe had calmed down but was still a good runner. I enlisted Brie’s help and together we managed to guide her into our large collecting pen. > Lockdown hair, doing pen work in the shed

> Lambing in the sunshine

> Walking the ewes home


> Reeves’s pheasant Now was a chance to try out the super crook. It clipped onto her back leg but she was powerful and dragged me along, so I hooked it into the fence. She was secure enough for me to investigate her bag, which was rock hard in one side, while the other side was empty. The lamb drank a complete bottle of milk. I unblocked the teat and milked what I could out. The ewe still had an appetite, which seems promising, and was given treatment for mastitis. We also had a good pair of twins born late in the day, so I penned them for 24 hours and they’re doing fine. No more lambs born for 10 days. We walked the flock back one and half miles to the home farm over the weekend, which the grandchildren enjoyed helping with. Angus likes to take possession of the steering wheel and George likes to be where the action is. So now I can spy on the sheep from our bedroom window. Triplets born last night and twins this morning; lambing is upon us. Still some dagging out needed, along with marking up the ewes with numbers. We’ve had some proper blackthorn winter weather this spring. The blossom in the hedges looks spectacular and matches the hard frosty mornings. When there’s a white frost I like to see the little bright green patches on the ground showing where the sheep have slept. This morning there was a beautiful sunrise at six and by seven it was cloudy and snowing heavily. Not exactly ideal lambing weather, but better than Arctic winds and rain. It’s the right time of year to improve, and when it does the spring cultivations will be priority. We have some nectar flower mix and winter bird food seeds to get in the ground. Grass growth is slow so no rush for first cut silage. Although our new mower has arrived at the dealership, it’s still in a box awaiting assembly. The combination of Covid-19 and Brexit sometimes has unforeseen consequences; namely difficulties with supply of tyres. We’ve spent six weeks waiting for tyres to fit Shrek (ATV), and there is no sign of their arrival. When a puncture became unrepairable, it became disastrous. Coincidentally it happened when the container ship was jammed across the Suez Canal, so we hoped our tyres weren’t on board. Shepherding these days without the use of an ATV would cost lives, probably mine from stress. I was mightily relieved when we tracked down some that fitted within the UK. Last Saturday I made a rare escape from the farm to support a new venture locally, a monthly farmers’ market held in the grounds of Ashburnham Place and set out in front of the lake. Hazel and Martin had a stall selling Pevensey Blue cheese, while Nigel and Hannah sold our beef and lamb meat. The next one is on 1 May from 9am to 1pm. Buying locally and the friendly market atmosphere combined with the beautiful setting sure beats the supermarket aisle experience.

> Martin and Hazel selling cheese

> Brie training up Angus (next shepherding generation)

> Nigel and Hannah selling our meat

17 > Blackthorn hedge

> Plenty of hiding places for sneaky ewes

> Early morning look around

> The lambing field

> Ashburnham farmers’ market TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883




Husband and wife team Kevin and Alison Blunt, along with their son Matthew, own and run a dairy goat and award-winning cheese business at Greenacres Farm in Golden Cross, East Sussex. The six-acre farm is home to a herd of around 180 British Saanen, Toggenburg and British Alpine goats which are milked twice a day. They are housed in large airy barns and predominantly fed on a diet of hay and grass, spending their days grazing in the main field from March to October. All the milk produced on the farm is used to make their award-winning Golden Cross and Chabis goats’ cheeses. As a soft cheese it’s a fast turnaround, taking 11 days from liquid milk to finished product, explained Kevin. They also make a sheep's cheese, named Flower Marie, with ewe’s milk bought from a dairy in Stratford-Upon-Avon. The story began back in 1984 when the couple bought the six-acre smallholding with little more than a collection of small barns and a caravan. From hand milking a few goats and keeping free range chickens, they have evolved the business to produce around 20 tonnes of cheese a year, selling to 30 wholesalers and retailers across the UK. No mean feat considering neither Kevin nor Alison was born into a farming family and neither planned a farming life.


The couple met at university, where Kevin completed a degree in biochemistry and Alison obtained a degree in human biology with a nursing option.


TURNED TO GOLD This month Nigel Akehurst visits the Blunt family at Greenacres Farm in Golden Cross, East Sussex to find out more about their thriving dairy goat and cheese business. Kevin got the farming bug by helping with the harvest on a farm managed by his soon-to-be stepfather during a summer vacation from university. After university he got a job on a dairy farm outside Appleby in Cumbria, finally ending up as a herdsman on a farm near Melton Mowbray before moving to Golden Cross in 1984. As a nurse Alison was able to follow Kevin around the country while he gained valuable experience in stock and dairy. Then on a trip to visit Alison’s parents in Eastbourne, they discovered a six-acre smallholding up for sale with barns and a mobile home. Wearing the rose-tinted glasses of youth, they took the plunge.


They started out with about 50 chickens and a handful of goats. Gradually they expanded to 100

> Kevin Blunt


bird sheds on skids and then managed to buy four old 500-bird battery houses from a neighbouring farm which they converted into free range houses. “We packed for a local wholesaler and sold eggs from the farm gate along with our frozen goats’ milk,” he said. During these ‘early days’ they lived in a caravan for five years, while trying to get planning permission to build a farmhouse, which they eventually achieved in 1989.


Then fortune struck. A meeting with a Frenchman, Regis Du Sartre, who was selling his goat farming and cheese-making business, was a major turning point. Kevin and Alison were able to buy his goats, milking parlour and cheese-making equipment.

As part of the deal they got a couple of his recipes, one of which was based loosely on a SainteMaure de Touraine style ash goat log, which they have since refined and perfected to become their most famous cheese – Golden Cross. As well as buying some milkers from Regis, they also bought a lot of his young stock and have been a closed herd ever since. “Although we had been going for five years and had the house, getting the recipe and the outlets allowed us to start expanding the goats and slowly grow the business into what it has become today,” said Kevin.


In the heart of the farmyard, just opposite the farmhouse and a large cluster of barns, sit the cheese rooms. On my arrival at the farm, Kevin invited me into the cloakroom, where I completed a visitor’s questionnaire, disinfected my hands and put on a face mask, hairnet, white coat and boots. We then entered an immaculately clean, white walled room, with doors leading to other white walled rooms. I met Kevin's wife Alison, his son Matthew and part time employee Linda – all dressed in similar attire and busy carrying out various cheese tasks. Kevin explained to me how it all begins in the ‘make room’, where cheese starter, vegetarian rennet and penicillium candidum are added to the milk in the cheese vat, transferred into 90-litre buckets and left in a warm room for 24 hours to form a curd. The curd is then ladled by hand into the moulds, drained for 24 hours and turned. >>

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• 6.5 acre small farm in Golden Cross • Six employees – three full time (Kevin, Alison and Matthew), two part time in the dairy (Linda and Sarah) and one on the farm for relief milking and feeding (Jack). • 180 milking goats (Saanen, Toggenburg and British Alpine), which are milked twice a day (6am and 3.30pm, taking around 2 to 2.5 hours) • Produce 20 tonnes of cheese per annum (two goats’ cheeses from their own milk (Golden Cross and Chabis) and one sheep’s cheese (Flower Marie) from milk produced by Wayfield Dairy. • Finish 150 meat goats at eight to 10 months at 45kg • All hay and straw supplied by local farmer Brian Walker • All the cheese is sold wholesale via around 30 to 40 retail/wholesale customers.





The next morning the cheeses are << unmoulded and placed on mats and then on racks in a drying room for 24 hours. Each log is then hand salted before being dried for a further one to two days. Before maturing, the cheese is lightly charcoaled by hand (with a sifter like icing sugar on a cake). The charcoal provides a nice contrast to the whiteness of the goat’s cheese and alters the acidity of the surface of the cheese, which aids maturation and growth of the penicillium mould. Kevin pointed out the differing floor levels of the various rooms, which have been added to and expanded over the years, marking the evolution of the business.

In the make room they have two cheese vats, a large 2000 litre one that connects via a sophisticated valve to a bulk milk tank located outside, and a smaller one they use for making the sheep’s cheese. Kevin explained that the larger vat was installed two years ago when they decided to scale up and replace their old bulk milk tank (which was previously located in the cheese dairy) and move to a larger cheese vat, which has allowed them to make every other day. This has allowed them to finish a little earlier on those days, though Kevin remarked: “On the days that we don’t make goat’s cheese we are doing the sheep’s cheese and there is always lots of other work to be done around the cheese each day.”


Typically there are two or three people working in the cheese rooms every day, with Kevin and Matthew alternating each day between farm work and cheese work. After the cheese room tour I ask Kevin what he most enjoys about farming and cheese making. “I just love seeing the goats looking content, either in the field or barns, and the fact that we are able to produce and sell something that we are really proud of and that customers enjoy,” he said. “Most of all it’s being able to do this together with Alison and now Matt. Also the fact that we were always around for the three boys growing up and how they enjoy good food because they appreciate the effort involved in producing it.”

I ask how they sell their cheese. “We sell the cheese to around 30 wholesale and retail customers,” he replied. “It grew gradually over the years as we expanded, with wholesalers such as Eastside Cheese, H&B Fine Foods and Neals Yard promoting our product,” he added.


The business has won numerous awards for its cheeses over the years and I ask Kevin which awards they were most proud of. “Being the first cheesemakers to win the Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association’s James Aldridge Memorial Trophy for The Best British Raw Milk Cheese sponsored and presented by Prince Charles was one,” he replied. As an aside he explained that James Aldridge Eastside Cheese did a lot to promote their cheese in the early years and came up with the recipe for Flower Marie. Another highlight came in 2018 when “Golden Cross won the Best British Cheese at the World Cheese Awards and finished in the top 16 from over 3,000 cheeses from around the world”.


For any aspiring cheese makers or dairy farmer thinking of having a go, I ask Kevin if he has any words of advice. “There is lots of information out there now. The Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association and the School of Artisan Cheese are good places to start. Check out local delis/farm shops to see what local cheeses are already on offer and where there might be a gap. “Talk to the local environmental health officer before you do anything because you will have to have everything approved before you start,” he said.


Next we take a tour of the farm and set of buildings. The majority of the nanny goats were out

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grazing contentedly in the field and seemed happy to pose for a few photos with Kevin. By then Matthew had changed out of his cheese gear and was on a tractor, bedding up and feeding the goats inside the large airy barns with central passage. Kevin explained that both he and Matthew share the stock work and twice daily milking on the farm with a relief milker, Jack, who works two days a week. I ask him what they feed the goats. “The diet is predominantly hay topped up with daily grazing March to October,” Kevin replies. “They are also fed an 18% dairy goat nut through the parlour; around 1.5kg to 2Kg per head per day, averaging two-and-a-half to three litres per head per day milk production,” he added. Due to the small acreage, they buy in locally made hay and straw bales from Hankham-based farmer Brian Walker, who also takes away their goat manure. Previously they supplied him with whey, a byproduct from the cheese dairy, but when he packed up doing pigs they decided to try feeding it to their own goats, an experiment that has proved a big success. They now drink roughly two litres of it per head per day, and I watched Matthew drive around and fill up plastic water troughs from a large tank in the back of his John Deere gator.


At the rear of the large housing barn is a collecting yard and a ramp which leads up to the parlour. Kevin explained that in 1998 they upgraded to a modern 20 in-line parlour with automatic clusters. They started using the auto ID leg bands in 2011. This has allowed them to select the best goats. “We can produce a similar amount of milk with fewer animals,” said Kevin. Where they previously had 240 milkers they now have 180. It’s also been good for keeping vet and medicine records, he added.


To minimise peaks and troughs in their milk supply, they have a spring and autumn kidding block. As a closed herd, on average they keep back about 30 females as replacements, with the remaining 150 male and female kids reared on the farm as meat goats. These are finished at around eight to ten months, averaging 45kg live weight, with the majority sold to RP Meats Brighton. “We are happy as long as the meat goats cover the cost of rearing,” said Kevin.


Over the years the Blunts have invested in green technology. In 2013 they installed a solar array on the roof of their farm buildings, producing 30Kw/ hour - which was the largest they were allowed given the capacity of the local network. “The system paid for itself within seven years and we receive feed-in tariff payments plus a small amount for exported power. The array also produces at least a third of the power we use through the year,” said Kevin. In addition to this, they have linked up all the cheese room compressors to a smart water heater so that the heat normally lost to the surroundings as a byproduct during the cooling process is used to heat the hot water for the dairy. This system gets the water to 50°C and it is then given a boost for milking parlour washing out etc.


When the first lockdown closed the hospitality sector, many of their best customers cancelled orders, resulting in more than a few sleepless nights for the Blunts. With such a massive drop in demand, they scaled back milking as much as possible, leaving the kids on the recently kidded goats to reduce the milk produced. However the majority of the goats still needed to be milked twice daily and they continued >> to make cheese in slightly smaller quantities.





> Matthew trnsporting whey to feed to the goats They were also able to leverage family and friends sending chilled << packages of cheese around the UK via parcel-force. The Blunts also sought financial help from the Government, but like a lot of small businesses found they weren’t eligible for any grants, and the furlough scheme was a non-starter for all full-time staff. “You can’t furlough yourself if you’re the farmer and cheesemaker and not work in your business,” commented Kevin. Kevin and Alison stopped taking a salary from the farm, relying on savings, and took up a bounce back loan to support the business. On the whole they count themselves lucky, having paid off all their previous loans as a relatively mature business. They were also surprised by the resilience of the sector, with a few of their wholesale customers still willing to take cheeses. Since then, they have also managed to pick up several new customers who have benefited from the rise in online demand for British cheeses and, more recently, the revival of farmers’ markets.



In April and May of last year there were a number of high profile campaigns to help save struggling artisan cheese makers. These were led by some retailers and celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver, who donated his time voluntarily and spoke directly to his Instagram followers urging them to buy a Save British Cheese selection box to avoid food waste and keep businesses afloat. The awareness generated by these campaigns provided a much-needed shot in the arm for British cheesemakers.


With hospitality venues reopening on 12 April for outdoor dining, the Blunts are feeling more optimistic about the future and gearing up for a return to full production. They are also planning to start taking more time off. “Once we are through the pandemic Alison and I will be looking to have a little more regular time off and will look to employ at least one more full-time person to help Matt carry on the business,” said Kevin.


NICK ADAMES Former dairy farmer

Around 18 months back, we began hearing rumours that the big telecoms companies were set on slashing rents for their mast sites, with government support, for two reasons: firstly they were struggling financially and secondly the Government was seeking to rush development of better internet speeds in rural areas. The first reason was obviously laughable, as only weeks after that story emerged it was reported that Vodafone plc profits for the previous quarter had been announced as some £4 billion. Just look at their share prices? The second reason has more in its favour but, even so, the rent cuts envisaged were so savage it was more likely to get such a negative response from site owners as to delay or reverse internet coverage, not improve it. To give you a personal example: We have a site close to a very busy main road, a site which I had encouraged the original provider O2 to develop back around the turn of the century because it appeared there was to be a new bypass built within some 250m of the site. Initially the company had offered a rent of some £4,700 and we had agreed staged increases since. A few years back O2 entered a joint deal with Vodafone on this site, and the rent rose accordingly to reflect the value until, within another two reviews, the site rental stood at £9,500. A fair rental for a very prime site. So you can imagine my reactions when we received notice that they wanted some new restrictions on site rentals and provisionally offered us an annual rental of close to £200. Needless to say we, and many thousands of site owners across the country, are up in arms at this blatant bullying. A number of groups have engaged some large specialist telecom agents and the fight is just getting going. Some landowners, I hear, are already discussing getting some big machines out and physically wrecking these masts rather than being subjected to such terms. One thing is certain, the price of phones and calls won’t come down and the only winners will be these huge multinational companies. And the lawyers. Neither will it reflect well on government when 2018 election pledges of a rapid improvement in broadband coverage fail to materialise before the next election. I apologise for returning to the troubles of the dairy industry again this month, but so many things continue to hit it that each one hurts me almost as if we were still in the job. The day we

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made the decision to sell the dairy herd was one of the worst days I remember in my working life, and although seeing the old girls leave was quite hard, feelings were eased because I knew they were all going as one herd to one place. The thought of the farms without cattle was in some ways hard to contemplate but made easier by that. Those feelings have slipped into the past now and, every month since, my main thought is “thank God we don’t have the worry of cattle any longer”, coupled with “how on earth did I stick at it so long?” Almost every time one opens a farming magazine one sees or hears of farmers lamenting the way the industry is going, be it milk prices, milk contracts, the new TB constraints, tightening nitrogen and effluent controls or labour shortages. In the south it is also the diminishing availability of local service engineers, with the steady loss of so many of the region’s old dairy herds making work harder to find for the long-established dairy engineers and staff, while the costs of dairy maintenance contracts, parts or breakdown visits increase monthly. The upcoming changes in TB testing in high risk areas will surely convince even more farmers to decide to bite the bullet before they are overcome by yet more futile DEFRA efforts to stop a disease they have failed to control since the Government relaxed controls in the 1970s and the badger population exploded to levels probably higher than it was in our grandfathers’ and fathers’ time (around and before the Second World War). Then, when the Government made a serious

effort they managed to get the disease under control remarkably quickly, whereas now they are failing dismally, and the recent announcement of routine, twice-yearly, area testing will surely do nothing, apart from demoralising farmers and their staff and ensuring lifelong employment for the DEFRA/APHA staff employed to carry out the testing. And then we keep hearing the animal rights enthusiasts for badger vaccination pushing their pointless case for annual badger jabbing! Even were there an effective vaccine, what do they think is the chance of making sure every brock presents itself for its annual shot? Even then this is dependent on a jab that works, which looks pretty unlikely, given the success they have had developing one so far. For the past 30 of my 60-plus years involved with dairying I stuck with the cattle because it had been my family’s way of life since the 1890s. Since the mid 1970s I kept seeing neighbours sell their cows and thought the reduced risks of cross contamination from neighbours’ cattle would help those of us left. Slowly it dawned on me that this was not going to happen, until I finally saw the light. You could probably say I was a bit slow on the uptake! Now I don’t have to worry about it, except for the remaining folk who struggle on with 60-day testing on top of all their other dairy related problems. Coronavirus has so far lasted 16 months; this has been going on since the 1970s, with no end in sight.





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The cold spring at the beginning of April was not reflected within the livestock sale rings and auction markets; cattle and sheep numbers were at excellent levels, with sheep at record prices. This was totally unexpected in most people’s eyes, with the trade for old season lambs already at record levels, regularly trading over £150 per head and weight not an issue. Considering that most restaurant outlets, including pubs, were still closed until 12 April, it will be interesting to see how, by the time this report is published, the trade has reflected the anticipated increase in catering sales. There is certainly a pent-up demand for quality British meat which is great to see for livestock producers, and long may it continue. Early spring lamb sales are also seeing an excellent demand, with lambs trading up to £180 per head and more desperately wanted by buyers

who had an excellent Easter. Signs are good that with numbers tight, this trade will be maintained. Prime cattle are also shorter than required in the live ring and more could easily be sold to advantage. Prices are forecast to increase over the next few months, with supplies being shorter than demand. This is all good news and proves the benefit of selling in the live markets, where trade has without doubt pushed the prices forward. With more vendors and buyers returning to the live ring, it is good to see the British public being served quality meat on an open basis. The cull sheep and beef trades are also excellent, at levels that have rarely been seen. Store cattle are meeting an excellent demand, with more vendors looking to replace their sold stock despite the high price of feed; there is some confidence within the beef and lamb industry at the moment.


It is still disappointing that the pig market has seen little uplift for some time, with dead prices increasing only very slowly. It is good, however, to see that the cull sow trade has increased substantially since the beginning of the year, although that would still be at levels well below 12 months ago. With pigs being fed mostly grain and this being at high cost levels, pigs are a very high cost product and certainly all producers need an uplift in the trade which is slowly coming forward. The cold weather at the beginning of April and the lack of rain is putting some spring crops under some stress, but hopefully by the time this report is published we will have seen some warm rain and some good growing conditions. It is a volatile livestock market at the moment but mostly moving in an upward direction. Let us hope this continues; with the saying “sell live to thrive” continuing to be in evidence.



We, as auctioneers, are as guilty as everyone No wonder the bio-tech companies are rushing PETER KINGWILL else in farming when we use in our reports and headlong to produce protein in a petri dish. T: 01233 502222 discussions about the state of the current trade Quality British beef and lamb can stand on its phrases such as “fantastic”, “exceptional”, own maintaining and meeting any of the standards “sensational” and “unbelievable”. As good as that consumers want and demand. Those farmers they obviously are, it is time we looked at these prices in a different light. producing this product must, however, be well rewarded for their time, their We have never seen this current level of prices, and even in relative terms effort, their commitment and their continued investment into family futures and over the period since the war there have been few moments to compare. business development. Rather than talking about how exceptional current prices are, I think we Less of me this month banging on about the threats of big business to our should be regarding them as the new ‘normal’ and getting consumers, retailers great industry. It gets me into trouble with some, which perhaps suggests that I and politicians accustomed to this level of price at the producer level. am a little closer to the truth than many would like to admit. After all, although Covid-19 has had an impact on demand and consumer Let’s now have a reminder of some of those normal, regular, run of the mill habits by reconnecting the consumer with cooking at home and allowing them prices that we have seen over the last few weeks. Hoggets to £183 per head and to recognise the importance of the quality and the provenance of all their raw 400p/kg from Tom Husk, Dover; Spring lamb to £167 and 428p/kg from Katie materials, it is also fuelled by the decline in supply nationally of products such as Tucker, Pulborough and ewes to £202 from Tom Husk. Finished steers to 246p/ beef and lamb. kg W Alexander, Sevenoaks and £1,674 from Luke Colbourne, Dorking, with Why is national production of farmed product in such decline? It is largely finished heifers to 257p/kg and £1694 from Shaun Marsh, Dover. down to the fact that for far too long producers have been working for far too Cull beef cows to 232p/kg from Vexour Pedigree Herds, Edenbridge and little, with margins squeezed and squeezed to the point where they have rightly £1,664 from Highfields Park, Hartfield, with dairy cows to £1,303 from Appleton questioned their future and the future of their sector. This is the consequence of Farms (Ledger Farms), Deal. Yearling continental (Limousin cross) steers to a retail sector that is too much about the short term, utilising their commercial £1,465 from L E Humphreys & Sons, Maidstone and heifers to £1,245 from A J strength to drive down farm prices to protect their own margins rather than Bray, Faversham. looking at the long term viability of their farming partners who they ought to be trying to sustain, not just in the present but also into the short, medium and long term. Beef, sheep and dairy farmers work in a very different world to the industrialized sector of pork and chicken, with massive variables created by both climate and terrain. Rightly proud of their sector and their products, they have seen the consumer give them the stamp of approval in recognition of their excellence and an acceptance of the price that needs to be charged for a Supporting British Livestock Agriculture Since 2000 premium home-produced product. Cheaper protein will exist and, sadly, industrial pork and chicken is rapidly moving towards a position of cheapness and convenience, able to carry the Our practices provide the flavour from other sources but barely able to stand alone as a quality product. following services in Kent,

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Well, once they finally decided to get on with it, everything was done and lambed within 18 days, start to finish, at least with the Lleyn. Some cracking lambs and all delivered with remarkable ease; my ideal lambing would be one in which I didn’t have to assist any ewes, a target that was almost achieved this year, with just one mal-presentation, an old girl who had a partial prolapse, so I was keeping a close eye on her; popped out her first lamb no problem, then second water bag appeared with a tail, but with the problem quickly sorted she was tucked up in a mothering pen with a lovely pair of lambs in no time. Sadly the prolapse problem does mean that it will be her last season with us; she has served us well and has provided 11 very good lambs in her five lambings. This year’s crop of lambs have also, for me at least, seemed to be particularly robust when


they were born. With good birth weights, very active lambs and good milky ewes they have got away very quickly, with very few mortalities and, I can honestly say, none that was in any way avoidable. I suspect that the use, for a number of years, of Lleyn Gold has played a significant part and the criterion for selecting replacement ewes has really begun to show benefits. The system is based around the selection of good milky ewes and lambs with a high initial growth rate, as determined by eight week litter weights as a percentage of ewe weight at weaning; simple but very effective. With better weather towards the end of March, everything was back out onto grass in no time; for some of those born in the evening, they were mothered up overnight, tagged and tailed the next morning and back out within 12 hours or so. And they have really benefited. There is nothing quite like a decent bite of good grass for putting milk under ewes


> Herdwick, not the most productive of sheep, but what they do they do cheaply, and they certainly produce bonny lambs


and they have responded by milking incredibly well. One rather strong, foolhardy and cheeky ram lamb just happened to walk up to have a close look at me the other morning, within arm’s reach, so I scooped him up and popped him on the scales; born as one of a pair at 5.5kg he weighed a good 16.5kg at exactly four weeks old, an average daily gain of 393gm (0.87 lbs), with his twin brother looking almost as good. The boss’s small Herdwick flock, following on about a week after the main flock finished, was even more obliging, with all of them lambing within seven days and not a single bit of assistance required, although for a hill breed the latter is just what one would expect, thus providing a nice tidy end to lambing. Strangely, out of six Herdwick ewes producing eight lambs (133% lambing, not bad) the good lady had seven ewe lambs and only one ram. In 50+ years of working with sheep I have never previously encountered such an extreme ewe to ram ratio, albeit with a small number. Unfortunately, with so many ewe lambs, I can foresee a dramatic expansion of the Herdwick flock in two years time. Being able to keep some paddocks clear of sheep for a little over four months from October until lambing has certainly paid off this year. The grass growth over that period has been sufficient to sustain the ewes right through lambing, and even now in mid-April they still have a decent wedge in front of them. I know that winter grass reputedly has limited feed value, but it has done the girls well so far this season. The problem is, where do we go from here? Grass growth, certainly on the few paddocks that were grazed further on into the winter, is remarkably slow to recover and the paddocks that have been grazed over lambing are not faring much better. This is not a problem that is limited to the South East, as communications with sheep keepers in other parts of the country have clearly indicated. Some areas are significantly worse off than we are. This is in spite of the fact that I have deliberately avoided grazing too hard, leaving a good grass cover when sheep have been moved on to fresh paddocks in order to encourage a more rapid recovery, sadly with little apparent effect, but we will see. The unseasonably warm spell that we experienced a couple of weeks ago was just what was needed to kick start this season’s grass growth. At the time all of the grass perked up and began to grow, but a subsequent run of colder weather has effectively once again brought things to a standstill. I hope that we are not going to suffer a repeat of the 2020 grass growing season; at the moment grass

VET DIARY growth is behind where it was at the same time last year, and with a snow shower while doing the sheep rounds this morning (12 April) and the fact that we have only had 7mm of rainfall since mid March, things are not looking too encouraging at present. That said, there is still plenty of time for things to turn around and, as a bonus, there is certainly no need to worry too much about fly strike at the moment and, as yet, there are no Nematodirus warnings. But this does not provide any room for complacency, for the latter in particular, as a sudden warm spell after a run of colder weather can trigger a sudden and quite large rise in the threat from Nematodirus, so there is a need to be prepared. Unprepared, and without timely treatment, Nematodirus can kill lambs. The real bonus at the moment is the high price of hoggets, which topped 307p/kg in Ashford Market last week and even topped 338p/kg in Bakewell. Tight supplies from domestic producers and from New Zealand, where producers are trying to rebuild stock numbers, have sustained almost unprecedentedly high prices since the New Year, significantly better, I suspect, than ever anticipated. It is just what the industry needs to generate a bit of confidence, and a decrease in the national flock size over the past year and the potential for a reduced lamb crop this year in parts of the country, due to adverse weather, could help to maintain firm prices for the rest of the year. I suspect that prices do need to come back a little so as not to erode demand, particularly within the catering sector as it begins to open up again after lockdown. It would be good to see British lamb on menus, but for a successful trade everyone in the chain needs to be able to make their margin. Fingers crossed now for some good grass growing weather and for a continued good trade. It would be good, after the past two years, to see a season in which we can all produce a bit more off grass and to have a sensible market providing an adequate reward for all the hard work, and at times worry, that has gone into producing this year’s crop of lambs. That said, if I had the area (I gave up about a third of my grazing a couple of years ago due to persistent dog worrying issues) and resources I would certainly be looking to use a wider range of forage crops to provide an early spring bite, help fill the inevitable summer decline in grass growth and extend the grazing season further into the autumn/ winter as an insurance against unfavourable, and potentially rather extreme, weather patterns. As it is, I am prepared for the strategic use of some creep feeding in the event of grass supplies tightening too much in order to keep lambs moving forward and, with an eye to next year’s lamb crop, take some of the pressure off the ewes. I really do not want them losing more body condition than I can sensibly get back on them between weaning and tupping this coming autumn. And so the cycle goes on.

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As we finally welcome the return of the sun with a glimpse of social freedom and a pint, our farm vets are right smack bang in the middle of the action with the calving and lambing season upon us. This inevitably means there will be some abortions. We have recently conducted a number of abortion investigations in sheep and cattle, the most recent of which was in a dairy herd which had experienced three abortions of four to five month pregnancies in a period of a few weeks. A range of samples was taken from an aborted foetus and the results came back with a positive diagnosis for Neospora infection. As many of you may be aware, Neospora caninum is a protozoan infection which can occur either from direct ingestion of the oocysts (parasite eggs) by the cattle or by acquiring it from dam to daughter through the placenta. Cattle infected will have an 80% to 90% chance of aborting or producing calves with a persistent Neospora infection. Neospora is the most commonly attributed cause of abortion in cattle, and a three year study of 114 farms in south west England showed over 90% had at least one positive animal in that time. Another study of 500 dairy farms testing bulk milk tanks indicated a prevalence of 51%, much higher than initially thought. Cattle pick up oocysts from dogs which have been exposed to Neospora mainly from infected aborted material. Dogs shed these oocysts in the faeces onto feed/fields/water courses where the cattle are exposed. The main risk of entry onto farm is through the purchase of infected cattle, and the greatest risk of spreading it within the herd is a farm dog with access to aborted material. It is important to note there is little evidence that foxes or any other wildlife spread Neospora

oocysts. They can be infected, but studies have shown there is no conclusive evidence that they are important in terms of significant spread. Further research will need to be done, but in the meantime, we should still consider them a low risk factor. So how do we go about controlling Neosporosis in the herd? There are currently no treatments or vaccines available in the UK for this disease. Instead we have to implement some important management changes such as increasing biosecurity, disposing of afterbirth and restricting dog access to calving areas, cattle feed and water sources; and controlling rodent populations as they act as an intermediate host and may pose risk of infection to dogs. Reducing dam to foetus infection is slightly trickier, but figuring out which animals have been infected is important, so testing is essential. Then we can cull, or breed to beef in a dairy herd. It has been proved that Limousin foetuses have half the risk of abortion of a black and white calf, but breeding to any beef sire has been shown to reduce the risk of abortion and ensures you are not keeping breeding females to pass on infections. We should therefore only keep heifers from antibody negative dams. Please speak to your vet to discuss any abortions and remember that any abortion should be reported to APHA for Brucellosis screening.


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Quarters – maybe you are thinking of the quarters of the udder? What if it is the quarterly time frame in which we routinely assess the milk quality parameters and mastitis case rates, helping to promote effective mastitis control on farm? The new industry-led initiative for mastitis control is called QuarterPRO. It involves the assessment of your herd’s milk quality data every three months with the aim of controlling risk factors to reduce clinical mastitis rates and improve milk quality, writes Kathy Hume BVM BVS MRCVS, Westpoint Farm Vets Ashford. Dairy farmers have been recording clinical mastitis cases for a long time, and the majority are performing milk recording so have somatic cell count (SCC) data available for their herd. This would commonly be monitored through your vet or software, but would not necessarily indicate where the key management problem area is on your farm. Well, I have great news. All of that data can be combined easily, regularly, and can provide information of your farm mastitis bacteria pattern using the mastitis pattern analysis tool. This can be accessed online at with a step-by-step guide on how to use it. This analysis tool is easy-to-use software that uses your mastitis clinical case data and SCC data from your milk recording company to create a report. The simple, concise report informs you of the recent mastitis pattern on your farm. The pattern is clearly defined as dry period or lactational, environmental or contagious. The report will also highlight if a specific group is affected e.g. heifers. For example, a farm quarterly mastitis pattern may be described as dry period environmental. The report also outlines some key recommendations for control of this mastitis pattern. Once you have created your report or asked your vet to produce one

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for you, it is important to review the specific risk factors applicable to your farm’s recent mastitis disease pattern. For example, if it is dry period environmental in summer, the dry cow grazing environment could be a key risk management area. Using this information your farm team can assess this management area and what factors maybe increasing mastitis risk for your herd e.g. poaching of grazing areas. The AHDB has produced information resources on some common risk areas and these are available online. The resources available include dry cow management, lactating cow environmental management, lactating cow contagious management and heifer management. These can be used to help guide you to outline a management change plan for the following quarter for your herd. For changes to be successfully implemented, it is important to involve the whole farm team so everyone involved in the day-to-day management of the cows has an understanding of why the changes are important. Brainstorming solutions as a team is a great way to get practical ideas for how implementing the management changes will happen on farm and creating a team approach to risk control for mastitis. Repeating the mastitis report quarterly will help you assess the progress you are making from the changes you have implemented. It will also indicate if there has been any deterioration in an area or if a different mastitis disease pattern is present. Mastitis control is complex and multifactorial and that is why the AHDB Dairy mastitis control plan is an extremely useful tool that can be used for implementing mastitis control on your farm. To find a trained vet or consultant who can perform a control plan for you, speak to your veterinary surgeon or visit the plan deliverer map online at


SUMMER IS AROUND THE CORNER I would like to start by paying a short tribute to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. His greatest legacy has to be The Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme; having completed my Gold award in my younger days, the feeling of achievement will never leave me. It was hard work but so rewarding, and it has served me well on many occasions in my later life. The award is comprised of four separate parts – volunteering, physical, skills and expedition. Millions of awards have been achieved in the UK since the Duke started the award scheme in 1956. Its aim was to encourage young people to build skills, confidence and resilience. I believe at every stage in the award it achieves this. The Duke dedicated a lifetime of service to the Queen and the country. He really was one of a kind. If all goes well and we have some good silagemaking weather, we should be silaging by the time you read this. Fingers and toes are all crossed for a good yield; we certainly need one. As I write this the weather is still cold and we have had four consecutive nights with a hard frost laying on the ground. Lambing is finally over, and the lambs are prancing around with such spirit in their step. Summer is around the corner and the lighter evenings are fantastic. The maize ground is prepped and drilling will hopefully have commenced. Having been promoted to “post lady” for the past

few weeks, I have been analysing the amount of post that comes through the letterbox. It would appear from the amount of paperwork appearing on a daily basis that the only people making any money must be the Post Office. Apart from the usual double-glazing requests, pamphlets are delivered daily by our milk company requesting that we abide by the guidance. “Are you compliant? Is your farm tidy from an outsider’s perspective? How is your scrap pile stacked? If not, you need to be compliant ASAP. If you don’t comply you will be penalised.” I was under the opinion that we lived on quite a tidy farm, but apparently we need to ask an outsider to come and complete a survey to assess whether we fit into the “tidy category”. This will all be part of the new farm assurance. You’ve all been warned. While driving around in a vain attempt to locate some straw for sale, I was listening to the radio, where they were having a debate regarding food and trade exports (other industries have also been affected) to the EU since Brexit. Salmon and beef exports are down by 90%, while the paperwork that used to take an hour is now taking days, with extra staff having to be bought in. The fees have increased from approximately £1,500 per shipment to over £4,000. You can’t send mixed loads of meat and fish, so this means additional expense. European imports don’t have these extra costs as

the UK government haven’t put in place the required checks and won’t be able to put them in place before 2022 at the earliest. This is not a fair playing field. We are expected to adhere to all the rules and regulations, but imports can still come in via “the backdoor“, or should I say “front door”? On a positive note, the price of beef and lamb in this country seem to have rocketed. Is the message “buy local” finally getting through? With the spreading windows opened, farmers across the country are starting to think about emptying slurry stores and how best to supply nutrients to their soils and crops. I thought I would take this opportunity to prompt you about the rules for water. This is a relatively new set of rules and regulations that all farmers must follow. As I understand it, the law came into force in 2018 but the Environment Agency is just starting to enforce it. In the current weather conditions, the first point to note is the rules state you cannot spread manure or fertiliser to any agricultural land that is waterlogged, flooded, snow covered or has been frozen for 12 hours in the previous 24. You cannot spread on fallow land as you are supposed be following the RB209, so we are probably left with a three or four day window in which to spread. You must have a plan as to the amount of organic fertiliser, including digestate or manufactured fertiliser that you spread, so that you do not exceed the needs of the soil and crop on that land. The application must not give rise to a significant risk of pollution. When planning a fertiliser application, you must take into account the results of soil sampling and analysis. These results must include the pH of the soil as well as the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium present. This is as I understand it. The information changes at such a fast pace and would seem to change on a daily basis. Keep safe and stay well.


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Southern Farmers Ltd.

ANOTHER BUSY YEAR FOR TOP BUYING GROUP The pandemic may have made the past year more complicated for Southern Farmers, one of the South East’s leading agricultural buying groups, but it certainly didn’t make it any less busy. The 13-strong team, based at Rolvenden in Kent, has been working flat out all year, supporting its 1,100-plus members and making sure that they could, in turn, play their part in keeping the country going during the coronavirus challenge. As well as taking care of the buying needs of existing Southern Farmers members, the co-operative also signed up many new members who quickly discovered the benefits of belonging to a strong and well-respected buying group when dealing with the challenges of lockdown. “Because farmers were listed as key workers, companies were legally allowed to supply them, but it wasn’t always that easy,” explained Southern Farmers chairman David Fuller. “Some businesses were being rightly cautious about making sure they were only supplying goods that were for a genuine agricultural purpose. Some were only supplying buying groups. “Because the team here at Southern Farmers has a close relationship with those suppliers, we were always able to get deliveries for our members and ensure they could keep working. We gained

quite a few new members who quickly saw the benefits of our centralised buying service.” As managing director Brigitte Fifield, explained, the all-female team also pre-empted any issues by talking to major suppliers early on in the pandemic and finding out about any unexpected problems or delays with supplies, keeping members informed of any likely difficulties. Alongside the clear benefit of having a reliable supply of vital products – anything from building materials to fertilisers, fuel, tyres and tools, Southern Farmers members also enjoy preferential prices and a much simpler ordering and invoicing process. Instead of having to spend hours online or on the telephone trying to find the cheapest price for a lorry load of aggregate, Southern Farmers members can simply make one call to the office and tell the team what they need. Not only will the team have the best price at its fingertips, but the discounts available reflect the group’s purchasing power.

Members who know what they want but still want to get the best possible price can order direct from their chosen supplier and simply quote their membership number to get the Southern Farmers deal. The savings are very welcome, but for some members they are secondary to the convenience of being sent one statement at the end of each month with all the individual invoices attached for reference. The busy farmer simply checks the invoices are correct and then makes one payment, regardless of how many individual purchases he or she may have made. “As a working farmer I really appreciate the simplicity of just paying one invoice – and one that is usually considerably cheaper than if I had made all the purchases myself,” said David. “And the start of the process is much simpler, too. One phone call is all it takes – it’s like having your own PA.” >>

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Southern Farmers Ltd.

> Jan Dickerson: Accounts and office manager

> Rosie Budd: Purchasing team and supplier liaison

> Florence Clarke: Accounts assistant > Sarah Tester: Purchasing team and membership administrator

> Claire Saunters: Clerical and electricity assistant > Rosie Wickham: Purchasing team leader

> Rachael Cooper: Purchasing assistant Members pay an administration fee on << each invoice, together with an annual membership fee of just £125, but as Brigitte pointed out: “If a farmer spends more than £4,000 a year on goods and services, they will be better off buying through Southern Farmers.” The group’s impressive growth, some of it inspired by the issues caused by the pandemic, but much of it simply reflecting its reputation for great service, spread by word-of-mouth recommendations, has continued steadily over the years. Looking forward, both managing director Brigitte and chairman David are keen to see continued growth, but both stress that service remains the important thing. “I am often asked ‘How big do we want to get?’ Brigitte reflected. “I believe that as long as we can continue to give the service we are known for, then we can keep growing. The first priority, though,

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> Maria Weeks: Purchasing assistant


> Abi Sommerville: Purchasing team and member liaison

will always be to offer great service – it’s what our members expect. “We enjoy a personal relationship with many of them and they are important to us as individuals and as farmers. We will never get so big that we forget that link.” David added: “We can’t afford to rest on our laurels. Farm business are always changing, as are the key decision makers within them. The number of buyer groups has consolidated over the years and that means you have to keep growing if you want to be a player. We need to keep moving forward – not driving up numbers for the sake of it but in order to continue to serve our members and offer them increasingly good deals on what they need.” David believes that if the labour issues can be resolved, the Brexit shake-out could see fruit and viticulture gain a vital competitive edge, and Southern Farmers is increasingly working closely

with vineyards and wineries, adding a number of viticulture suppliers to its books. Another growth area is chestnut fencing, which is seeing a resurgence on the back of the poor performance of some treated fencing products in recent years. “The Normans introduced chestnut fencing because it doesn’t rot – and now we are going back to it for the same reason,” David said. Brigitte said that with farmers struggling to find chestnut fencing spiles and other products, Southern Farmers was adding new suppliers in order to meet the growing need. The group, which already supplies mobile phone contracts, electricity and gas, has also added water to its list of products and already supplies £1m worth of it each year. Next on Southern Farmers’ wanted list is ‘green energy’, with farmers increasingly looking for suppliers that can prove their environmental credentials. “We are doing our research and >>


BUYING GROUP << will be adding that as an option soon,” Brigitte said. Dealing with large utilities is never fun, another reason why many farmers now use Southern Farmers for their electricity supply. “As an individual it’s a nightmare trying to get a response out of a utility supplier, but if you have 1,100 members and are buying £5.5m worth of electricity each year, the supplier tends to sit up and answer the question,” said David. “Our members like to be able to ring the office and ask: ‘Can you sort this for me?’ – and when we call up on their behalf, someone answers the phone.” Fuel is another area where Southern Farmers can offer prices that are the best on offer and are checked each day. The group supplies 17.5m litres of gasoil, kerosene and road DERV each year. “I was interviewing a potential new member recently and he told me that he had just bought 20,000 litres of fuel. The group price would have saved him 2p a litre, which would have amounted to £400 on that one transaction alone,” said David, who farms nearly 600 acres of arable land at Sheriff ’s Court farm on the Isle of Thanet. A member since 2007, the new chairman particularly welcomes the single monthly statement of account that “just makes life easier”, together with the healthy discounts enjoyed by Southern Farmers members. One of the directors visits every potential new member, although since lockdown the meetings have been by telephone. “We want everyone to feel welcomed as part of the group and it’s a chance to highlight what we have on offer and make sure they will benefit from joining,” said David.


> Southern Farmers member and director Tim Piper of Owley Farm, Wittersham, uses the group for his spraying requirements among other supplies


The team is looking forward to restrictions easing this summer and is planning to attend a number of shows this year. “It’s great to be able to meet up with members and perhaps chat to a few prospective members,” said Brigitte. “We get a better idea of what members need and can remind them of the wide range of products and services we offer, particularly if they are diversifying and aren’t aware of how broad our range is. And just how broad is the range? “Essentially we can supply everything a farmer needs except groceries,” Brigitte responded. What is particularly impressive is that the team has continued to supply those goods and services throughout a global pandemic, with half the team working from home and the other half in the office at any one time. The office has experienced three cases of Covid-19. Two quickly quarantined, preventing any spread, and the third was picked up in good time by the company’s own strict testing regime. Southern Farmers brought forward a planned upgrade to its office systems and broadband connection in order to make it easier for staff to work from home, aided by new software. “We had already been planning a major overhaul of our software and connectivity and the pandemic just inspired us to start it sooner rather than later,” Brigitte said. “It has made things much smoother and will soon provide our members with a great new website, as well as updated accounts software that will allow members who wish to go paperless to download their accounts and invoices.” The website will allow farmers to order via the website, while suppliers will also be able to add new offers to the website in real time. “But while there


Southern Farmers Ltd.

will be new ways of ordering, we won’t lose sight of the fact that many of the members like to ring the office, sometimes while still in the tractor,” said Brigitte. “We will still be delighted to take their call, offer supplier information, suggest alternatives, research prices and do all the things we always have done. We just want to give people an online option alongside the opportunity to telephone for a chat. We often have conversations with members on the lines of: ‘We know you’ll know who to speak to about this’.” Chairman David was quick to praise the resourcefulness and hard work of Brigitte and her team, which he said had helped the group “deal superbly well with everything Covid-19 could throw at them”. He added: “We owe them all a great vote of thanks. Early in the pandemic when suppliers were struggling to adjust, the team still managed to keep deliveries going so that farmers could do their vital jobs. They’ve continually had to adapt, and they’ve done that brilliantly. We have had numerous letters and calls from farmers wanting to say thank you, too.” While the pandemic issues are easing, delays caused by Brexit are making life tricky in some areas, leading Brigitte to urge members to order in good time. “We know there are issues with importing maize seeds this year because of health checks, and there have been delays in getting spare parts for machinery,” David commented. “Again, though, our members are in a better position than most because our suppliers keep us well informed about any issues and we make sure we make members aware. It’s all part of the service,” Brigitte added.

Phone: 01323 449944 Email: Website:

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Southern Farmers Ltd.

> John Ford


John Ford speaks from experience when he sings the praises of agricultural buying groups in general and Southern Farmers in particular. John’s father Bernie subscribed to Sussex Farmers, a buying group that was set up in Wadhurst in 1962 and served members until the year 2000, when it amalgamated with Rother Valley Farmers to create the 1,100-strong Southern Farmers Ltd group to which John still belongs. “Dad joined way back, and so as a farm we have had a lot of experience of the benefits,” John said. “I’ve been running the farm for nearly 50 years and have always enjoyed the convenience and discounted prices that membership gives us.” John, who runs a 300-acre dairy operation at Lime End Farm, Herstmonceux, and on other rented land nearby, particularly welcomes the time-saving element. “It gives me access to a huge range of suppliers, many of which I would never have known about if the office hadn’t set up an account with them and checked out the quality of their service. “It saves a huge amount of time ringing round and saves me having to set up dozens of different accounts. I now get plumbing supplies from a place in


THE CONVENIENCE AND DISCOUNTED PRICES Hailsham. I didn’t know it existed, but the office had checked it out and suggested I use it.” The time-saving element is so useful that when his wife Helen, who looks after the accounts, had a stay in hospital recently, John went through all his business spending to search for every last item that he could move across to his Southern Farmers account to make life easier. Alongside his everyday purchases for the farm, he uses the group for electricity, water and fuel. “It made life much easier at a difficult time,” said John, whose wife has since fully recovered. “The girls

in the office are absolutely brilliant, as is Brigitte, who does a great job of leading the team. Long may they continue to serve local farmers in the excellent way they do.” Fuel is a particular area where John can’t understand why anyone would try to do their own thing. “I don’t have time to ring lots of suppliers every day to get the best price,” he said. “The Southern Farmers team has already done that, so they know exactly what the best price is, day by day. You will end up like a fish out of water if you think you are going to take on the fuel market and trade on your own.”

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BUYING GROUP When Des and Alex Heathcote’s daughter Harriet came back to the family farm after studying at Plumpton College and said she wanted to build up the ewe flock, it prompted a rethink of the business’ buying habits. “We realised that running a larger flock – Harriet now has 300 ewes – would mean buying more feed and other commodities as well as investing in various bits of equipment,” said Des. “It made us realise that the sensible thing would be to join a buying group, and after looking at several we decided that Southern Farmers was our best choice.” Having joined in 2018 following a meeting with director Tim Piper, who was “really helpful about how things operated and very welcoming”, Des is happy that the business made the right decision. “I felt Southern Farmers had a good handle on what was out there, an impressive range of suppliers and a friendly team, and that has indeed proved

to be the case,” he said. “We get a lot of support with our animal health products from Abi [Sommerville] in the office and it’s really easy to get in touch with the team over the phone or by email. “I get one invoice every month and we benefit from some good discounts. In some cases I am still using companies I’ve dealt with for years, but now everything is delivered and we get good prices as well. It saves a lot of time, too. We are also moving our electricity, bulk LPG supply and water to Southern Farmers.” Harriet’s new venture, based at Britcher Oast, Egerton but making use of around 400 acres of land on various sites around the area, is doing well, with her ‘Lambtastic’ lamb boxes proving popular. Now 23, she won the Shepherd’s Cup while at Plumpton, where she qualified with a three year diploma in agriculture.


TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883



We frequently get asked similar questions – the things that matter the most to our current and potential members.


Q: How do I join? Just complete the membership forms and return them to the Southern Farmers office. You will then be visited by one of our directors, all of whom are working farming members, and they will explain how the group works and evaluate if you would benefit from the group membership. The application will then be voted on by the board of directors; when approved you will receive your membership pack and member number. Q: I already have direct accounts with some suppliers, will I benefit from joining? Due to the volume of goods put through our suppliers account, your discount through Southern Farmers should be greater due to the groups’ buying power. Q: Do I have to place all my orders through the Southern Farmers office? No, you can call the office and ask a member of the purchasing team to source quotes and place the order, or you can book goods directly from our suppliers quoting your Southern Farmers membership number, other than fuel, which due to Customs and Excise regulations has to be ordered through the Southern Farmers office.


Southern Farmers Ltd.


ASKED QUESTIONS Q: Am I able to purchase all my requirements through Southern Farmers Ltd? We normally say that we can deliver all goods except groceries, including your electricity, landlines, mobile phones etc. Q: Do I have to buy in bulk? No, there is no minimum order value, however with some products such as fuel and feed, suppliers do have a minimum delivery quantity. However, the company does run bulk buying schemes for certain products. Q: Would savings on my purchases through the Southern Farmers Ltd make membership viable for me? If you spend in excess of £4,000 per annum it is worthwhile you becoming a member.

IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF YOUR SOIL r rs ou rme ers! y e a rd Us rn F ll o a e uth t on o S un co ac

Q: How much does it cost to be a member? Annual subscription is £125 + VAT, paid in two six-monthly instalments. Q: How would Southern Farmers make a purchase on my behalf? • Your order is either placed by the group office to the supplier or by you, booking directly to your membership account • The supplier delivers (or you collect) your goods and the supplier sends the invoice to the group office • The member is sent a monthly statement with all invoices listed and original invoices attached to the statement • The group collects payment from you for all invoices generated • The group pays the supplier.

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Southern Farmers Ltd. is an agricultural buying group with a membership in excess of 1000 and is a mutual co-operative operating as a non-profit making organisation.


Our sole purpose is to act as buying agent for our members, who own the company and to benefit them by negotiating the most advantageous terms possible with group suppliers. The key to a successful Not For Profit Buying Group is successful supplier negotiation, a professional level of administrative skills and an excellent level of service to its members. Agricultural Purchasing Groups operate to procure goods and services for their members at preferential prices and to provide a simplified administration process to their farmer/grower member. The Groups do not make a margin from the products supplied but charge a nominal administration fee for providing a purchasing service to their members. The fee is charged to cover the cost of operating the group. SOUTHERN FARMERS Limited currently charge an annual fee of £125 to its full members and a range of invoice charges between 0.35% and 2.5% based on the products group involved. Agricultural Purchasing Groups are registered either under the Industrial and Provident Act or as Limited Companies. Members either hold a share of the company or have signed a guarantee as a qualification of membership. Membership is strictly controlled and is only open to farmer/growers who are subject to various credit checks and must be of good standing in the locality. SOUTHERN FARMERS Limited is registered as a Limited Company and its membership is by guarantee not by share. Agricultural purchasing groups are generally mutual, not for profit co-operative businesses, organising deliveries solely on behalf of their farmer members and processing suppliers and member invoices on a back to back basis. Groups do not hold stock or take title to the goods. They work with suppliers who hold stock and make deliveries to the members. SOUTHERN FARMERS Limited act as an agent for its members but underwrites the purchase to its suppliers.

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chnologies, including robotics in the dairy and a brand new state of e art high welfare and RSPCA assured pig unit. Coupled with this, e college’s new farm shop and café open in Brighton this summer, oviding the perfect opportunity to demonstrate and educate udents in every aspect of the supply chain relating to British oduce.


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Alan Johnson, Curriculum Manager, reports from Plumpton College in the second of a new series in which South East Farmer hears from students. It’s been great to see our students back for the rest of the academic year at Plumpton College. This year has been a challenge in many ways, but it’s great for myself and the rest of the team to welcome students into the classroom and onto the college farm. We are now able to take a positive inventory of our students’ strengths and current skills, along with the goals that they are working towards and those that they have already reached. Students study a range of subjects including livestock husbandry, machinery and crops. They have an opportunity to work on the college farm and undertake work experience. Their study is balanced between gaining theoretical knowledge of animal and plant systems and practical work to underpin this theory. In addition, we are now able to support each student fully, helping them to see their good qualities and boost their optimism, mind-set and perseverance. Tutors are focussed on achievement and progress for each student and will give specific feedback for progress made towards their end goals. Our courses are ideal for students who want to learn more about the broader aspects of agriculture. They prepare students well at the start of their career and support them as they progress onto the next level of qualifications, giving them the opportunity to develop skills at a higher level to progress their managerial skills. Our courses allow students to develop underpinning knowledge while practising skills that are essential in the agricultural industry. We focus on practical work and hands-on experience, with classroom sessions to help build their knowledge. At Plumpton students benefit from excellent facilities and expert staff. Below, two of our students give a summary of the activities they have been involved with over the past month. Faye and Isaac will write each month about what they’ve been up to on their course.


I’m a 16 year-old student studying a level 3 extended diploma in agriculture at Plumpton college. I’ve always had a passion for agriculture, so going to an agricultural college was my main priority when leaving school. When looking for colleges, Plumpton stood out from the rest as I saw how the farm was a fully commercial working farm, so from this I knew that I would be able not only to learn the very important theory, but to get experience working in a modern, progressive farming business. This is the main reason why I chose Plumpton, as I’m not from a farming background so gaining as much practical farm experience as possible is beneficial to me. So far, my first year at Plumpton is going really well and I am learning new things every day, I look forward to seeing where this takes me in the industry after my third year at the college. > Faye Pierce and Isaac Adams


I chose Plumpton as my next adventure because it has a wider range of opportunities in the agriculture sector than any other colleges I considered. I grew up on a 400-acre Romney Sheep farm in East Sussex and wanted to move away from what I knew and learn different ways within the farming industry and Plumpton has been able to provide this for me. The course is very diverse, offering a good balance of theory and practical skills. I have carried out many routines since I’ve been at college, such as milking and working with dairy calves and pigs, and have had the opportunity in the past three weeks to be hands-on in the lambing shed with the shepherdess, learning new things everyday. The first year has flown by with the added complication of the coronavirus pandemic; I’m now looking forward to restrictions lifting and getting the full student experience Plumpton has to offer as a college.

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I ought to take up fortune telling. Last month when we were at the low point of £190 for May wheat futures (£27 off its January high), with many ‘doomsters’ suggesting the big prices were over and it was all downhill to meet the new crop values, I said: “Nor do I think we have seen the last of spikes in old crop prices”. By the middle of April those May futures were at £202, £12 up. I rest my case. Don’t blame me if you don’t sell some at these increased values. I must have been on top form last month, as I also mentioned that for new crop: “We have not yet had a proper weather story anywhere…my instinct tells me that we will get one somewhere”. Well, guess what? At long last the dry weather in North and South America is approaching ‘drought’ status. Brazil’s first maize crop won’t even meet its own domestic needs. Over half of its second famous ‘Safrinha’ maize crop was planted late and is not yet complete. Brazil is now having to import maize from Argentina. USDA now acknowledges that the US maize plantings are much reduced on last year. From the US Midwest right up to the Canadian border it’s abnormally dry and, like us, they are still getting below average temperatures and frosts. So, our old crop prices have firmed up again and so they should, as there is next to nothing left of anything on farms and there is still a long, long way to go until harvest. We have no liquidity in the old crop market as quite simply we are left with only the “needy and the greedy” to deal with. The “needy” are the feed compounders who are frightened to buy anything until someone gives them an order for the finished product and they

still don’t want to carry over even one tonne of wheat that may be £35 dearer than new crop. The “greedy” are those few farmers who still have something left to sell but, having missed the top of the last market, are now hanging on in the hope that somehow it will regain all it lost. I don’t think it will get back to those heights, which were the highest seen in the 21st century. Wheat is now £12 off the bottom and £15 off the top, but you don’t want to miss it for a second time, so start selling some. The lack of liquidity applies to new crop as well. There was a recent rush to sell new crop malting barley by Danish co-ops but that stopped when they realised that the barley planted over Easter hadn’t emerged yet, because it’s so cold. In the South, on chalkland, the early planted spring barley looks good and is all emerged. The later-sown needs sun and some warm rain. Our best barley was planted about two weeks earlier than last year but it’s dormant for now. Conversely, I would expect to see winter barley coming into ear in early May, but I don’t expect I will. A lot can change, but it does not look like being an early harvest, unless it’s for the wrong reason. China has been quiet for a change, so between now and next month I expect they will have done something spectacular in the world grain market. Watch this space. My main focus this month is on Russia, as they seem to have made a real “dogs’ breakfast” of their old ELVED PHILLIPS crop marketing. They imposed unrealistic export taxes which sent Openfield the wheat market into orbit over Christmas and the New Year. But


that choked off their own exporting to the extent that they missed the top of the international wheat market, which they had created, and finished up trying to dump half a million tonnes of wheat at about 30 dollars per tonne off the top. Mr Putin is seeking re-election in September; he’s out-lasted our past four Prime Ministers, so keeping domestic price inflation down will be more important than getting Russia’s marketing right. So anything could happen until the end of September. Also, Russia is massing large military forces on their border with the Ukraine and Crimea, so some sort of incursion looks likely. Maybe that is why crude oil just jumped five dollars per barrel. So, there is big uncertainty with the world’s biggest exporter of wheat. At home the lockdown has begun to ease. This is bound to create more demand for food and drink, which must have a beneficial effect upon demand for cereals and oilseeds. Currency is helping potential exports, with the sterling exchange rate about 87 pence to the euro. We have had AHDB estimating a UK new-crop wheat harvest of 14.57 million tonnes, which would be a massive increase on last year’s 9.61 million tonnes. A number of people think it will struggle to reach the five-year average of 13.67 million tonnes. But it’s all irrelevant at this stage and should not be relied upon as a basis for marketing strategy because, as we well, know our crop is made, or not, in May, June and July. Lastly, I attended a company health and safety training course this week and discovered that during the past year 111 people lost their lives in accidents at their place of work, whilst 6,000 lost their lives at home, thus proving that you are safer at work than at home!




MITIGATING DROUGHTS My rain gauge for March measured less than half an inch. April looks like being drier still. Are droughts in the South East of England going to become more common and, if so, what can arable farmers in our region do to mitigate their impact? The obvious strategy to avoid the worst effects of dry springs and summers is to sow a big proportion of crops in the autumn. Winter crops get their root systems established before the spring, while spring crops, where the top few inches of soil very often have to be moved more than once to achieve a satisfactory tilth, lose vital soil moisture to evaporation. The problem with moving entirely to autumn sown crops, of course, is that the options have become so limited. Winter crops require more pesticides to protect them through the longer growing season, but the array of permitted herbicides and insecticides has become ever more restricted by environmental regulators, so our ability to protect our crops has gradually been eroded. Blackgrass has therefore become ever more difficult to control, making the growing of continuous winter wheat much less common. But even as farmers have switched into crop rotations and away from wheat monoculture, the most popular break crop – oilseed rape – has become threatened like never before from a whole range of insect pests that can’t be dealt with so efficiently due to the ban on neo-nicotinoid insecticides. Min-till certainly offers some solutions to these problems. The promise of improved soil structure and the reduction in moisture loss through less cultivation are potentially great advantages. But min-till is not a silver bullet solution to the adverse effects of drought. If the crop is to be drilled into a shallow cultivated layer of soil, germination and establishment can be problematic – particularly if surface trash harbours pests like slugs. Looking at my crops this spring I have not yet moved into panic mode. An open autumn gave me an opportunity to sow everything under ideal conditions and, as it happens, (apart from the acre of potatoes I grow for the kitchen of our pub) all my crops for this current season have been in the ground since October. But even if my winter crops do stand up to the worst effects of another spring and then summer drought, as an arable farmer I still face an increasingly hazardous livelihood in terms of future harvests as the climate changes. Then again, if increasing temperatures and lack of moisture do reduce the reliability of my future harvests, all is not lost. Lighter harvests produce better farm gate prices. So, even as I have been writing this, my computer screen has just flashed a message sent from my farming co-operative: “New crop values reach record highs on drought concerns – phone the office for prices”. Even a lack of clouds has a silver lining.



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Further changes to yellow rust populations, combined with wide variations in drilling date and more limited chemistry, add extra complexity to fungicide planning this spring. Hutchinsons’ Technical Development Director Dr David Ellerton offers advice for the flag leaf. Septoria remains the primary disease of winter wheat in most seasons, and with a large proportion of crops sown relatively early last autumn, there could be a higher risk this spring. But while drilling date is an important factor in determining disease risk, rainfall during April and May are key to Septoria infection, so even latersown crops could come under higher pressure if conditions are conducive. Depending on conditions over the coming days and weeks, we could well be in a high pressure situation for yellow rust and Septoria by T2, so a


robust, well-timed fungicide will be vital to protect the top two leaves, which contribute approximately two-thirds of final yield.


The dominance of yellow rust in 2019/20 is clearly reflected in yield responses from five Hutchinsons trials, where the largest fungicide benefits were in more susceptible varieties, including KWS Kerrin, KWS Kinetic, Skyfall and KWS Zyatt. Normally, Septoria-susceptible varieties like KWS Barrel top the yield response chart, however last

KEY POINTS • • • •

Early-sown crops are likely to be at higher Septoria risk Beware of new rust races overcoming varietal resistance Use variety scores and drilling date as a guide when planning treatments Vary chemistry and modes of action for curative and protectant activity and resistance management.


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year’s uplift was around one-third of the usual level. Across all varieties and all fungicide timings, the average response over untreated of 1.66 t/ha was below 2018/19, reflecting the dry conditions but hiding significant variations between varieties, particularly where yellow rust came in. Close crop monitoring is therefore vital in the run up to the flag leaf spray. Use factors such as drilling date and variety disease ratings as a guide when planning spray programmes, prioritising crops with a score of six or less. But stay flexible and be prepared to react to conditions as they unfold.


Triazoles still form the backbone of flag leaf sprays, but programmes should include actives with different modes of action, for anti-resistance and to give curative plus protectant disease control. SDHI-based products are likely to be essential in most wheat flag leaf sprays given the importance of Septoria, particularly in more curative situations where triazoles may struggle due to the sensitivity shifts seen over the past decade. Losing chlorothalonil and epoxiconazole has reduced fungicide options this year, but there are still many effective actives and promising products in the pipeline. Epoxiconazole will be particularly missed for yellow rust control, however tebuconazole is still very effective against yellow and brown rust, while prothioconazole offers reasonable yellow rust activity. Prothioconazole or metconazole are also suitable for low to moderate Septoria. The former can give good activity on low to moderate mildew, too, but if mildew is well established, a specific mildewicide such as cyflufenamid may be needed. Mefentifluconazole (Revysol) is extremely strong against Septoria and offers good rust control. SDHI options include fluxapyroxad, bixafen or fluopyram. Benzovindiflupyr is also excellent against rusts. Where appropriate, including the protectant multisite folpet can improve Septoria control in high-risk situations and help as part of an antiresistance strategy.


SECURE YOUR GRAIN STORE Protect against losses caused by grain store pests with Lodi’s Phobi Smoke Pro 90C+ Between 2019 and 2020, the UK’s wheat yield fell by 37.5%. But as prices keep rising, with a sharp rise in grain price at the start of the month, it is more important than ever to protect your crops in store. Worldwide, up to 60% of grain can be lost during storage but this can be as low as 1% with the right store and a good pre-harvest and post-harvest routine. As well as poor growth in the field, unfavourable harvest conditions and inadequate drying together with grain store pests can be a source of grain loss. Insect damage to stored crops is a curse that many arable farmers know all too well. The cost of grain rejection due to pest damage can be up to £50/tonne. Grain store insect pests are separated into primary, which infect the undamaged grains, and secondary, which feed on damaged grains and dust. The most common and damaging pest is the Grain Weevil (Sitophilus granaries), a primary pest. They are seen across the UK and continue to spread through infected grains and grain vehicles. Within its nine month lifespan, a female can lay 200 eggs, each of which bores into the centre of a grain. The most common secondary pest is the Saw Toothed Grain Beetle (Oryzaephilus surinamensis). The larvae of this beetle feed on the broken kernels left behind by primary pests such as the grain weevil. Both the Grain Weevil and the Saw Toothed Grain Beetle are hardy and can survive in the cracks and crevices of the grain store over winter. The ideal grain store should be clean, dry, well-ventilated, rodentproof and watertight. The first step to ensure safe and effective longterm storage is to make sure that the store is clean. Cleaning of the grain store should take place as early as possible – around six weeks before intake. This guarantees that there is enough time to fix any problems that you might find during your inspection. There’s nothing worse than finding out that your roof has a leak when the grain is inside and now needs treating! It is especially important to focus on the hard-to-reach areas such as the roof, handling equipment and under the floor. Pests

Lodi hosted a webinar on Grain Store Pest Protection which is now available on their website. The webinar has been awarded two CPD points from BASIS. Ken from Bayer CropScience gave a talk on Grain Store Hygiene and Mark from Command Pest Control presented on Pest Control Best Practices. There was also a Q&A where Ken and Mark were joined by farmer Tom to answer farmers’ questions about grain store pests. Visit the Lodi UK website for more information and to watch it – TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

can be present even in seemingly empty stores, as grain or grain dust from the previous harvest can provide a food source. It might be beneficial to use an industrial vacuum cleaner or high-pressure airline to ensure that the store is as clean as possible. Spray the fabric of the building with K-Obiol EC or another grain protectant which will help to control any grain store pests that may be present. Once the inside of the building is covered, we recommend using a smoke disinfectant, such as Lodi’s Phobi Smoke Pro 90C+. Smoke insecticides help to target the nooks, crannies and hard to reach areas of the grain store where the spray can’t reach, including machinery and equipment. The smoke forms part of a successful treatment plan for full and targeted control of all grain store pests. Phobi Smoke Pro 90C+ is simple to use and 100% effective against a wide range of pests, including Grain Weevils & Saw-Toothed Grain Beetles. Simply light the wick and leave the smoke to work its way through the entire building. Each tin contains enough product to cover 600 cubic metres. If the grain store is over 600m3, use more smoke generators until you have the correct coverage. This can be done any time in between cleaning and the inlet. It’s so important to get the disinfection right to ensure that your store is ready for your grain. Here are our tips for the best practise for using smoke insecticides: • Before you start to fumigate, make sure you have shut and sealed any doors and drawn any shutters apart from the exit. • Shake all the generators to loosen the powder inside. • Place the generators on a fully heatproof surface. • If you are using multiple smoke generators, make sure you light the generator furthest away from the exit first and work towards the exit. You also need to make sure that all of your tins of Phobi Smoke Pro 90C+ are prepped and ready before you light the first one. • Leave the store sealed overnight for the best result and then open the doors to air it for a few hours.

If you would like more information on the Phobi Smoke Pro 90C+ or the webinar: E:





Farming in the South East has nailed its colours firmly to the mast with the publication of Fertile Ground – an Agenda for Growth in the Regional Agri-Food Sector, an ambitious and hard-hitting manifesto for growth. A painstakingly researched and well-argued document, Fertile Ground has been produced by NFU South East and sets out a dynamic future for the region’s farming and food sectors – and the support it needs to deliver that future. Its three themes, all linked to sustainability, are agri-food productivity and jobs, a great place to live, work, eat and drink, and clean growth in a net zero

economy. While devoting a considerable amount of space to showcasing the strength of the farming and food sector in the South East – including the potential for the wine sector alone to create 21,000 extra jobs over the next 20 years – it also highlights the backing it needs from government, local authorities and others to realise future growth. NFU South East regional board chair and West Sussex farmer David Exwood said the document was aimed not at the industry but at those who were in a position to support the sector in its aim to help create a stronger economy.



“We want decision makers and stakeholders across the region to sit up and take notice of the incredible contribution that farming already makes to the South East and to support our efforts to do even more,” he said. “We have some great businesses here in the South East and a huge opportunity to grow further. This is a proactive attempt to get that message out there, to show exactly what modern farming is capable of and to inspire councils, local enterprise partnerships, further education establishments and businesses to work with us to build an even stronger economy.” He went on: “This is the first document of its kind and it reflects a new era for farming. A lot of people don’t understand quite how dynamic modern farming is or how much potential it has. This document makes that clear and will be used extensively to persuade stakeholders to work with us to the benefit of the economy as a whole. “Above all we need people to know that the South East can’t just become one big national park that we use as an offsetting area. We are doing a huge amount to improve the environment, but we have to keep putting food on the table. We can’t export our conscience and import all our food.” The document points out that agriculture and forestry in the South East directly employ more than 50,000 people, generating annual sales topping £2 billion and contributing a regional gross value added (GVA) of £1.25 billion. It goes on to stress the need for government and stakeholder support for jobs and growth in agriculture, which it points out will boost the regional economy as a whole. It calls for action to boost farm productivity, ensuring farmers and growers have the skills and support systems they need to strengthen their position in the supply chain, and for measures to encourage greater public support for regional food and drink. It also highlights the need for stakeholders to work with the industry to help the nation shift to a carbon neutral economy. Fertile Ground also tackles the issue of the ‘vital infrastructure’ that the farming and food sectors will increasingly rely on if they are to achieve the growth of which they are capable, focusing on water resources, abattoirs, dairy processing facilities, arable crop processing, vineyards and wineries and woodland and forestry infrastructure. On water resources it calls for farmers and growers “[to] be involved in the decision-making processes at catchment level in order to plan and articulate their resource requirements over a



FOR JOBS long-term period, just as the water industry plans resource management over a 20 year period”. Recognising the need for improved red meat infrastructure, the document says different types of abattoir “are vital to enable the proper functioning of the supply chain and to support sustainable markets”, while on the dairy front it points out that “increased manufacturing capacity could help boost domestic self-sufficiency in dairy products and could also open up export opportunities for value added products”. Fertile Ground stresses the need for arable farmers, merchants and processors to continually update or build new infrastructure to remain competitive and comply with legislation. It highlights the need for planners to “recognise the positive role of the burgeoning wine sector in terms of employment, economic development and tourism” and it calls for better access to be provided to woodlands in order to improve productivity. The document lists a number of ‘priority actions’ including stimulating research and development in farm and food chain innovation, continuing to provide rural development grants, tax incentives and advice, providing new training opportunities and incentivising new producer organisations and similar bodies. It also calls for local industrial strategies, strategic economic plans and local plans to “recognise the strong potential for growth in the farming and food production sectors and support a clear growth agenda for the industry” – and points out that planners need to understand that farmers and growers “need to invest in modern state-ofthe-art, often large buildings and facilities” in order to be competitive. NFU South East regional director William White heralded the launch of the document by pointing out: “The farming and food sectors provide fertile ground on which to cultivate new jobs, harness technological innovations to promote growth, deliver services and boost export capacity. “Our data shows that agriculture provides the raw material for the food sector which, before the pandemic, supported 1.1 million jobs in London and the South East. It is also key to the nation’s nutritional security.”

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The themes highlighted in Fertile Ground – an Agenda for Growth in the Regional Agri-Food Sector reflect those set out in a national strategy document launched at the NFU’s annual conference in February. The NFU says the report, Levelling up rural Britain, sets out a blueprint for creating jobs, boosting green economic growth, increasing exports and improving the wellbeing of the nation and describes it as “an ambitious and revolutionary approach”. It says it “highlights how British farming and rural Britain can provide the solution to many of the challenges the nation faces by driving sustainable food production and pioneering food policy that produces carbon neutral food”. The report suggests rural Britain is “uniquely placed to help the recovery of the nation from Covid-19, delivering physical and mental health through the farmed landscape, which has been a lifeline for so many during lockdown, and supporting the return to whole-food cooking with nutritious, sustainable and affordable British food”. Stressing that “no-one should be disadvantaged by where they live or where

their business is based”, Levelling up rural Britain highlights areas where the rural and urban divide continues to grow, including broadband and connectivity, rural crime, planning and investment. In her speech to NFU Live 2021, NFU President Minette Batters said: “Investment in farming and in rural Britain not only brings about obvious benefits to food production but can have massive benefits to the whole country. If the past 12 months has taught us one thing, it’s that we are all in this together – and a country which levels up everyone, everywhere, is a stronger country. “Levelling up Britain is not just a north and south issue. Levelling up Britain is also a rural and urban issue. We need to enable collaborative green growth to level up rural Britain, providing the economic solutions to a truly one nation UK. She said UK farmers could “lead the world on sustainable food production, driving profitable, thriving businesses that can do even more for the environment and biodiversity”, adding: “I see that leadership every day on your farms, so let this be the decade that the rest of the world sees and buys into it too.”

> Laurence Matthews harvesting







At the inaugural James Nichols lecture at the 88th Marden Fruit Show Society AGM, SARAH CALCUTT Professor Louise Manning excelled in getting Executive Chair, everyone to think. James would have enjoyed National Fruit Show her lecture; he was a man who always had the facts at his finger tips and enjoyed a good debate and Louise delivered figures, challenges and some good ideas on a way ahead for the sector. > James Nicholls receiving the 2008 If you look in the dictionary, definitions of resilience talk about the ability Worshipful Company to survive a shock. This doesn’t really work in farming systems – food is of Fruiterers Ridley produced in a natural world where it can survive a shock and then return to a medal for services to the fruit industry steady state. Unless you are a farmer whose crop is decimated by weather, she supposed. The buffer capacity – where you might have enough capacity to have the Every business, not just a farming one, has to be able to survive shocks and resources to survive the shock. The average borrowing of a farmer is about the squeezes. We have had Brexit, Covid-19, lockdown and frost, all of which are same as the average mortgage; the flexibility provided by a good relationship shocks. Added to this are the financial squeezes, imposed by a supply chain with your bank manager has been a long term buffer for fruit growers. which is itself suffering from shock, combined with a concerning long-term Adaptive resilience – how can you adapt your business to survive post financial pressure. Professor Manning talked about the three aspects of lockdown, post financial shock. What happens when there is no crop? resilience: Transformation – as our ways of working are challenged, how do we best respond? Louise raised a really challenging point on transformation; are challenges around our lack of labour going to stimulate the kind of transformation experienced after the first world war, when the numbers of farm workers were reduced so dramatically by war, the financial depression and the Spanish flu epidemic? Perhaps our purpose will be transformed by policy? Targeting around net zero and zero emissions business models will deliver a focus on our carbon sequestration potential. How invested are we in renewable energy, rainwater capture, the reduction of our water footprints and how our personal business offsets reduce production impact? On net zero, Louise questioned whether this was ‘Business’ wanting business as usual and whether we (the fruit sector) might benefit from their offset; would there be an opportunity to provide carbon credits as part of our ‘public good’ requirement in policy? Just think about the 269,000 acres owned by Bill Gates in the US; this is definitely a natural capital investment, he’s creating the biggest agri-food technology test bed in the world. Looking at the impacts of wider society, Louise directed us to have a look at the emerging literature around Generation Z, the impact of Greta Thunberg and the profile of self-identification around food – the non-meat diet based on its impact on health and its perceived impact on the environment rather than welfare grounds. Our messaging on this is very important. The social capital is incredibly valuable on what we do in top fruit. We do, of course, have amazing human capital in our industry; the strength of family businesses, the incredible skillset within fruit farming families that can deliver all that we need as an industry. But how do we recruit our best human capital when the family can’t deliver the myriad skills that a modern business requires? How do we conduct the gap analysis for the skills that we don’t have now and those that we will need in five or ten years? How do we best grow the skills within the business and ensure that we develop to keep pace with them? I have to force myself to stop while questions still circle my mind. It was such a great opening lecture in the series. James would have had a great list of questions for Louise and a challenge for the audience. > Professor Louise Manning




A new structure and a strengthened team that reflects its growing importance to the industry is set to help the National Fruit Show approach its 100th anniversary in great shape. The 88th annual general meeting of the show heard newly-appointed executive chair Sarah Calcutt outline plans for this year’s show – which will be a physical event complete with fruit competition and dinner – and reveal changes aimed at reinforcing the show’s already high national profile. The board of trustees has been increased from four to eight, with Edward Newling representing the interests of East Midlands growers and Jonathan Blackman joining on behalf of the West Midlands, while Kathleen Kelliher from DEFRA will be contributing valuable policy insights. Clare Seymour has also joined the trustees with responsibility for sponsors and exhibitors. “The strengthened board reflects the show’s need for additional professional input but also highlights the fact that people from outside the area are keen to be seen to be part of this successful, dynamic, highly regarded event,” Sarah Calcutt told South East Farmer. With all Covid-19 precautions being carefully followed, the Marden Fruit Show Society will be organising a two-day event on 21 and 22 October 2021 at the Kent Event Centre, Detling. The show will again include a dinner, while much of the stand space has already been snapped up. The well-attended online annual meeting was told that the increasingly popular Engage Agro-sponsored cider competition will be held again this year, while the show will benefit from a new sponsor, Worldwide Fruit, after Norman Collett and Avalon Produce stood down after an impressive 20 years in that role. Sarah, who will now draw a small salary as executive chair after devoting many years of voluntary support to the show, has been charged with overseeing a long-term ‘centenary plan’ development strategy intended to make sure the show celebrates its 2033 centenary in good shape. She will be assisted by two vice-chairs, with Annette Bardsley of Bardsley, England, overseeing the show’s education programme and Estera Amesz from AG Recruitment looking after its commercial interests. Sarah stressed that while there were significant changes to the setup, the show would still be run “by growers, for growers”, adding: “We are just turning up the dial.” She went on: “The National Fruit Show, at the heart of our industry over 87 years, was founded on a promise to showcase the best fruit. We’re still doing that nearly a century later, but the time has come to change the format of the show without losing its unique ‘feel’. There is so much that is positive, energetic and resilient in this industry and we have to bring its special atmosphere to a larger audience. To do that, we have to reform ourselves and tweak the show to enhance the brilliant opportunity that it is.” Steve Maxwell, chief executive of Worldwide Fruit, praised the role of the National Fruit Show in bringing the industry together and said his company “wanted to be a full part of the action in the years ahead”. He added: “The pandemic has shown how face-to-face meetings, shows and exhibitions are a crucial part of the exchange of knowledge needed by our industry, so we want to help secure the future of this show, which is rightly proud of its ‘by growers, for growers’ ethos.” The online annual meeting, hosted and sponsored by the Rural Policy Group, was reminded of the success of this year’s virtual fruit show, which Marden Fruit Show Society President Teresa Wickham said had been a great success in “a very challenging year”. She said it had been important to keep the show’s profile high “when the world was turned upside down”. This year’s show will feature a new award which will commemorate Jon Jones, who worked for Richard Hochfeld, and recognise the excellent work of someone


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within the industry. The Bonanza Prize, another popular element of the show, is this year being sponsored by renewable energy specialists Harvest Green Developments. Professor Tim Laing has already been signed up as one of the seminar speakers, while the show will again benefit from the support of the Worshipful company of Fruiterers and feature contributions from livery scholars. Norma Thompsett, well known to National Fruit Show goers, has been asked to expand the show’s competition classes and will be talking to growers about new horticultural classes including British olives, melons and grapes. A new website at, expected to be launched in mid-May, will help to streamline bookings and monitor competition entries as well as acting as the ‘shop window’ for the event’s charitable, education and industry facing work. This year’s show will again feature the popular dinner and dance on the evening of the first show day, with the music from Bullshed sponsored by South East Farmer.

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Landowners have been warned to think twice before signing renewable energy agreements as they could end up facing big bills and unsuccessful projects. According to independent power and energy specialist Roadnight Taylor, too many landowners are allowing prospective large-scale energy projects on their land to be instigated in the developer’s name. This leaves them open to poorly negotiated rents and lease terms and the high failure rate of most developers’ grid applications. But the alternative – applying in their own name without specialist advice – is even more dangerous, as they may be unwittingly taking on millions of pounds of risk. “In one case recently, a poorly-advised landowner accepted an offer for a 50MW project that was going to cost £11m to connect to the power grid, which was never going to be financially viable,” explained director Hugh Taylor. “They put down a £50,000 grid deposit but hadn’t spotted that they

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Contact us today Canterbury 01227 643250 Maidstone 01622 698000 Tenterden 01580 765722 Whitehead Monckton Limited (no. 08366029), registered in England & Wales. Registered office 5 Eclipse Park, Sittingbourne Road, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 3EN Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under no. 608279.



were liable for a £250,000 charge if they didn’t withdraw by a certain date. When they approached us they had just 24 hours to escape.” In another case, the grid connection offer included a condition that the landowner contributed nearly £300,000 towards £1.5 million worth of network reinforcements. Taken at face value, it didn’t render the project unviable, but what the landowner didn’t realise was that they could incur the full £1.5 million cost if for any reason – including failing to secure planning consent they were unable to connect their scheme. “It’s so important to safeguard your rights and protect against risks,” explained Mr Taylor. “Allowing the grid application to be made in the developer’s name means you can’t get developers competing for your site. It reduces your chances of achieving a scheme in the first place and it cedes control in negotiations. “But if you are seeking grid connections in your own name it’s absolutely vital to take specialist professional advice.” He added: “Too many land agents think they can advise on grid connections, but it is an incredibly complex area. To be consistently successful, you need to understand the energy market to see whether a grid connection offer is financially viable. The network operator has to provide a connection quote for every project, but if the quote is too high then no developer will take it on.” The acceptance rate of grid connection offers is as low as 8%, depending on the distribution network operator (DNO), and each of those failed projects would have cost over £1,000 in consultants’ fees and up to £8,000 in application fees. In many cases the flawed application will have cost the landowner many millions in future ground rent receipts too. In contrast, in 2020 Roadnight Taylor had an acceptance rate of over 90% for its landowners’ connection offers and secured enough grid capacity for 2GW of solar panels – equivalent to around 6,000 acres. It can also hold grid rights on trust for the landowner, completely insulating them from financial risk. “There is an extraordinary gulf between a land agent’s expertise and real grid experts,” warned Mr Taylor. “Getting the correct connection rights is very challenging, and there are risks to accepting offers that contain cost apportionments and securities for wider works, as they can easily reach hundreds of thousands of pounds.” He said another risk to allowing connection rights to start in the developer’s name was that they could go bust, lose interest in the site or not negotiate in good faith. “So be proactive, get in there before your neighbours do and make sure you’re being properly advised. If you do decide to accept a grid offer, you need to safeguard your rights and then, at the right time, smoothly transact them with a developer of your choosing to take the project forward,” he added. “The grid rights need to end up in a developer’s name at some point – unless you wish to pay for the planning application and project build – but you must guard against the risk of them going cold on the site or going bust. You need a legal framework that ensures you can have another go and pass the rights on elsewhere if the worst happens.”


STOP WORRYING Your rights when it comes to protecting your sheep. Lambing season is now well underway and with it we are seeing the, unfortunately now familiar, stories of sheep worrying and dog attacks. With a spate of incidents recently reported in Kent, including a report of five attacks on sheep in five weeks at a farm in Sandwich, what can farmers do in response? Knowing your rights and responsibilities as a sheep keeper is important in ensuring any action taken is appropriate and legal. The principle piece of legislation is the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953 (‘the Act’), which sets out provisions for protecting livestock from dogs and the punishment of those found guilty of sheep worrying. What is defined as ‘worrying’? This can be a physical attack as well as chasing in such a way as may reasonably be expected to cause injury or suffering, or being at large in an area containing sheep. Who can be found guilty of an offence? Section 1 of the Act states that the owner of the dog or anyone else who is in charge of the dog at the time can be found guilty of a sheep worrying offence. What power do the police have? The Act enables police to seize and detain any dog where there is reasonable cause to believe that a dog has been worrying livestock, together with powers to issue a warrant to search property to identify a dog suspected of sheep worrying. What is the penalty for sheep worrying? Offenders will be penalised with a fine of up to £1,000. There are a number of defences to the offence under the Act, including if the dog is owned by the sheep keeper or the owner of the field, is a police dog, guide dog or working dog, all of which will not be accountable under the Act.

What can a sheep keeper do in the event of a sheep worrying incident? The Animals Act 1971 enables the sheep keeper or farmer to take a civil action against the owner where a dog causes damage by killing or injuring livestock and the liability on the owner of the dog is absolute. However, evidence relating to the damage would need to be provided to enable the farmer to demonstrate the level of damages. In exceptional circumstances a farmer may decide that destruction of a dog is the only option to prevent harm to their sheep. However it should be noted that this should always be a last resort and only in the event that there were no other reasonable means of ending the worrying. The legality of shooting a dog would very much depend on the individual circumstances of each situation and such action could open a farmer up to both criminal and civil proceedings. Dogs are treated as property and therefore shooting a dog could trigger a criminal damage charge. In addition, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to dogs. Although there is an allowance for ‘the destruction of an animal in an appropriate and humane manner’, this is very much judged on the circumstances of each case and there is a significant risk that failing to kill the dog cleanly with one shot would fall foul of the legislation. Such an offence is punishable with up to six months’

imprisonment and/or fines of up to £20,000, together with the risk of being disqualified from keeping animals. There is also a significant risk that the shooting of a dog would give rise to prosecution for firearms offences and it would almost certainly give rise to a police review of rights to keep firearms. It is also important to remember that if a dog is shot it must be reported to the police within 48 hours of the incident. Failure to do so would impact on the defences available in both civil and criminal proceedings. While landowners are protected by the law, so are dog owners. We would advise that anyone keeping sheep ensures they have a clear understanding of the law and how it applies in practical terms, as well as ensuring any actions in relation to sheep worrying are proportionate and backed up by a lawful excuse.


Partner, Head of Agriculture & Rural Business Team, Brachers LLP T: 01622 776458 E:

Helping our agricultural community to thrive and grow Legal services which deliver long-term solutions to support the future of farming Call us on 01622 690691 Visit us at

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The most palpable characteristic of the farm and estates market in early 2021 is a continued shortage of supply. During Q1, just under 15,000 acres of farmland were publicly marketed across Great Britain, continuing a five year run of low supply in Q1 according to analysis by Savills rural research. Chris Spofforth, of Savills farm agency team in the South East, commented: “There was very little stock carried over from last year, which has meant that those who have brought land to the market early this year have been rewarded with strong sales as the buyers’ momentum from 2020 continues.” There has also been a continuing preference for privately marketing property. Last year private sales increased by 71% compared with 2019 as sellers quietly tested the market rather than opting for more public launches and were largely successful. This theme remained the case during Q1. Consequently, average values have shown marginal improvements, and in some cases conservative guide prices have been well exceeded.


There are currently two noteworthy types of buyer; the first is those looking for residential and amenity properties at all scales. This is borne out by the latest residential analysis from Savills which shows lifestyle choices continue to drive the more discretionary markets. The £2m+ country house market remains the star performer, with 2.9% growth quarterly and 8.8% annually. The second is the environmental/conscientious buyer or investor looking for green assets. There is a strong belief that natural capital will become a profitable investment in the coming years, which is prompting investors chasing financial returns to get in now, ahead of the curve. Stuart Nicholls, of Savills food and farming team in the South East, said: “Clients are increasingly looking for land with potential for alternative environmental income streams, to complement conventional farming and diversified income, especially with diminishing returns from the Basic

CHRIS SPOFFORTH Savills South East Farm Agency T: 07812 965379 E:


RICHARD MANN Savills South East Farm Agency T: 07967 555862 E:

Payment Scheme. There are currently limited opportunities in the marketplace for many of these environmental goods. However, they are expected to become increasingly important in the South East, particularly where there is also a lot of development taking place. There will likely be opportunities on lower grade land, which has limited agricultural value but all of a sudden might have significant scope for environmental payment.” Despite this year’s shortage to date, Savills rural research predicts that annual supply will soon return to the 10-year average as some farmers take advantage of the Government’s lump sum exit scheme to retire and others find it difficult to adapt to the new post-subsidy and Brexit environment. Richard Mann, of Savills farm agency team in the South East, added: “Farmer buyers are always in the frame for a good quality commercial farm, blocks of land near to their existing base or opportunities for beneficial relocation. Now the ground is more accessible and crops are maturing we may well see a few more farms of this type on offer.”

STUART NICHOLLS Savills South East Food & Farming T: 07786 944666 E:

Leo Hickish FRICS MBIAC 07766 428965 Harry Broadbent-Combe MRICS FAAV 07384 518865

“A strategic review is a structured process to identify new value-creating opportunities within a business.” For an impartial and expert consultation, please get in touch



The spring land market got off to a very early start this year at Lambert & Foster, with exceptionally strong demand for farmland, woodland and amenity land throughout Kent and East Sussex during the winter months. Some parcels of land were launched uncharacteristically early, in December and January, with the aim of selling before the Chancellor’s spring budget brought any changes to capital taxation. Alan Mummery, Director of Lambert & Foster, who heads up farm and land sales, said: “Land we launched in early January found buyers very quickly, given the lack of land openly marketed. Open market sales saw competitive bidding, while off-market deals have often realised strong premiums for our clients.”


Blocks of agricultural land have seen strong interest from local farming buyers, rather than investors, as well as new interest from developers seeking land for biodiversity net gain. Will Banham, of Lambert & Foster’s rural agency team, said: “Demand for amenity woodland and grazing land seems to be stronger than ever. Some buyers are showing an interest in ecology and carbon sequestration, while others have a strong desire for the lifestyle benefits land ownership can offer.



A block of excellent grazing land and woodland approximately 1.6 miles from Horley railway station and one mile as the “crow flies” from Gatwick Airport is on the market with Ted Handley. The land extends to 25 acres or thereabouts and comprises 15 acres of grazing land and 9.25 acres of woodland with 0.75 acre of scrub. The land is shown on the agricultural land classification map as grade 3. It is currently occupied under a Farm Business Tenancy which expires on 5 August 2022. Guide price/offers in Mayfield office: 01435 692058 excess of £310,000.


TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

“Repeated lockdowns over the past year have really bolstered the number of buyers seeking land for genuine amenity use rather than a specific smallholding or equestrian interest.” In spite of one of the busiest winters ever experienced by the rural agency team, and some great instructions lined up for this spring, demand continues to outstrip supply. If you have land in Kent or East Sussex that you are considering selling, please contact the team to discuss how we can assist.


Director, Lambert & Foster T: 01892 832325 E:

YOUNG FAMILY LOOKING TO START A UNIQUE LAND REGENERATION PROJECT… Do you have a spare 20+ acres and an interest in a joint venture with an inspiring family to create a special type of land regeneration project? If so, we would love to speak with you. Call Dean on 07909 851 546 and leave a message. I will return your call. WWW.SOUTHEASTFARMER.NET | MAY 2021








MARSHLAND A well-known fattening marshland in the centre of Pevensey Marsh has a guide price of £270,000 to £320,000 with Ted Handley. The land has direct access via a well established track to the Wartling road which runs from the Pevensey (A259/A27) roundabout by the petrol filling station, through to Wartling village and then leads onto Boreham Street and Herstmonceux at the A271. The ancient village of Pevensey with its Norman castle is approximately 2.5 miles to the south west. The market town of Hailsham is located approximately nine miles to the north west. The historic town of Battle is approximately 10 miles to the north east. Traditionally the old graziers considered this area of the marsh to be amongst the best fattening land on Pevensey Marsh. The land extends to 58.93 acres (23.8 5HA) The land is classified as Grade 3 on the Agricultural Land Classification Map. It is situated within the Pevensey Levels Special Site Of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is within the RAMSAR conservation area.


Mayfield office: 01435 692058


22.14 ACRES

SUSSEX VINEYARD BTF Partnership has launched for sale Watermans Vineyard just to the south of Ewhurst Green in East Sussex. Watermans is an established private vineyard with modern high-specification four-bedroom farmhouse, a significant range of general purpose ancillary and agriculture/viticulture buildings and land extending to a total of 22.14 acres. The property has a guide price of £2,000,000. There are currently 6.39 acres of planted vines of the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay varieties. These were planted in 2012 and produce an average of between 18 and 22 tons per annum for pressing. There is a further 12.7 acres of south facing banks appropriate for either vineyard expansion or equestrian use. The detached four-bedroom farmhouse has large and bright rooms throughout and was built in the 1980s. It has been modernised throughout to suit modern living arrangements with four double bedrooms and 449.2 m2 of internal space which includes the double garage, games room and plant room on the lower ground floor. The buildings are substantial and sound throughout and include the following: An ancillary barn of steel portal frame construction clad in timber weatherboarding measuring 203.8 m2 with potential to convert into

GRAIN STORE CLEANING AND BLASTCLEANING BUSINESS FOR SALE Based in the south of England, good customer base and equipment available for purchase. Annual turnover £90,000. SALE PRICE £30,000

Please contact 07768 995819 or TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

GUIDE PRICE £2,000,000

either ancillary accommodation or a winery. A general purpose agricultural barn of steel portal frame arranged in a L shape, open fronted and clad in timber weatherboarding extending to 139.9m2. A viticulture barn of block and timber construction extending to 235 m2 currently used for machinery storage and situated directly adjacent to the planted vines. There is also a good sized concrete yard at the entrance to the property providing a significant area for the storage of outside equipment and/or farm traffic. Alex Cornwallis at BTF Partnership commented: “There are a variety of opportunities here to expand the existing vineyard operation, run an equestrian yard as has been done before or even to continue as it is currently using the grapes as a cash crop. There is the possibility of creating a brand and business with the vineyard already established in what is a fantastic and tranquil setting of the Sussex countryside. The house is large and modern, and the buildings are primed and ready for an alternative use. This really is unique property which simply rarely find their way to the market.”



Consider renting sporting rights and pest control to a local shooting club which prides itself on compliance with codes of good practice and practical on-farm conservation projects. Fully insured, references available, payment in advance, any land over 20 acres considered excellent rates paid.



SPRING PROPERTY REVIEW An eco-friendly farmhouse with commercial CHIDDINGLY | EAST SUSSEX GUIDE PRICE £2.2MILLION 15 ACRES building set in just over 15 acres in East Sussex has come to the market through Savills. Willow Farm is a diverse holding with proven commercial income and further potential, set in an idyllic location close to the Wealden village of Chiddingly. The three bedroom farmhouse has separate access to the commercial extending to more than 14,600 sq ft, part tenanted and part in use by the element of the farm and comprises an open-plan kitchen, sitting and dining owner, so letting the in-hand units would further increase the rental income. room with vaulted ceiling, spacious home office and three double bedrooms, There is the potential to double its size by building a second unit in tandem, all with en suite shower or bathrooms. The property has an eco-efficient again subject to planning. energy system centred on solar thermal panels, wood burning stove and an oil Chris Spofforth, head of Savills south east rural agency team, said: “With fired boiler which heats the water and underfloor heating system, as well as land extending to just over 15 acres, an impressive range of commercial units rainwater harvesting for the WCs. capable of generating significant income and a lovely farmhouse, Willow Between the gardens and the pasture there is a triple stable block and Farm presents an exciting and flexible opportunity for a range of amenity adjoining small barn which is currently used as a store. There is also the or lifestyle owners for whom the rent roll or potential for running their own potential, subject to planning, to create an outdoor sand school. business from the site will undoubtedly prove attractive.” The farm includes an exceptional commercial setup including six units Willow Farm is being marketed by Savills for a guide price of £2.2million.



Chris Spofforth at Savills: 07812 965379 or




15.21 ACRES

FUTURE POTENTIAL 15.21 acres (6.07 Hectares) of grassland and woodland located south of the village of Buxted near Uckfield and with the possibility of longer term future potential, has come to the market with Ted Handley. The land fronts Limes Lane on the south eastern and southern boundary. The north west boundary for the most part abuts existing village development.

The land is classified as Grade 3 on the Agricultural Land Classification Map. It is not within the Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is access available from Limes Lane via gateways. The owners may consider dividing the property into lots. There is a public footpath which crosses the land. The property is Freehold. It is offered for sale by private treaty. Currently the land is occupied under


licence by private individuals for the purposes of grazing horses. It is for sale as a whole or in lots with a guide price in excess of £300,000 for the whole.


Mayfield office: 01435 692058

What’s your next move? In the world of agriculture, nothing sits still for long. If you need financial help to support your plans, please contact your nearest AMC Agent today.




Isle of Wight


Mike Bax BTF, 07836 710506

Anthony Field BTF, 07912 308048

Alistair Cameron Batcheller Monkhouse, 07970 767020

James Attrill BCM, 07970 969978

Stephen Rutledge Fisher German, 07919 693401

Vicky Phillips Hobbs Parker, 07799 099457

Haywards Heath




Chris Tipping Batcheller Monkhouse, 07753 177517

Alistair Wilson BCM, 07748 770656

Simon Pallett Carter Jonas, 07801 666160

Tom Birks Brown & Co, 07919 015677


John Read Carter Jonas, 07801 666183


Eloise Balcombe Fisher German, 07501 720414

Tunbridge Wells Charlotte Pearson-Wood Batcheller Monkhouse, 07812 178553

Guy Streeter Savills, 07748 949899

Simon Blandford Savills, 07768 708270

Ross Kent Carter Jonas, 07713 101652 Tom Bishop BCM, 07833 286373

The Agricultural Mortgage Corporation plc. AMC loans available for business purposes only, provided on a secured loan basis. Minimum AMC Standard Loan £25,001. To meet customer requirements, lending criteria will vary. Lending is subject to status. We adhere to The Standards of Lending Practice which are monitored and enforced by the LSB: and apply to businesses which have an annual turnover of no more than £25 million.



GUIDE PRICE £1,300,000


DELIGHTFUL SMALL FARM Lambert & Foster is launching a delightful small farm to the market at Wittersham in Kent. Yew Tree Farm is a traditional ring fenced Wealden farm, located in the countryside to the west of Wittersham, which historically formed part of the Isle of Oxney. The farm comprises a traditional Grade II Listed period farmhouse, together with a good range of traditional and modern farm buildings and attractive Wealden pasture, extending to 35.33 acres (14.3 hectares). The farmhouse has been the subject of evolution and extension over the centuries, with 17th and 18th century elevations as well as a more modern extension, and would now benefit from


redecoration and refurbishment. The current accommodation offers a combination of period character and practical family living, with kitchen/breakfast room, dining room, sitting room and study on the ground floor and five bedrooms and two bathrooms on the first floor. The farm buildings include a traditional brickbuilt stable and dilapidated barn, together with two more modern portal framed buildings that have been used in recent times for equestrian purposes and as a machinery store. The land is subdivided into eight grassland fields, interspersed with small ponds and mature oaks, in addition to which are an old sand school, extensive veg patch and polytunnel. The late owner

historically had an ostrich farming enterprise on much of the farm and grew asparagus on part of it, while more recently the land was grazed by sheep and cut for hay. Will Banham, of Lambert & Foster’s farm and land sales team, said: “Yew Tree Farm is a real rarity in the current market. To find an attractive period farmhouse that sits well away from any neighbours, with flexible farm buildings and 35 acres, is unusual in a market which is desperately short of available property. “The farm is bound to appeal to lifestyle and equestrian buyers as well as those seeking a home with pasture and buildings. We are expecting very strong interest.”

Kent office: 01892 832325

P O T TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883







Estate Agents

Street Farm

Newchurch, Romney Marsh, Kent.

Total Guide Price





In all approximately 143.84 acres For sale as a whole or available in three lots.

Chapel Farm

Land at Bonnington and at Lower Wall, Burmarsh, Romney Marsh In all approximately 769.67 acres Available from September 2021 on a 5 year Farm Business Tenancy Agreement.

Contact one of the team for information: Jon Rimmer Chairman

James Hickman Director

Vicky Phillips Director

01233 506 201 Hobbs Parker Romney House Monument Way, Orbital Park, Ashford, Kent, TN24 0HB




Following a family farming restructure, two significant opportunities are being offered on the open market on Romney Marsh, with 143.84 acres at Street Farm, Newchurch being offered for sale and 769.67 acres at Chapel Farm, Burmarsh, available to rent. Over the past two years there has been a reduction in the amount of land offered on the open market and opportunities to buy a block of grade II arable land on Romney Marsh do



not come around very often. Street Farm will be offered in various lots and offers potential for both farmers and investors. The land is being offered for sale by private teaty. Chapel Farm offers a different opportunity and is available to let under a farm business tenancy. The tenancy will start in autumn 2021 for an initial period of five years and totals 769.67 acres of arable land, with a 4,000 tonne grain store and weighbridge facility. The land and grain

store will be offered in four lots ranging from 400 acres to 124 acres to include the Basic Payment Scheme entitlements. The land is grade I and II, drained, well structured silty clay loam and has been farmed in hand with a six-year diverse arable rotation. Chapel Farm is being offered by informal tender with two viewings days arranged for 19 May and 26 May. Interested parties will have the opportunity to tender for individual lots or as a whole.

Jon Rimmer or Vicky Phillips: 01233 506201

P O T TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883





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to re-evaluate their businesses because they’re spending every waking hour being busy with things that don’t make them money, and there are some good guaranteed revenues to be had from Countryside Stewardship right now. Business reviews such as the ones I’ve been busy with – whether enterprise specific or across the whole farm – allow you to make informed choices. You can still make a subjective decision. You might, for example, decide to keep that pedigree herd of cattle or flock of sheep that was established by your grandfather simply because it’s part of the fabric and history of the farm. Ditto that bit of ground 20 miles away. But it’s important you know the true costs, as well as the benefits, of doing so. Reviews shine a light on what you do best and what you do less well – and give you options. Even after doing it for nearly 30 years, helping people make decisions that turn the key on the future that they want for themselves, their families and their successors is one of the most satisfying parts of my job.



to avoid doing the same forensic analysis of costs and returns that their non-diversified counterparts might have been forced to make. If you’re making tens or even hundreds of thousands of £s of rental income from let buildings, that might well dwarf your agricultural income. Within two years, though, plummeting BPS support will mean many of those who could ‘afford’ to continue with less-than-efficient agricultural enterprises may well no longer be able to. Every single penny really will count. For many, this will necessitate changing their mix of enterprises and maybe letting some go. In tandem with scrutinising the detail, it’s important to understand the bigger picture – the personality, strengths and long-term aspirations of the farmer, their family and their successors. Succession isn’t just about when you’re going to hand over the reins to the next generation; it’s about what the structure of that business will be – and how healthy and fit-for-purpose it is. Meanwhile, if you’re aiming to consolidate down to the areas or enterprises that actually make you money, stewardship can allow you to take land that is unproductive or too far away out of the equation. This, in turn, opens up time and resources to concentrate on the things that make money, that you most enjoy doing and that fit most closely with your strategic plan. Sometimes people simply don’t have time




Instinct and experience are crucial in farming, but you need accurate information, too. In practice, many farmers lack this, making it almost impossible to make informed decisions, and right now they need to be making these more than ever before. A lot of businesses are at a crossroads, with the phasing out of BPS, the transition to ELMS, Brexit and the prospect of tax changes quite rightly making many question what they are doing. As a result, I’ve been busy with business review work recently, for clients as varied as those with contract beef-rearing enterprises, dairy herds and mixed arable/livestock units. It involves finding answers to seemingly simple questions such as: Where are you making money? Where are you losing money? Where are your efforts having the most benefit? Where should you invest money? Should you even carry on doing what you’re doing? Do you actually want to spend the rest of your life doing this? Part of my role is to look objectively and forensically at the figures and, at times, to ask the questions that clients either haven’t known they should be asking or haven’t been able to bring themselves to ask. Why, for example, are you contract-farming land miles from the home farm when it involves all that travelling time and ties up extra cash in machinery? If you’re selling wheat at £200/t harvest, it might be justified – but what if the price is £120/t? Many of the tools for financially unpicking an enterprise or businesses – such as gross margins, overheads and a profit and loss account – are the same as when I started my consultancy career almost 30 years ago, but as in any job, experience helps you know what to hone in on. Where it can get more complicated is where a business is highly diverse, which means it’s understandably hard for those involved day to day to identify parts that are performing well or badly, and a lot of land-based businesses in the South East are very mixed. But if there’s a willingness to look properly, you can always apportion costs and returns. Also, the way many land-based businesses in this area have diversified has, truth be told, allowed some






MATTHEW BERRYMAN Director, CLM T: 07710 765323 E:





NEW BEGINNINGS We’re hoping this spring that we are all going to emerge like the first snowdrops of the year and start to enjoy life again. I’m not sure that that metaphor stretches to what might happen if we go backwards into the ground with another lockdown (no!). There is every prospect out there at the moment that – with adjustments – we are going in the right direction and we are going to feel the warmth of the sun on our faces once more. The cold winter nights we have all experienced over the past months remind me of the atmosphere when couples separate and stop talking to each other. They can also stop trusting each other and – wrongly in my opinion – reach first for a gladiator family solicitor who they think is going to ‘fight their corner’. It is only if they have been through a court battle before – or know someone who has – that they understand the trauma and financial problems couples can face because they think that the right thing to do is fight, rather than keep on talking. To the rescue is a new family mediation voucher scheme: the Ministry of Justice will pay £500 towards the cost of two people trying to find a solution to their family problems using certain mediators. I’m excited about this because I am a firm believer in helping couples keep control of what they talk about and the level of detail while they discuss their issues around a table (a virtual table at the moment).


We have two mediators at my firm with decades of experience in helping people navigate financial settlements and children’s arrangements, and we complement this with collaborative lawyers who do a similar thing with two specially trained lawyers – where clients need a little more support in the room with them. If coming out of this pandemic has caused you to look at things afresh, we are here to explain all the options neutrally to you in a friendly way. After all, we’ve been trusted advisors to the people of Kent for over 200 years. While this may not have been through many awful pandemics (and certainly not the Black Death), we’re good at helping clients make the right decisions for their situation.


Solicitor T: 01622 698028 E:


The recent consultation on amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), saw the introduction of the new objective ‘creating beautiful places’. The origins of this new objective emerged from the Living with Beauty report prepared by the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission published in January 2020. The report was particularly critical of developments that have neglected to recognise their context or local character, or introduce vital facilities to support the new or existing community. As landowners looking to release land for development, land agents, town planners, urban designers, housebuilders and in fact the whole development industry, we all set out with the aim of creating high quality and ultimately beautiful places, even if historically the reality has fallen somewhat short of the initial good intentions. This is why, at Catesby Estates, we have a specialist in-house urban design team focused on achieving planning consents which support the development of well-designed housing, with a focus on the environment and local community, while also maximising land value for landowners. The introduction of the word beautiful has seen significant debate amongst the planning, design and legal community. There is a general consensus that the achievement of ‘beautiful’ is enormously difficult to define, and raises a range of far-reaching questions such as: how will it be measured? who will measure it? are resources and skills available to support creating beautiful places? will we all agree that the final outcome is beautiful if there is no fixed definition? The consultation process on the NPPF has now ended, so we wait to see whether or not the word ‘beautiful’ will remain unchanged. Perhaps a




definition in the next published version will shortcut much of the legal debate. Notwithstanding that view, the Government’s objective of enhanced design and place making has never been clearer. Fully engaging local government planners and communities in the design debate has been woven throughout its recent consultation draft of the National Model Design Code (NMDC). It places a strong emphasis on the importance of consultation at every stage of the design process. For the planning process to work effectively, land promoters, housebuilders, councils and residents need to work together in partnership to achieve a positive outcome from residential development for local communities. We believe the key to our planning success rate is our collaborative approach and commitment to delivering sensitively designed housing developments tailored to the character of the local area and providing real community benefits. As a result, our landowners are justifiably proud of the legacies that they leave for future generations. The NMDC offers a toolkit of design guidance to support local authorities and communities in the

pursuit of design quality. It suggests a variety of methods to understand at the outset the nuances and characteristics of a local area and how to make meaningful recommendations to guide design in a locally specific way. The intention is that there is a common, published, understanding and set of expectations that development should achieve, smoothing the way for planning permissions. However, recognising that skills and resources are not always available in local authorities, the NMDC also acknowledges that a code can be prepared by a Neighbourhood Plan group or by a team selected by the landowner(s). Catesby Estates has a strong track record of leading local character analysis and preparing design guidance and coding with local communities to successfully deliver planning permissions that will deliver high quality and beautiful places of the future. Acknowledging the significant roles local stakeholders play in the planning process, we have an in-house communications team that engages directly with stakeholders, rather than using external third-party agencies.

Find out more about land promotion and how Catesby Estates can assist in maximising your land value


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

TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883





Industrial & Commercial | Structural Steelwork | Agricultural & Equestrian



Shufflebottom Agricultural Buildings Steel-frame buildings for your farm + Supply only or supply & erect + Construction all over the UK + Award winning company

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Steel frame buildings Sheeting and cladding Guttering and repairs Groundworks and drainage Demolition and asbestos removal Refurbishment and change of use Concrete frame and steel frame repairs • Insurance and general repairs • Concrete floor and block paving

Strength, Security, Style Contact us for a free quotation 01269 831831 Shufflebottom Ltd Cross Hands Business Park, Cross Hands, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire SA14 6RE For more information contact us: t: 01233 623739 m: 07860 414227 e:


Based in Lewes, East Sussex


 01273 492404   We specialise in the supply and construction of steel framed buildings together with the repair and refurbishment of existing farm buildings. Based in the heart of Sussex, covering the South East. Sussex builders since at least 1605. Forma offer all aspects of steel framed construction and cladding together with groundworks and electrical fit out if required.

All our buildings are


“You tried the others, now try the brothers”

All our panels are marked

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100% British designed & built

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Gary White 07812 599679 Jason White 07941 274751


CONSTRUCTION CONSTRUCTION Supplying profiled roofing products to contractors, builders and farmers

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visit for our full range or call 01342 315 300 to speak to our friendly sales team NATIONWIDE DELIVERY


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S3111 SS SE Farmers ad 93x60mm.indd 1

17/12/2020 15:27

FARM BUILDING REPAIRS We will continue to work through coronavirus, and we will be available to attend site and estimate customers projects and/or insurance repair/works. We have now insisted that our employees wear suitable personal protection equipment on any such works until further notice.


REFURBS, BIG 6 ROOF SHEETS, ROOF LIGHTS, RIDGES, VERGES, VALLEY GUTTERS, BOX GUTTERS, BOUNDARY GUTTERS, ASBESTOS, SHEETING Single Sheet To Whole Roof Roller Shutters Accidental or Storm Damage Works Demolition Refurbishments Waste Clearances


We are available to carry out ESSENTIAL REPAIR WORKS to AGRICULTURAL LIVESTOCK/STORAGE BUILDINGS etc Kenward Construction based in Horsham, West Sussex offer a full design and build service for your next steel framed building including composite cladding, concrete panels, roller shutter doors and bespoke designs to meet individual planning conditions. Kenward Construction also offer a wide range of services offering a truly one stop shop for your next farm building project. Demolition, plant hire, access roads, drainage, sewage treatment plants, rainwater harvesting, biobed wash downs, paving, concrete foundations / slabs, walling and site landscaping.

Arrange a site visit with one of our contracts managers to discuss your project in more detail by emailing or call 01403 210218

SOUTH EAST CLADDING LTD Professional Services to the Agricultural, Industrial & Equestrian Sectors


FREEPHONE: 01233 659129

from BT land-line

MOBILE: 07813 142 145

To advertise in South East Farmer telephone 01303 233883



Agriculture ~ Cold Storage ~ Equestrian ~ Industrial ~ Waste Recycling • Agricultural Buildings • Cold Store Buildings • Equestrian Buildings • Industrial Buildings • Waste Recycling Buildings TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883

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Fully insured and licensed. 23 years family run business. Covering all KENT & SUSSEX We will continue to work through coronavirus, and we will be available to attend site and estimate customers projects and/or insurance repair/works. We have now insisted that our employees wear suitable personal protection equipment on any such works until further notice.

Penfold Profiles

Asbestos removal Sheeting Guttering RAMSA K M





Specialists in agricultural and industrial buildings



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Contact: Chris, for a no obligation quotation: Tel: 07813 142145 or 01233 659129 (7 days)

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Manufacturers of centrifugal, low volume and portable fans, air tunnels, drive over floors, grain stirrers and gas burners




Salamander is focused on delivering high quality sustainable developments within the residential, agricultural and industrial sectors. We offer the full range of services from planning through to completion, providing a unique perspective on how to get the most value from your assets.

MAY 2021 | WWW.SOUTHEASTFARMER.NET / 07813 747 361



Contact Maurice today 07468 429409


O’Reilly Oakstown Ltd Atlantic Way, Barry Port, Barry, Wales, CF63 3RA, UK



FULL LAND DRAINAGE SERVICE sportsfields, amenity and irrigation systems using Mastenbroek trenchers


L Walls & A Walls Grain Storage Walls Precast Storage Tanks Prestressed Wall Panels Agricultural Precast & Storage

PONDS, LAKES & RESERVOIRS construction and maintenance

S W ATTWOOD & PART LAND DRAINAGE GROUNDWORKS & CONSTRUCTION primary excavations, aggregate sub-base, agricultural construction and concreting

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For all enquiries call 01233 860404 FIELD 07770 867625 MAPPING (Harvey) or 07768 115849 (Dave)




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To advertise in South East Farmer FROM £220 telephone 01303 233883 FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ®








Drainage Contractors


Working with farmers since 1947


TOM: 01795 880441 or 07943 192383


  DRAINAGE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION  PLANT HIRE OUR PLEASE CONTACT US OR VISIT FOR ESTIMATES & ENQUIRIES INERT TIPPING WEBSITE:  (01622) 890884  GRAIN STORAGE & Competitive Direct Drilling Service Email:  CLAY SALES Using our proven Simtech Aitchison direct drill we seed into all surfaces - grasses, clovers, PHONE: 01795 880441

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brassicas, cereals, pulses, maize and all mixtures. The unique T-slot boot allows a perfect

environment for the seeds to germinate, along its 3m sowing width with 20 rows (15cm). EMAIL:

• land clearance

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01622 744640 - 07711 264775

TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883



Grubbing, timber & groundwork services • orchard grubbing

This method saves time and money compared with more traditional re-seeding methods, but is also capable of stitching and rejuvenating existing crops.


 GRAIN STORAGE & TESTING  LAND DRAINAGE  PLANT HIRE Town Place Farm, Haywards Heath  Mob: 07970 INERT TIPPING Tel: 01825 790341 621832 Email:  CLAY SALES




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07860 728204 Hay & Straw Merchant | Machinery Haulage




• Large range of Temporary canteens, stores & welfare units

Find us on Facebook 

• Effluent Tank Emptying


• Events also catered for with chillers & toilets


Tel: 01622 843135 Fax: 01622 844410

To advertise in South East Farmer telephone 01303 233883



SALES, SERVICE & HIRE OUT of Pressure Washers, Vacuums, Scrubber Dryers, Sweepers & Dry Steamers from the leading manufacturers! Fully Stocked mobile engineers with full manufacturer training. Over 45 YEARS in trading!

FENCING Manufacturers of Chestnut Fencing Products Hardwood gates



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CWP fenci f n ng

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All suitable for fuel, water and effluent Call today for details

Tel 01638 712328


of the Forest of Dean Ltd.

The Tank and Drum Experts ®

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Buy from stock. Visit us to collect or same day dispatch with nationwide delivery. New and recycled IBC Tanks. Plastic and Steel Drums. Water Tanks, IBCs & Fittings.


Or telephone on 01594 833308 for more information.

Or telephone on 01594 833308 for more information.



COMPLETE OUR CROSSWORD TO WIN A mixed box of 500ml sparkling ciders including four bottles of Biddies 5, Red Love cider and Biddies 8










9 10














Original contraption (9) Flat china dish (5) Select minority (6,3) A standard pack has 52 (5) Raise animals (4) Type of bottled fuel (7) Apple variety (8,6) Medium-sized raptor (7) Elbow room (6) Warehousing (7) Large rubbish receptacle (4) Agricultural fuel (3,6) Accumulate a large amount (9) Eg Ash, Oak, Yew (4)

1 2 3 4 6 7 10 13 14 15 17 18 19 21 22 23 24

Become subject to extra expense (5) ----- Davies, triple crown winning actress (5) Necessity (4) Blaze (7) Part from (5) Tailed larva of an amphibian (7) Home of a wild animal (4) Cream, ointment (9) Period of time (3) Secondhand (4) Belonging to a male (3) Within the law (5) Question (3) In Whist: Won by the player who laid the highest trump (5) Potato fritter (5) Cut of beef (5) A light cake (6)


19 24


1 5 8 9 11 12 13 16 18 20 23 25 26 27


Crossword by Rebecca Farmer, Broadstairs, Kent

PRIZE ANAGRAM: Infestation (9)

To enter, simply unscramble the

anagram (9) 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 17 May. The winner will be announced in the June edition. TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883






We are offering readers the chance to win a mixed box of our 500ml sparkling ciders including four bottles of Biddies 5, Red Love cider and Biddies 8. 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








I 9






























































A 17







E 21


T 26




U 16

G 25





R 15



O 12















I 23


















U 27





Correct answer: Biological control LAST MONTH’S WINNER: Philip Haywood from Wadhurst, East Sussex




For viticulturists in Great Britain In association with

s r o t i b i h x e r o f g Bookin ! N E P O W NO

24th November 2021 Kent Event Centre, Detling, Maidstone, Kent ME14 3JF


Booking enquiries Sarah Calcutt 07827 642396 Jamie McGrorty 01303 233883

Sponsored by

Vitifruit Equipment Sales and Hire

Profile for KELSEY Media

South East Farmer May 2021  

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