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INSIDE What farming organisations think of the groundbreaking trade deal with Australia. Regenerative agriculture in focus – a look at the 2021 Groundswell event.

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

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August 2021

CHAMPIONING SUSTAINABLE FARMING AND FOOD Spreading your expertise to grow your business Our diversification into a demonstration farm provides learning spaces and events to help people on the path to sustainable farming and food systems. Ian Wilkinson, Honeydale Farm Contact your local agency or search NFU Mutual Diversification and download our Diversification report now

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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 PUBLISHER Jamie McGrorty 01303 233883 GRAPHIC DESIGN Jo Legg 07306 482166 MANAGEMENT CHIEF EXECUTIVE: Steve Wright CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER: Phil Weeden MANAGING DIRECTOR: Kevin McCormick PUBLISHER: Jamie McGrorty RETAIL DIRECTOR: Steve Brown RENEWALS AND PROJECTS MANAGER: Andy Cotton SENIOR SUBSCRIPTION MARKETING MANAGER: Nick McIntosh SUBSCRIPTION MARKETING DIRECTOR: Gill Lambert SUBSCRIPTION MARKETING MANAGER: Kate Chamberlain PRINT PRODUCTION MANAGER: Georgina Harris PRINT PRODUCTION CONTROLLER: Kelly Orriss DISTRIBUTION Distribution in Great Britain Marketforce (UK) Ltd, 3rd Floor, 161 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9AP Tel: 0330 390 6555

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: Fruit Growers Alianza ©Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic

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Quality content recognised. ELMS funding commitment. No-one’s rushing to the exit. Rounding up reaction to the Government’s free trade deal with Australia.






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Despite having been known and respected in the UK for more than ten years, Chilean fruit growers FGA (Fruit Growers Alianza) lacked one thing – English cherries. The Cherry family, who founded Groundswell on their Hertfordshire mixed farm in 2016, believe regenerative agriculture is the way forward, as Nigel Akehurst discovered on a visit to this year’s event.


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Smaller farmers are concerned

While many of us have a tendency to lose the plot somewhat as we get older, Prince Charles seems to be heading in the other direction. Once known for his ‘tree-hugging’ sentiments and for admitting that he talks to his plants, the 72 year-old has since become a campaigner for the environment, and while some diehards will disagree with his views on climate change, his support for ‘traditional’ farming will be


welcomed by most. In an essay for Radio 4 to coincide with the publication of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy last week he warned that letting small family farms go to the wall would “break the backbone of Britain’s rural communities”. The heir apparent and Prince of Wales (also now the Duke of Edinburgh; I didn’t know that until today) believes that losing smaller farms will “rip the heart out of the British countryside”. It is typically forthright language from the man probably most famous for describing a planned extension to the National Gallery as “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”, but it reflects the concerns of many smaller farmers who are searching for a post-Brexit, post-Basic Payment, pre-ELMS direction. The industry needs larger efficient, units, and it is possible that some will see small farms as unfortunate collateral in that drive for efficiency, but most will agree that, as in most things, we need to strike a balance between providing enough food for the population and protecting the countryside we love. Where the heir to the throne is clearly at one with most experts on agriculture is in warning about the damage that has been done to soils and watercourses over the years and the impact that emissions are having on global warming. He wants to “put nature back at the heart of the equation” in a way that will resonate with those who are moving towards regenerative agriculture. They will certainly applaud his suggestion that regenerating degraded soils around the world would allow mankind to capture as much as 70% of the world’s

carbon emissions. It is reassuring to know that Prince Charles, at least, appears to be in tune with modern thinking and can ‘read the room’. Perhaps some of our senior politicians who continually misread public sentiment by, for instance, criticising those who take a stand against racism one minute and criticising racists the next, could take a leaf out of his book. MALCOLM TRIGGS - EDITOR

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Independent awarding body BASIS has collaborated with OF&G (Organic Farmers and Growers) and Abacus Agriculture to develop a new training course for farmers and advisers looking to enhance their knowledge of organic production systems. The first Foundation Award in Organic Farming training course will take place in September at Stoneleigh Park. BASIS’ head of business development Greg Hopkinson said the new qualification would “provide a comprehensive introduction to organic farming practice and legislation, primarily focusing on crop and livestock production, soil management and conversion planning, all of which are important elements of organic production now and into the future”.



South East Farmer’s quality content has been recognised by a new body set up to support professional advisers working with sheep farmers. The new Register of Sheep Advisers (RoSA), set up through a collaboration between the National Sheep Association and skills champion BASIS, was set up on 1 June this year to “support the wider sheep sector as it moves towards a more sustainable future”. RoSA has now put together a reading list for members that is designed to support their continuous professional development (CPD) and has included South East Farmer due to its ”vast amount of related content”. It means subscribers to the magazine will qualify for two points under the organisation’s CPD points scheme. Business Development Executive Jade Prince commented: ‘We are keen to ensure that our registered sheep advisers keep abreast of current developments in all areas of sheep care and we recognise the importance of technical magazines as part of their CPD. South East Farmer has a vast amount of quality content that will help our members to keep their knowledge fresh.” To claim the RoSA CPD points, subscribers simply need to enter the code PD/112927/2122/G in the ‘Submit CPD Points’ area of their RoSA members login area. Jade added: “The vision of RoSA is to see well-informed professional advisers supporting engaged sheep farmers to become more profitable and sustainable by providing comprehensive advice on all aspects of sheep production. “We hope to achieve this through the development of an industry recognised CPD programme which ensures all members continue to keep up-to-date and develop their knowledge. This will ensure UK sheep farmers will have access to the best and most appropriate advice to ensure their business will be ready for any upcoming opportunities and challenges.”


ELMS FUNDING COMMITMENT With information about the Government’s new Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMS) slowly emerging, Environment Secretary George Eustice shed more light on the plans at this year’s Groundswell Agriculture Show held at Lannock Manor Farm, Hertfordshire. At the show, which focuses on regenerative agriculture and is featured in this month’s edition of South East Farmer, Mr Eustice confirmed that from 2028 there would be an even split of funding for the three-pronged scheme. The Sustainable Farming Incentive and the Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery Schemes will be the main delivery mechanism for projects that “mitigate the impacts of climate change and support both nature recovery and sustainable farm businesses”. The new grant schemes, which represent the most significant change to farming and land

management in 50 years, will be vital to landowners and farmers who are set to see the Basic Payments that currently sustain many of their businesses phased out over the coming years. In front of a no-doubt receptive audience, the Environment Secretary reaffirmed his commitment to regenerative farming in developing future farming policy, and said the aim was for 70% of farms to benefit from ELMS by 2028. DEFRA has stressed that in contrast to the old EU pillar structure, where a budget was trapped in one pillar and could not be transferred, these future schemes will “complement one another and work to the best interest of farmers”. The Environment Secretary said regenerative techniques such as topsoil regeneration and the use of cover crops, integrated pest management and mixed agriculture would be further encouraged under ELMS. Mr Eustice said it was well recognised that the

industry needed to change its approach to tackle the environmental challenges on climate change and biodiversity, adding: “Leaving the European Union gives us a great opportunity to show the world how we can do this, through a seven-year transition to reorder farming incentives so that we support regenerative agriculture.” He said the Government had committed to maintaining the current levels of investment in farming of £2.4bn per year, on average, over the life of this Parliament, and said direct payments had been “unfair and ineffective”. Mr Eustice said the Landscape Recovery Scheme would deliver long-term land use change projects supported by “bespoke and long-term” agreements and payments. They could start as early as next year to support the Government’s commitment to launch a minimum of 10 landscape recovery projects over the next four years to deliver at least 20,000 hectares of restored habitat.


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Although the small print has yet to be revealed, the UK’s expected free trade deal with Australia was agreed in mid-June, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson heralding a “new dawn” in the relationship between the two countries. And while the Department for International Trade was anxious to point out that British cars, Scotch whisky and confectionary will be cheaper for the Aussies to buy under the tariff-free agreement, it was less bullish on the effect on the UK’s farmers. The department stressed: “British farmers will be protected by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards. We are also supporting agricultural producers to increase their exports overseas, including to new markets in the Indo-Pacific.” It was the first major trade deal negotiated from scratch by the Government following the UK’s exit from the EU and was agreed in principle between Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Much has been made of the ‘turnkey’ element of the Australian deal, which the department said was “a gateway into the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region [that would] boost our bid to join CPTPP (The TransPacific Partnership), one of the largest free trade areas in the world, covering £9 trillion of GDP and 11 Pacific nations from Australia to Mexico”. While Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss said membership would “create unheralded opportunities for our farmers, makers, innovators and investors to do business in the future engine room of the global economy”, farming bodies across the South East were less optimistic.


Amongst those concerned about the impact on animal welfare was the RSPCA, which made an ‘11th hour’ appeal to Boris Johnson not to sign the deal, which it said would “open the UK to lower welfare imports of animal products reared in ways which are illegal here”.


STANDARDS? Rounding up reaction to the Government’s free trade deal with Australia. It said: “Australian farming involves a number of practices which are outlawed in the UK, including keeping hens in cruel barren battery cages, giving beef cattle growth hormones and a practice called mulesing where sheep have the skin around their bottoms cut off.” Speaking before the deal was agreed, RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said: “Everything we are hearing indicates that Boris Johnson is close to signing the deal. At a stroke he will be setting back hard fought for welfare standards here and giving Australia no incentive to improve welfare standards there. It will start a race to the bottom and the losers will be billions of farmed animals and UK farmers.” The RSPCA concluded: “As part of its manifesto commitment, the UK Government promised to maintain and, where possible, improve standards of animal welfare in the UK, particularly as new free trade agreements were negotiated. The UK has higher legal animal welfare standards than Australia in virtually every area. “To maintain its promises to the public and UK farmers, the Government must ensure tariffs are not


relaxed on eggs, beef and pig meat unless Australia’s standards are at least equivalent to the UK’s and must ensure our bans on imports of products produced with growth promoting agents are maintained.”


The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers joined those who were concerned about a lack of detail, with chairman Peter Alvis pointing out: “Despite repeated calls by the industry and collaboration of 18 industry bodies working together, we have yet to receive any detail on this agreement. “Specifically, there is no recognition of animal welfare and environmental standards, net-zero and biodiversity, which is concerning. “These are all points the government puts increasing pressure on our farmers to meet by imposing high standards, yet there are no details laid out on what standards milk and meat products entering from Australia will have been produced to. There is a huge worry we could end up with products of lesser quality flooding our supermarket shelves and undermining the hard work of our farmers.”


In a lengthy blog, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s David Swales pointed out that while the Government has agreed or is close to a deal with 67 non-EU countries, from Albania to Zimbabwe, this one is “potentially more significant” because of its precedent-setting status. He wrote: “it is telling that long-term quotas have disappeared and details of safeguards are thin on the ground. I should acknowledge that there is talk of a 15-year transition period, to give British farmers time to adapt to increased competition. But the language feels very different, rather than being protected or safeguarded now it’s all about farmers preparing for the competition that is coming.” Reassuringly, since Australian farmers currently enjoy a number of closer and more profitable markets, he concluded: “Even in a free-trade scenario I wouldn’t expect our market to be flooded by Australian product.”


The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) agreed that the impact in terms of quantity was likely to be minimal and said maintaining standards was the more important aspect of the deal. Deputy President Mark Tufnell commented: “It’s important that we are able to support free trade and farming as a nation and we welcome this deal in principle. “But, in any deal we strike with other countries, it’s essential that imports meet domestic standards on food safety, animal welfare and the environment. Many are concerned at the volume of Australian beef entering the UK, but with only 0.15% coming onto the domestic market, it’s minimal. Instead, the focus should be on government putting suitable checks and balances in place to safeguard standards and production methods.”


The National Sheep Association (NSA) expressed major concerns over the effect of any deal on the

industry – and pointed out that the fact that New Zealand officials had already said they would expect the same deal was “a stark reminder of the dangers of a precedent being set”. The NSA said the Australian tariff rate quota for lamb would immediately more than triple, from roughly 8,000 tonnes annually to 25,000, and then grow over 10 years to 125,000 tonnes – more than 40% of the UK’s current sheep meat needs. The association said that if New Zealand quotas followed suit, “more than 80% of sheep meat consumed in Britain could be imported, much produced in ways that wouldn’t be allowed by farmers here”. On the standards issue, the association pointed out that the Animal Protection Index, which ranks countries on their commitment to protecting animals through legislation, improving animal welfare and recognising animal sentience, gives the UK a B rating for welfare standards and Australia a D.


While the NFU’s experts were still looking closely at the detail, President Minette Battlers said: “We have been clear about our concerns over the potential impact of trade deals that completely eliminate all tariffs on imports from the biggest agricultural exporters in the world. “While details remain very thin on the ground, it appears that the agreement will include important safeguards that attempt to strike a balance between liberalising trade and supporting UK farm businesses, as well as a reasonable time period to allow UK farmers to adjust to the new trading environment. “We await further details of the agreement to understand whether these safeguards are sufficient, and in particular that they can be deployed effectively should imports rise to an unmanageable level leading to significant market disruption." Ms Batters added that the Trade and Agriculture Commission would have “a vital role to play” in assessing animal welfare and environmental aspects of the deal and said it was “crucial it is up and running soon so that it can provide its report to Parliament on the impact of the deal”.

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Classic tractors fetched record prices at an auction of The Shrubbs Farm Collection in Essex hosted by East Anglian-based auctioneer Cheffins. A record £210,112 – the second highest price paid for a vintage or classic tractor at auction to date – was paid for a 1983 County 1474 ‘short nose’ bought by a UK-based collector. With only two owners from new, this rare example had only 100 hours on the clock and smashed its pre-sale estimate of £60,000 - £70,000. This was followed by £79,864 for a rare 1966 Northrop 5004/6, well above its £40,000 £50,000 estimate, £49,312 for a 1965 Doe-130, £45,024 for a 1989 Ford 7810 Silver Jubilee, £34,840 for a 1975 Ford 7000 and £28,944 for a Roadless Ploughmaster 6/4. Cheffins Director Oliver Godfrey explained: “The Liddell family had been collecting for over 35 years and had quietly put together one of the most genuine and original collections of Ford and Ford conversion tractors including Doe, County and Roadless in the country. “With collectors and enthusiasts emerging from the darkness of various lockdowns and armed with fresh enthusiasm and cash, they were eager to feed their passion for all things classic and vintage.”

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There was a battle royal in Cabinet over whether or not Britain should agree a tariff free trade deal with Australia. Brexiteers think that if a trade deal cannot be concluded with Australia then no deals will be possible for the new 'Global Britain'. On one side of the argument was international trade secretary Liz Truss. On the other was DEFRA secretary of state George Eustice, backed up by Michael Gove. Gove was concerned that rural areas in Wales and Scotland would be particularly hard hit, further undermining the union. A specific imperative to get the deal with Australia completed was the G7 summit in Cornwall. The Australian prime minister Scott Morrison attended as an observer and agreed a trade agreement in principle with Boris Johnson. It is hoped that the deal will be signed by the end of the year. Of itself, the Australian deal does not pose an immediate threat to British farmers. Not only is Australia a long way away, but it has closer and more lucrative markets in Asia and the Middle East for its produce and existing quotas are not always reached. What is concerning is the possible domino effect from the Australia deal. It is expected that deals with Canada and New Zealand will be concluded in the next few months. Boris Johnson has argued that the Canada deal will open up new markets for high quality British cheeses, but given the importance of the dairy sector in Quebec there may be resistance from Canada to making significant concessions in this area. Coming down the line is a trade deal with the United States. Although this will not be straightforward to negotiate, it is likely to have a greater impact, given the economies of scale and low-cost production methods enjoyed in American farming. All this will be happening at a time when Basic Payments are being phased out. Yes, there will be new environmental and other funding payments made available, but the total budget will not be large and obtaining the money will be more unpredictable and require quite a lot of work. It will also require unproductive work to meet the requirements. Beef tariffs with Australia will be eliminated after 10 years, with an immediate duty free quota rising from 3,761 tonnes to 35,000t, and then rising in equal instalments to 110,000t, about a tenth of the beef eaten in the UK in a year. In the next five years it would rise to 170,000t. Sheep meat duty free quotas will rise immediately from 13,335t to 25,000t, rising in instalments to 75,000t, about 25% of all lamb consumed annually. Tariffs will go after 10 years. Sugar tariffs will be eliminated over eight years, with an immediate duty free quota of 80,000t. Dairy tariffs will be eliminated over five years with an immediate duty free quota for cheese of 24,000t, rising to 48,000t in year five. It has been argued that lamb would be produced from Australia from November to February, a time of the year when there is little product coming off British farms. Questions have also been raised about the tenderness of the Australian product. As far as beef is concerned, Australia has a very high quality product, thanks in part to a grading system that rewards quality. Exporters are likely to focus on high end cuts that represent the most lucrative part of the market. Australian farmers benefit from greater economies of scale, allowing them to undercut on price. I well remember visiting a huge drylot beef farm in New South Wales and being impressed by the scale and efficiency of the operation. The RSPCA has said Australia has lower standards on chlorinated chickens,

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sow stalls that confine pregnant pigs and growth hormone treatment for beef. A survey of over 2,000 adults conducted by ComRes on behalf of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists found that nearly eight out of ten of those surveyed believed that imported food should meet the same environmental and animal welfare standards as food produced in the UK. This preference for matching standards maintained on British farms is, on the face of it, encouraging. However, it is one thing to select an option on a questionnaire and another to give up the possibility of buying a cheaper product in the supermarket. Price remains a major driver of consumer behaviour. A lot of research on the willingness of consumers to pay more for products meeting high animal welfare standards shows that only a minority of consumers are willing to pay significantly more. While the Trade and Agriculture Commission was supposed to provide safeguards in relation to deals of this type, it is not yet at work. Although some have argued that farmers should stop complaining and instead focus on seizing opportunities and opening up new markets, farmers in general are always very enterprising and willing to develop new or higher quality products if there is a market for them. Farmers need to continue to be aware of developments of this kind in the wider external environment and to build them into regular strategic reviews of the farm business.

Wyn Grant is Emeritus Professor of Politics at the University of Warwick and author of books and articles on agriculture including The Common Agricultural Policy.





Uncertainty around the tax position looks set to be a major disincentive to farmers taking advantage of the Government’s lump sum exit scheme, according to an East Sussex farmer. Frank Langrish, who farms sheep and beef on around 700 hectares of land at Rye, told South East Farmer he didn’t know any farmers who were planning to take up the option of the promised nest egg, expected to be somewhere between £50,000 and £100,000. The Government has said farmers willing to exit the industry will be able to receive the cash they were due to receive under what’s left of the Basic Payment Scheme as a lump sum. With those direct payments due to be reduced over the next seven years, starting with 5% cuts this scheme year and rising to 50% in 2024 – and bigger cuts for larger recipients – DEFRA has said farmers can opt to take the money up front as long as they quit farming, creating opportunities for new entrants and those who want to expand. Farmers taking part would have their BPS entitlements cancelled and would have to sell or rent out their land or surrender their tenancy, although DEFRA says they will be able to keep their dwelling place and up to 5% of their agricultural land. Early figures suggested they would receive a payment worth 2.35 times a reference amount, expected to be the average annual BPS payment they received from 2018 to 2020, subject to a cap of £100,000. Based on this calculation, a £25,000


TO THE EXIT direct payment would qualify for a lump sum in 2022 of £58,750. “The difficulty,” said Frank Langrish, “is the tax position. As far as I can tell – and it’s not easy because like most other government proposals it’s pretty thin on the detail – it’s OK if the farmer is going to retire, because then the cash will be treated as a business asset. “But if they go on to do something else, that lump sum will probably be taxable. That means that they could lose 25% or 40% of somewhere between £50,000 and £100,000, and that makes a big difference to the viability of the proposal. “Like a lot of these big ideas, it’s a great soundbite, but we need a lot more detail. Some farmers of retirement age might see it as a bonus, but I’m not seeing people lining up to take up the offer.” It’s also not clear, in Frank’s mind, whether or not taking the cash that applies to that piece of land will also prevent the incoming farmer – possibly a family member – from applying for any other grant help on the same piece of land.

> Frank Langrish


“There aren’t many small farms left anyway,” he added. “And this will probably help to kill off the few that still exist.” The consultation on the exit scheme suggests that it will open for applications in the first half of next year. A more optimistic George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) said the scheme could benefit a range of situations where individuals were ready to exit the industry. “The lump sum scheme was never going to provide the complete solution for those looking to retire from agriculture,” he said. “However, as part of a portfolio – which might include a surrender payment from a landlord, the sale of livestock and equipment, and other pension provision – it could be a very useful catalyst.” He said he was disappointed, though, that if an owner-occupier decided to surrender his BPS entitlements and rent out the land under the scheme, DEFRA was only requiring a minimum farm business tenancy of five years. The TFA will ask for 10 years in its response to the consultation.


USE YOUR LOAF Free grain trailer safety stickers that combine road safety with a promotional message can now be ordered by local NFU members. NFU South East worked with NFU national crops board chairman and Hampshire arable farmer and contractor Matt Culley to develop the exclusive member offer. He explained: "The NFU's #YourHarvest campaign highlights the vital role of farmers in food production to both consumers and decision-makers. “These extra large, loaf-shaped stickers not only convey an important safety message for road users, but they also help people to connect the harvest vehicles they see on the roads with the food we produce. There is also a call to back British farming by buying British." The stickers have been designed to fit most manufacturers’ trailers and can be read from a considerable distance. NFU farmer and grower members across the region can order up to 10 by calling 01730 711950 in office hours or emailing They will need to give their membership number.


> Matt Culley


NATIONAL REMEMBRANCE SERVICE PLANNED After a difficult year, farmers are being invited to remember lost loved ones at the first national remembrance service of its kind. The Farming Community Network (FCN) charity is organising a remembrance service that will allow the agricultural community to remember those who have died across the industry, either online or, for those who live closer, in person at Ripon Cathedral, North Yorkshire. The charity is inviting anyone who has lost a loved one in tragic circumstances to join the service, which will take place on 7 November. They are also encouraged to submit names for inclusion in a ‘roll call’ by completing an online form at uk/remembrance-service/

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FCN says the service “will pay tribute to those who have died because of farm accidents, Covid-19, and those who have died by suicide. It will recognise the experience of loss felt by all those who have been bereaved.” The national service is available to everyone in the UK and will be livestreamed so that people can join from home and light a candle in memory of a loved one. Jude McCann, FCN’s chief executive, pointed out: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have been deprived of the ability to attend funerals, remember those they have lost or properly grieve. We hope this service will help to recognise those who have died as well as provide support and comfort to those who have been bereaved.”

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Often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the South Downs National Park’, Stanmer Park near Brighton is a beautiful countryside estate of historical and environmental importance. It is also the home of Plumpton College’s horticulture campus, with its main college campus a short distance away. This year the college officially opened One Garden Brighton, a five-year project to restore the Stanmer Estate walled garden and open it to the public for the first time.


The walled garden at Stanmer Park was originally part of the Stanmer Estate, purchased by the Pelham family in 1713 and designed by Nicholas Dubois. It would have been designed to protect unusual and exotic plants from adverse weather as well as providing produce for the house and was used more recently by Brighton & Hove City Council to grow plants for the city parks. In 2017, Plumpton College, Brighton & Hove City Council and partners were awarded £5.8 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore and improve the whole estate. With the lottery grant providing an opportunity for the college to relocate its horticultural campus, repairing the walled garden provided a further opportunity to consider its future. As part of its vision to create modern, state-of-the-art and inspiring learning spaces, the college set out to develop a contemporary garden to open to the public, for free. With its own investment supported by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, the college commissioned architect Dominic Cole, noted for his

work on the Eden Project. The outcome celebrates heritage and innovation within horticulture, showcasing traditional fruit and vegetable crops in a way that is unusual for a linear walled garden. The gardens echo the city environment, reflecting the fact that Brighton & Hove is nearby. They showcase typical, often difficult, urban conditions and smaller spaces to inspire visitors to grow plants at home. Nine gardens have been created by a series of hedging and planting schemes, including hot and dry, pollinator, contemplation and medical gardens.


Uniquely, visitors will also see Plumpton College students from Royal Horticultural Society, school leaver and re-entry programmes using the gardens as part of their course. The campus includes new teaching spaces and glasshouses, with house plants and robotics being introduced to ensure students are familiar with the latest technological advances. Students help design, grow, plant and maintain the gardens, gaining valuable workplace skills. Principal of Plumpton College Jeremy Kerswell said: “The horticulture sector has more demand than ever before for new skilled entrants looking for work, with 70% of businesses in the sector struggling to find employees. Through One Garden Brighton we hope to attract and inspire the next generation of horticulturalists.” From plant signs written in English and Latin through to the one-day Introducing series of workshops in floristry and horticulture, Plumpton College aims to engage the community in


horticulture and highlight the variety of careers and opportunities available.


One Garden Brighton has two other exciting areas. The retail space One Market offers a place for the community to get together and buy plants seen in the gardens and grown by students, together with produce from local suppliers and the site’s kitchen gardens. It allows Plumpton Estate to sell produce made by students, including cheese and award-winning wine from the college and alumni wine makers around the world. It also sells pork, beef and lamb produced on the college’s award-winning 800-hectare farm and processed by the college’s butchery apprentices. One Market also provides a platform for independent local business, and over 70% of produce is from the Brighton or local area. One Kitchen, housed within the unique restored Bothy buildings, allows visitors to enjoy a glass of Plumpton fizz while looking out across beautiful lawns where events, markets and children’s activities are hosted. An outreach officer ensures the garden remains accessible to local community groups, as well as allowing schools to explore STEM learning in horticulture through a range of workshops. For more information visit For information on horticulture courses, attend the next information event in August, or see



Agricultural Liming


Sustainability and the future of farming were on the agenda when more than 1,100 youngsters from across Berkshire gathered at the Englefield Estate in Theale for a two-day event that combined education with fun. Englefield House, gardens and wider grounds were transformed into an outdoor classroom for the hugely popular Schools Days, which focus on food, farming and the countryside but were forced online last year by the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s event – which was ‘live’ once again but followed Covid-19 guidance – helped children from 25 schools learn about the benefits of gardening and growing their own produce as well as giving them a chance to brush up on their outdoor skills. Sessions highlighted how the estate and wider communities produce food and timber and provide places to live, jobs and community facilities, all while caring for the environment, conserving the historic landscape and buildings and planning for the future.



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Dear Sir, “Spring is sprung, the grass is riz…” Well, I don’t know - what next? Having got used to the variable winter weather while felling an overstood Chestnut, one minute the forwarder stuck, the next, not able to burn up, lop and top because it was so dry. I always look forward to lengthening days and the onset of what used to be called spring, i.e. the arrival of crocuses, daffodils, green hawthorn flush and eventually swallows (very few) and the first call of the cuckoo (even fewer). Well, it got here in the end and nature fired off big time. Robins nesting in the garden shed (two broods), jackdaws feeding their young on the peanuts put out for the smaller birds, the paddocks finally looking like they might produce enough hayledge to feed the pony/horse/donkey herd this winter and a 24-hour day working in full chainsaw regalia - wonderful! Then when you need to use the yard machinery, you find a pied wagtail (peggy dishwasher) nesting on the axle of the Ford 4000, so you go to fire up the Fordson Major, only to find a coal tit nesting in one end of the fore-end loader and bumble bees occupying the hole on the other arm. The Bedford TM has an active and angry wasps’ nest in the toolbox, so no luck in using the spare ratchet straps, and finally when you strim the nettles and brambles in the paddock by the house, you realise that the wood burner was not drawing very well because a colony of mason bees have blocked up the external air vent. So that’s my contribution to countryside conservation. I might even find a roosting pipistrelle in the roof of the Ford 8210. Never a dull moment, eh? Brodie Hall, Edenbridge PS Saw a buzzard being mobbed by a crow (which had a grass snake in its talons). Eat your heart out, Springwatch! PPS Don’t mention great crested newts or slow worms to anybody. Not seen any for years. Hmmm… PPPS The pied wagtails have decided to nest in the Ford 8210, rather than the Ford 4000.


Dear Sir, As the lucky winner of the Father’s Day crossword prize, I would like to take the opportunity to thank South East Farmer for your excellent publication, third only to Private Eye and the Newbury Weekly News, and Biddenden Vineyards. I’d also like to take the opportunity to draw your attention to the position of thousands of small rural contractors on which the rural economy relies, but who seem completely unrepresented. Understandably your remit is farms, farmers and large contractors, but with fewer people employed on more farms there is more reliance on very small contractors for fencing, hedge cutting, tree work, groundworks, contract grazing etc; please spare them a thought as well. My overriding concern is the rapid loss of useful agricultural buildings to developers and farm diversification. The use of General Permitted Development Orders, administered by the urban-centric planning departments who know nothing of how the real rural economy works, is causing a rapid decline in available premises. To planners, the rural economy, which is a major consideration in the planning


© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021 process, is the farm shop or the high-tech company renting ‘The Old Dairy’. They are completely unaware of the hardworking (mainly) men who get their hands dirty in all weathers. I ran a forestry/tree surgery business for more than 30 years, and there were a couple of times when I was desperate for premises and thought of packing the business up. I was, however, eventually lucky enough to rent a dry, relatively secure barn in the village from someone who owned it but had no use for it. I only moved out when I was even more fortunate enough to be able to build my own premises next to my house. The barn I had rented is now being converted to a small dwelling, against parish council recommendations. Although it was claimed to be redundant it most definitely was not and there were several contractors who would have rented it, given the slightest opportunity. Some of these men have to operate from a garage or drive and beg or borrow a corner of someone’s yard because available buildings are so rare. And agricultural kit ain’t small or cheap. One of my aims on our parish council is to prevent wholesale development of unused farm buildings that could still be used for agricultural purpose for many years. It is argued that we need more housing in the countryside and the generic question: “Where are my children going to live?” is often asked. But in situations like these the question should be: “Where are my children going to live and work and build an agri business, not “Where will my cleaner live?” Thank you very much for all your magazine offers, but please consider the position of the small contractor on whom I suspect almost all of your readers have had cause to rely in the past few years, one way or another. John Handy, Newbury


Dear Sir, So the NFU has got a voice after all, and is prepared to use it. This fact, startling to those of us who thought it had gone to sleep, became clear as the prospect


Dear Sir, My own recent experience has reminded me of Nick Adames’ comments in the November 2020 edition of South East Farmer regarding bridle paths. I have a neighbour wanting planning for pitches next to me involving several acres. I have eight acres in the farm wood scheme (1988-1989). From the corner of my garden I left one radial ryde six yards wide which is parallel to an old path of about 1910. In 2015 they sent plans out regarding planning issues with a dotted line. Unmarked path and my cottage had changed its name. I complained to the parish council. Oh! It’s a clerical error! Going to Wealden Council. It is a matter for Ordnance Survey, Southampton. Naturally I was interested in your article. Since this the i newspaper carried an article entitled “Walkers find lost paths.” I remember Wealden Way est. 1973-ish and minor paths abandoned. I would like your opinion on this please. P.S These pitches will go all weather or luxury cricket fields in time. T R Smith, East Sussex

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To work 2 days per week at the school from 9.15am to 2.45pm (term time only) To provide riding lessons on our horse simulator ‘Tonto’ to pupils, with support from the class based staff. (The Riding Instructor will work closely with the school employed Farm and Riding Manager). Abbey Court caters for pupils aged 3-19 with Severe Learning Difficulties, and is located in Strood, Kent. Postholders will require appropriate and relevant qualification; either BHS Accredited Stage 3 Coach, or BHS Stage 3 Coach with Child Protection, First Aid and DBS. Comprehensive training in special needs will be provided. We are fully committed to safeguarding and protecting the children at Abbey Court School. All posts are subject to a safer recruitment process which includes enhanced criminal records and barring check, scrutiny of employment history, robust referencing and other vetting checks. Our safeguarding system is underpinned by a range of policies and procedures which encourage and promote safe working practices across the school. On joining you will be required to undergo continuous professional development to maintain safe working practice, and safeguard our children and young people. Please send a reply email to register your interest to, or telephone 01634 338220 to discuss the position further, and/or request an application form: Abbey Court School, Cliffe Road, Strood, Kent ME2 3DL

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of a wave of cheap meat imports from Australia reared its head and President Minette switched to full ranting mode against Liz Truss not long after she had been all too grateful to collect a bit of reflected glory by posing with her for a photo shoot. I am sure we are all grateful for the giant awakening from its slumber and emerging to rage against the injustices that are about to be visited on British farmers as the consignments of cheap lamb and beef start arriving from the other side of the world. But what I and many other farmers cannot make out is this: Why has the NFU not been equally vociferous about the injustices that have been visited on British farmers for the past three or four decades as a result of the behaviour of the supermarkets? Why has not one of the leaders of that organisation had the guts to stand up and tell the truth… that the supermarkets have wrecked large sections of British agriculture and driven farmers either out of business or into deep and damaging despair? Why has not one had the backbone to stand up for the farming community rather than conspiring with successive governments to keep food prices artificially and unrealistically low – and certainly cheaper than they are in Australia, where all this so-called cheap meat is supposed to be coming from. The conscious decision of the NFU not to get involved in campaigning over food prices has left the dirty work for others to do, and just look at how NFU officials criticised and distanced themselves from those organisations that took up the challenge and tried to rectify the situation. This attitude, together with its unquestioning compliance with the introduction and enforcement of even stricter and more ludicrous regulations (many still gleaming with the gold plating they have received after being sent here in an unvarnished state from Brussels) has contributed to the appallingly chaotic state of UK farming, where the regulatory burden has forced many good farmers out of an industry which now produces food which a growing segment of the population cannot afford to buy. Meanwhile the NFU remains suspiciously quiet on the huge policy shift through which the government has now embarked to steer British agriculture on to a new course of pesticide-free, herbicide-free, low intensity farming where the emphasis will be on re-wilding, growing forests and trying to punch ridiculously above our weight to mitigate the effects of climate change while developing nations continue to extract and burn fossil fuels as fast as they can. No wonder Liz Truss wants to tie up deals to import beef and lamb; the day is rapidly coming into view where we shan’t be allowed to produce any of our own. John Lillywhite, Farmers for Action

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> Ben Kantsler


In affiliation with WineGB, expert speakers will cover topics such as viticulture, winemaking and marketing. There will also be a dedicated session aimed at new entrants to the industry. ◆ Planting a vineyard Dr Alistair Nesbitt will look at the future climatic conditions for grape growing in the UK, Mitchel Fowler will discuss the financing options for a


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wine growing business, along with additional speakers offering practical advice for vineyard projects. ◆ Malolactic fermentation – when, where and how Emma Rice, winemaker Hattingley Valley Vineyard, Nick Lane, winemaker at Defined Wine and consultant winemaker David Cowderoy will share their wisdom and experiences for achieving MLF in still and sparkling wines. ◆ Enhancing your tourism offer Julia Trustram Eve, WineGB Head of Marketing, along with experts in this field, will provide tips for making sure your venue meets the needs of the visitor – with wine tourism becoming an increasingly popular experience. ◆ High achievers: yield and quality Matt Strugnell, Vineyard Manager at Ridgeview Wine Estate will lead the discussion on how otect your to home withboth an insurer achieve good yields and quality in ho knows your world – from the commercial viticulture. apes you grow to the wine you own.

businesses in the sector including CLM, Bruni Erben, Hutchinsons, Vitifruit and Royston labels. Harvest Green Development will be sponsoring all the show hospitality and Ferovinum will be the sponsors of the WineGB seminars.”


The wide-open space at the Kent County Showground can accommodate even the largest machinery, as well as provide flexibility for meetings. Over 70% of the stands are already booked with a wide range of companies keen to network and discuss solutions. As there is nothing better than seeing vineyard equipment first-hand N.P. Seymour and S.J. Barnes are planning to bring a massive Pellenc machine harvester, the new Fendt tractors and a Wagner vine planter! If you want to understand the intricacies of crossflow filter, then visit the BevTech stand.



Details on how to book an exhibitor place can be found on or call Sarah Calcutt on 07827 642396, or Jamie McGrorty on 01303 233883. To register your place to attend the show and to purchase tickets for the tutored wine tasting

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WITH POLYTUNNELS This month Nigel Akehurst visits award-winning family farm business Piper Cherries in Loose, Kent, to meet father and daughter team Brian Piper and Rachel Sands.


I met Brian Piper and Rachel Sands at their main Hubbard’s lane growing site, where they also sell direct to the public from two farm stalls. Unlike the cherry orchards of old, with towering 40-foot trees, all their trees are grown under polytunnels on dwarfing root stock. Mainly Gisela 5, some Gisela 6 with a few remaining Colts, explained Rachel. In the past the fruit used to be small, soft and red – the modern varieties of cherries are large, firm and black when ripe. By growing the trees under polytunnels and using nets, they are able to protect their crop from birds and heavy rain or hail, which could wipe out an entire crop. That’s not to say they aren’t affected by the weather. This spring, Brian and Rachel spent most of April

fighting the late frosts with their new tractormounted Frostbuster, a gas powered heater with a large PTO-driven fan to blow hot air up to 70 metres along the tunnels. Rachel, a trained biochemist who previously worked as a research scientist before joining the family business six years ago, used an app on her smartphone to monitor the weather stations located at each growing site. Receiving frost alerts most days in April, she spent her nights operating the Frostbuster F252 at high tractor revs. Though the majority of local residents were understanding, they did receive some complaints about the excessive noise, added Brian. Thankfully this year’s crop looks fairly promising, considering the extreme weather, Rachel said,

> Brian Piper and Rachel Sands


though yields are predicted to be down at least a third on 2020, which was a particularly favourable growing year.


The Piper family grows around 25 acres of cherries across two sites and prides itself on producing top quality fruit. They grow 30 varieties, Rachel explained. “We’re pretty unusual in that,” she said. “But it gives us a very varied mix and works well for us…however, it takes practice to have control over all the variables! “Dad has won Champion Basket a huge number of times at the National Cherry and Soft Fruit Show, but more recently I was exceptionally pleased to win a Taste of Kent award for cherries two years in a row. And to win all of the classes we entered

at the National Fruit Show for pears last year was incredible,” she added. I asked if she had a favourite variety of cherry. “My favourite, and I think most of us in the family are the same, is Penny. It’s a big, juicy red cherry. Fairly firm and with a fantastic flavour. A bit more distinctive than some of the others and that’s why we like it so much,” she replied.


Cherries have been grown in Kent since Roman times due to the favourable climate and soils. Henry Vlll is credited with starting the renaissance of English cherries when in 1533 he introduced three new sweet varieties to Teynham from Flanders. During the 16th century, Henry VIII’s head fruiterer Richard Harris established mother orchards now known as the Kings Orchards near Teynham. More recently, in the second half of the 20th century production declined as many traditional orchards were grubbed out. By 2009 more than 95% of supermarket cherries were being imported from Turkey, with most of the rest being air-freighted from the USA. Fearing the complete loss of a once thriving sector, a group of growers launched the Cherry Aid campaign. It was a big success and last year’s production saw a six-fold increase compared to 2010’s figures, reflecting the rapid expansion of modern orchards grown under polytunnels. The future of the sector looks promising, too, with an audit revealing the average age of a cherry grower is a decade younger than the average age of a farmer generally.


As we walk along the rows of polytunnels, Brian and Rachel point out the different varieties, from the old school Stella, which they wouldn’t plant any more, to Summersun, which is what they describe as a ‘banker’ as it produces good yields even in a bad year. Other varieties include Sweetheart, Regina – a firm favourite of the Chinese, said Brian, Tamara – a lovely big cherry but not a great yield – and Henriette, a modern variety they only planted last year and which is already producing a good crop. They are also currently experimenting with Nimba and Folfer and have 2,000 more trees on order from the German nursery in Kloblenz via their agent Frank P Matthews in Worcestershire. “The Germans are producing quality trees,” added Brian. Trees are planted in rows, four to six feet apart, with two rows per polytunnel spaced 3.6 metres apart to allow for machinery. Holes are dug by hand or with the aid of a tractor mounted auger, they explained. Brian and Rachel aim to replace around five per cent of existing trees every year. Rachel >>

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• Around 60 acres in total. • Grow 25 acres of cherries on two different sites – tonnage very variable year to year. Soil is green sand and largely well drained. • Nearly all the trees are under polytunnels. • Have 30 different varieties on the farm. Rootstock is mainly Gisela 5 and some Gisela 6. Very few Colt left now. • No packhouse – everything is picked fresh in the field and sold direct or delivered to wholesalers. • Approximately 40% sold locally (20% farm stand, 20% to farm shops) with remainder sold via two wholesale markets in London and Bristol. • Family run enterprise – Brian, his wife and daughter Rachel are the main farm workers. Contractors are used to fulfil various jobs on the farm and seasonal pickers are also used. • This year have been trialing table topgrown strawberries for direct sale. • Also grow five acres of pears. • Won numerous awards over the years for cherries and more recently for pears also. • Made 1,000 bottles of cherry juice as a new venture last year.



NIGEL AKEHURST VISITS: PIPER CHERRIES << explained: “There is no specific time limit but there has been so much development in newer varieties that older varieties often do not meet customer, or more often retailer, requirements anymore.” The latest modern varieties can give a commercial crop within two years and reach full cropping potential by year five. To aid growth rates and plant health, all the trees have drip irrigation – called fertigation – which allows the trees to be watered and fertilised to their specific requirements. I found the difference in the varieties fascinating, trying some of the ripe fruit. I was really impressed with Folfer, a lovely firm, black and deliciously juicy cherry. With enough ripe fruit on the trees, they planned to start picking the Monday after my visit (5 July) and open their farm stalls to the public. “The picking season is normally the whole of July, with a week one side or the other,” said Rachel. During picking it’s all hands on deck, with the whole family helping as well as employing a mix of local and eastern European seasonal pickers. Walking further along the row of tunnels, we saw rows and rows of trees laden down with green fruit. Brian explained that sometimes they had to thin the fruit by pulling off the cherries so that the remaining ones could grow bigger. In another tunnel we saw trees with broken branches. “Badger damage,” Brian said. “Despite electric fencing around the site perimeter and nets at either end of the tunnels they still manage to get in.” Another challenge to growing cherries is the dreaded spotted wing drosophila, which they combat with traps and spraying schedules.


Over the years they have built up a loyal following of locals who buy direct from the farm gate. I ask where they sold most of their cherries. “We sell around 60% of our crop to two main wholesalers, one in London and one in Bristol,” replied Brian.



The remaining 40% is sold direct, either from the farm gate or direct to local farm shops. Retailing is an area they are both passionate about and which is increasingly a growth sector of their business. By selling direct they are able to cut out the middle man and maximise their profit margin, while also building a stronger brand for their award-winning fruit. Social media has been a key brand awareness driver, said Rachel. She set up and manages both a Facebook page, with nearly 700 likes, and an Instagram account. She posts regularly and was really pleased with some professional videos shot on site by a friend, Michael Jackson, who runs a business called Saltwick Media. One of the videos features drone footage filmed by another friend, Nick Keates. You can check these out on their Facebook page. (www. She said they had no plans to open a farm shop for the time being, preferring to develop the farm stall by adding other products. “I can’t see myself entering the farm shop business. After July, I need a break,” she said.


Curious to learn more about Rachel’s farming journey, I asked if she had always wanted to be a cherry farmer when growing up. “I think I did, yes, but pre-polytunnels and even now, there are no guarantees of making a living in farming. So I think mum and dad subconsciously encouraged us to find other ways of making a living. “I went to Nottingham to do a biochemistry degree, then went into a scientific job – product development, manufacturing and then a technical purchasing role. I enjoyed it, but 12 years later, dad was saying he was getting too old to farm and he needed to decide what to do. “It was very much a case of if I don’t do it now, I will never get another chance,” she explained. Rachel counts herself lucky being able to draw on Brian’s vast experience in the sector, which would have been lost had she not come back into the business. She also loves being outdoors, and working in the family business gives her the freedom to be able to pick her young children up from school, where she is Chair of the Parent Teacher Association. “I only have to justify it to myself or dad,” she added with a smile.


Rachel is also Vice Chair of the National Cherry and Soft Fruit Show, which this year is being held at Macknades in Faversham on Friday 23 July. They had a reduced, Covid-19-compliant show last year, she explained, but this year they

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21 have new and improved classes and are holding the show in a public-facing location. “The supermarket class winners will be able to use a gold marque on their packaging next year, like wine labels, and it could be a huge asset to their businesses,” she said. She hopes for a full complement of entries and everyone is really excited to see what entries people can bring.


Brian and Rachel are a great example of a successful small farming business being passed down from one generation to the next. With the average age of farmers now put at 59, it’s a topic affecting more and more farming businesses. In the case of Piper Cherries, after spending 12 years outside the industry, Rachel gave up her ‘safe’ office job to carry on the family business. This has enabled her to fulfil her childhood ambition to become a cherry farmer and given her the freedom to do other things. As I drive home I wonder how many younger farming family members are trying to work out how they can carry on their farming businesses. It’s not always an easy thing to do but as Rachel said: “It was a case of if I don’t do it now, I will never get another chance”.

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> Peter Foster

Despite having been known and respected in the UK for more than ten years, Chilean fruit growers FGA (Fruit Growers Alianza) lacked one thing – English cherries. The company, an alliance between San Clemente and Gesex, added that missing ingredient in February 2020, when FGA Farming Ltd bought two farms near Faversham in Kent from F W Mansfield in a move that finally put the (English) cherry on the cake. As veteran grower Peter Foster – who jokes that he was ‘sold’ to FGA Farming along with Norton

Farm and Owen’s Court – is quick to point out, “English cherries are the best in the world, and this was the ideal way for the company not just to expand its season but to add to its range of top quality fruit.” While FGA Farming’s focus is very much on quality, the investment by Luis Chadwick and Andrew Wallace from Chilean business San Clemente also added scale to the operation. Overnight, the company became the largest cherry grower in the UK, producing around 25% of the entire UK crop from its two farms – and it


has since invested in extra land to further increase production. With farms in Chile, Peru and now the UK, production covers more than 5,000 hectares in total. When it comes to cherries, FGA can supply fruit all year round and across all continents, with Chilean fruit available from November to March and UK cherries on stream from late June through to August and even into early September. A network of global growers fill the other gaps, allowing FGA to deliver what Luis Chadwick has called “a full cherry year”. With cherries very susceptible to damage from

> Kordia cherries

Photos: Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic

the rain, the entire crop is grown in tunnels, but the UK’s unpredictable weather still makes life challenging, with 16 overnight frosts during a very cold April giving Peter and his team a few sleepless nights this year. “In years gone by, before cherries were protected by tunnels, growers used to reckon that they would make money one year in five,” Peter said. The fact that those growers knew they would make enough in the one good year to cover the losses incurred in the previous four highlights the value of the fruit – although the cost of protecting the crop is significant. With English cherries

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commanding a premium, though, FGA was keen to bring Peter on board to make the most of its Kentish investment. “I was managing the farms for Mansfields when the Chilean visitors came over in 2019 to tour the orchards,” Peter recalled. “Andrew Wallace and Jon Clark (managing director of FGA) told me they would be there and just said they were interested in seeing how we did things here in Kent. “They spent all day in the orchards and asked me lots of questions, but it was only later that I realised they had been looking carefully at the potential benefit of investing in their own UK operation.”

The visitors liked what they saw, buying the farms to add Kentish cherries to the fruit they had been selling to customers here and in Europe and beyond from their UK base since 2009. While the closeness of the fruit to the UK market allows it to reach domestic customers more quickly and in peak condition, the quality of the product is such that it is in demand around the world, with FGA supplying markets across Europe and as far afield as the Middle East and other parts of the world. Once picked, the crop is sent by refrigerated lorry to F W Mansfield’s impressive packhouse at Nickle >> Farm, Chartham near Canterbury. There it is

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Peter Foster, Cherry Growing PLANTING&GROWING Manager, FGA Farming Ltd.

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<< hydrocooled to bring the temperature down to six degrees – something that intrigues Peter. “We spend the summer keeping the cherries safe from the rain because water can damage the crop, but then we cool them with water. It’s baffling, but it clearly works!” He commented. While he may be baffled by the science behind hydrocooling, it’s clear within just a few minutes of meeting Peter that it’s probably the only thing about cherries and the art of growing them that he doesn’t understand intricately. But then he has been working with them for the past 50 years. Born in 1955 on his parents’ farm at Oakwood Orchard, Bredgar, near Sittingbourne, Peter can remember picking cherries from the bottom of the ladder at the age of five. The family connection with cherries meanwhile goes back even further – as far as the 1800s, when cherries were picked from the

tops of standard trees using ladders that necessarily became longer over the years. At that time his father Tom Foster grew cherries at Oakwood Orchard and at nearby Moonfield Farm, but in 1966 he sold Oakwood and moved to Moonfield, where Tom and then Peter continued growing the fruit until 2004, when the farm was sold. Peter had first worked with Paul Mansfield in 1996, when Paul was buying fruit from the Moonfield Farm operation, and when the top fruit specialist bought what had been the Guinness hop farm at Norton in 1999 and planted cherries on the land, he employed Peter as a contractor. The pair got together again in 2010 when Paul asked Peter to manage Mansfield’s Norton Farm and Owen’s Court orchards. “When FGA Farming bought the two farms a

decade later I was part of the package, and now I still work closely with Mansfields as they store, grade and pack all our fruit at Nickle Farm, where Paul has said he wants to work with FGA to create a ‘cherry centre of excellence’ by sharing UK and Chilean knowledge,” Peter explained. Also part of the deal was Peter’s spray operator Valdemar Rauba, who is a vital part of a team that ensures the best quality crop is grown at Norton Farm, as proved by a taste test on the first day of this summer’s harvest on 2 July, when the early ripening Korvic variety tasted superb. Peter and his core team – what he calls the ‘hub’ – grow a range of varieties including Vanda, Kordia, Lapins and Karina along with Sweetheart and Regina and newer varieties such as Folfer and Poisdel, on 65 hectares at Norton Farm and a >> further 28 hectares at Owen’s Court.

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FRUIT GROWERS ALIANZA << In addition they are planting an additional 15 hectares of cherries on land at Owen’s Court that had been used by a neighbouring farmer, who until recently grew apples on part of it. FGA is grubbing out the apples and planting five hectares of cherries this autumn and a further ten in 2022/23. The 70-plus hectares of land currently in full production is home to 70,150 trees, a remarkably accurate figure relayed surprisingly quickly by Charlie Hamby, whose official role is ‘farm compliance and admin’ but who clearly plays a vital role in supporting Peter right across the business. The extra land will be home to 15,000 more trees. Alongside Valdemar, Charlie and hub team leader Florentina Patreu, Peter depends on Agrii’s Gary Saunders for agronomy advice. “Gary is a regular visitor and a very knowledgeable one,” he said. “We get very good support from him and from Agrii as we work hard to grow the best possible crop.” FGA also benefits from fertigation advice from Mike Stoker and 150 hives of bees brought in from Lincolnshire. Florentina heads up the 14-strong hub team which works on the farms from March to October, doing everything from cleaning and preparing the tunnels to pruning and then picking the fruit. While the hub can cope with the first few days of the picking season, it is supplemented within days of the start by up to 400 seasonal workers, mainly from the Ukraine and Romania and all supplied by Pro-Force. At that point some of the more experienced hub team members switch to tractor driving or take on more supervisory roles. Once picked, chilled, graded and packed, the cherries are sold through Fruit Growers Alianza’s England-based European sales team, which has to match the volume of fruit – predicted a week ahead by Peter – with customer demand. It’s not always an easy task, but the skilled and experienced team always meets the


> Charlie Hamby


> Florentina Patreu

challenge, made more tricky by the fruit’s relatively short shelf life. FGA may shortly take on the additional challenge of marketing other UK growers’ fruit. As managing director Jon Clark explained: “Our business is built around marketing our own fruit, but we have recently been approached by other UK growers that, having seen what we are doing, want to join us on our journey. “If their growing principles and desire to produce high quality fruit match ours then FGA will be happy to look further into those possibilities.” Meanwhile roughly 60% of this year’s expected harvest of 1,500 tonnes – or 1.5 million kilos – of Kentish cherries is expected to be eaten in this country, with the other 40% being snapped up mainly by European buyers but also by those from further afield who are keen to enjoy the best. The fruit is packed under FGA’s own Buddy’s and Tudor Garden brands. While last year proved to be a pretty good season for cherries it didn’t compare with 1976, which readers of a certain age will recall as being particularly long, hot and dry. “Once they start ripening, one good shower of rain means the cherries smile (split open) and the crop is lost,” Peter explained. This year brought its own challenges, with a frosty April followed by a very wet May when growers would have preferred warm weather, but in Peter’s words: “Nature looked after us.” Jon Clark agreed. “We all feared this could be ‘one of those years’, but we either made the right changes or got lucky, as the crop this year is a pleasant surprise.” What seems clear following a visit to Norton Farm is that luck is unlikely to have played as large a part in the success of this year’s crop as the hard work and experience of the entire FGA Farming team.

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Like many people I tend to look online at the news headlines, both early morning and late evening. Because it’s easy I look on Google, mainly because it was the first news page used years back. In recent times I have tended to question all headlines, as most are either totally exaggerated or plainly biased. Beyond that there is a category that is made up and features stories that are little short of lies. The first thing I look for is the headline. Any that include the words could, might, or may really need a “health warning” and are best ignored. I long ago came to the conclusion that they are written as they are because they are politically biased, or perhaps because the writer is typing from his or her office chair and is just too damn lazy to get off their bum and find out the true facts. The quality of the story is reflected in the way it’s put together. Particularly with farming matters, the errors in almost any article, even in so called quality papers, are inexcusable. Photo captions, too, particularly of simple things, like the identity of birds featured, would often be better done by a child. In both photos and text, most bovines are a ‘cow’, regardless of obvious teats or testicles. It is apparent the writer has not been to see the subject or has simply asked someone in the office for help. “They’re cows, mate!”. All bales are ‘hay’. It is all so ‘second rate’. Despite that I still Google the news, because some of the stories are useful, but just look for yourselves. Check out those three words I have already mentioned. In times past the better papers employed specialist journalists who knew about their subject. What you read you could believe. This is also the norm on the BBC too. Farming Today, with the early morning cuppa, was really informative and worth listening to. These days, though, it is a ‘woke-centred’, flabby, environmentalist 12 minutes wasted. I particularly remember the days when Foot and Mouth Disease was ravaging the country in the early seventies, when really good presenter/reporters were giving farmers the latest up-to-the-minute situation as the disease spread fear around farms countrywide. Tim Finney, George Macpherson and later Dylan Winter still come to mind. Then more recently this magazine’s long-standing editor, John Harvey. With them, what you heard you could believe, because they had checked their facts and knew their subject. Let’s hope the new programme, GB News, lives up to expectations and is worth watching, with Andrew Neil and other disillusioned, ex-BBC staff, who, like so many listeners, have just got fed up with being fed ‘woke guff’. Please don’t think all I do is complain! I base

NICK ADAMES Former dairy farmer

these articles about ‘life on my patch’ and what other farmers speak to me about, so I think they give an honest appraisal. One thing most farmers in the South East consistently complain about is the lack of interest/service we get from HM Constabulary who were, once upon a time, inclined to drop round, perhaps even get their boots dirty, and would regularly show their faces in quiet hamlets and villages to let any youths looking to get up to no good know that that wasn’t the place to do it. Over many years my little hamlet was served by one man, a man who stood no nonsense and was well respected, if a little feared, by local youths. PC Luck’s transport was silent and effective, a police pushbike. He would suddenly appear up a lane of an evening around twilight when a little gaggle of youths was gathering looking for mischief. “What’s going on here then, lads?” he would ask as he put his old bike down, “Jimmy, Robert, you, young Davis. You should be home now; you two Reilly’s, I’ve just seen your mum and she said if I saw you to tell you to get back to supper, so hop it.” So it went on. Sometimes a clip round an ear, which today would get his dismissal, would put some over-cocky little… in his place. But all done in a way that brought respect for the law and kept well on top of any crimes, other than perhaps

the lads filling their pockets with often addled or ‘setty’ hens’ eggs from a nearby barn. Always he had an easy but authoritative manner and there was very seldom trouble. Yet now the only time one really sees the police is when they flash by in cars on their way to lunch, tea breaks or to knock off. The kids are as likely to stick two fingers up at them, or shout abuse. If one has intruders, one is advised to “ring 101” and make a report. A total waste of time. You are likely to wait for an officer for three or four days, then they can do nothing, except probably tell you to ring 101…. Now we all know the force is understaffed, totally stretched. I have had officers out to inspect damage who are almost crying with shame that they can’t do better. Recently one said to me when I asked her what she would do in my shoes if they turned up again, “Ring 999”. Two nights later the little… turned up again, smashing windows in our old dairy. I rang 999 to be treated like an idiot, and told 999 “was for emergencies only and to call 101”. Yet I had previously seen these same lads running around on an asbestos-type roof some 25 to 30ft high. Those roofs crack easily and concrete is hard and unforgiving…Now, surely, that’s an emergency? Editor’s note: I hope Nick will forgive me for suggesting that it is precisely because everyone ‘Googles’ the news these days that newspapers can’t afford specialist agricultural reporters. My newspaper office in the early eighties had around 10 reporters, four feature writers and five photographers. With revenue dwindling, local papers today rely on a couple of youngsters with mobile phones…

> Running around on a roof like this will only have one outcome, and it wont be happy. 25ft onto a hard floor spells disaster




AND WELL-DESERVED AWARDS Happy days; I’ve been on two farm walks with another on the horizon. Who knew that another farming event would be such a high point in a diary? And goodness how we have missed them. For all the old tropes about farmers being solitary beasts, stuck behind their gates, we really do miss each other and having a good poke around each other’s farms! There have been two outstanding walks recently, both run by the excellent team at the East Kent Fruit Society. Sadly I missed the East Kent Fruit Society walk at which (the multi award-winning) Brian and Norma Tompsett were awarded the prestigious David Hilton memorial medal. This award was created to celebrate unsung heroes of the Kent fruit growing community, people who have quietly contributed significantly to the industry and supported those who work within it. No one could ever deny that Brian and Norma are the embodiment of the award. Throughout their careers these two have worked so hard for the industry, Brian so well respected for his early adoption of new techniques, always looking at ways of improving systems and processes and Norma always in support, creating the best harvesting teams, keeping everything on the move and always with the warmest smile and a box of delicious home baking. They are absolute gold, these two. And retirement for Brian and Norma… well of course there has been no such thing really; they have embraced the Fruit Show for which it is absolutely the better. I owe my position to their badgering and encouragement (it is all their fault

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> Brian and Norma Tompsett

should anyone need someone to blame). They have nurtured the competitions, refining the schedule and managing a team of really impressive judges and of course the needs of a very competitive industry. The UN has nothing on Brian and his ability to talk sense about the minutiae of the judging criteria and settle disputes. The vagaries of rule 16 and the need for the chair to become Solomon never fails to entertain the pair of them and is always a highlight of the completion of judging (well that and finding something in ultracompetitive growers’ apples!) Talking of competitions, the first Fruit Show competition of 2021 has taken place. A very pleasing selection of juices was presented to a really excellent panel; Dr David Pennell in the

chair presided with his usual dry wit, and as the newcomer to the panel I was pleased to be partnered with poacher turned gamekeeper Colin Corfield and veteran judge John Guest. It really is true that women and men’s palates are so very different and it led to some great debates around flavour, aroma and the consistency of blends. There is such great diversity of flavour between varieties even before you get into the difference of blended juices – we had sea buckthorn for the first time. The winners will be revealed in due course. There were only two points in our top six in either class, a really impressive feat that reflects the expertise in this part of the industry. Hopefully I will see lots more of the industry in the coming months with the Bifga meeting hosted by Giles Cannon and then Fruit Focus coming up. The industry is reconnecting and old friendships are being renewed. The Fruit Show is shaping up well, too, with bookings for exhibition stands already at the 2019 level. With the addition of the Fruiterers’ Livery conference plus the additional three months in which to book more businesses it really is going to be ‘the event’ in the industry calendar this year.

SARAH CALCUTT Executive Chair, National Fruit Show




IS REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE THE ANSWER TO IMPROVING OUR SOILS? The Cherry family, who founded Groundswell on their Hertfordshire mixed farm in 2016, certainly thinks so, as Nigel Akehurst discovered on a visit to this year’s event.


Over the past 35 years, brothers John and Paul have been on a regenerative journey, moving from a plough-based to a min till system. In 2010 they dropped cultivations altogether and went no till. Weston Park Farms includes 2,000 acres of zero tilled arable and 500 acres of pasture for their 150 head of commercial beef shorthorn cattle. Since going zero till, they have noticed a steady increase in soil organic matter – which has roughly doubled. Their worm count has also gone up, as has their biodiversity, with more bees and birdlife around. Interestingly it’s not just about improving their soils, but “is also more profitable”, explained John. “It’s much cheaper; we use fewer chemicals, less fertiliser, fewer tractors. Costs are so much less and our business is more resilient.” The brothers launched Groundswell out of a sense of frustration that no-one was putting on a summer show that they might want to attend. Five years on and it has become the largest show and conference of its type. Its growth reflects the snowballing interest from both farmers and policy makers interested in the public benefits of systems such as carbon sequestration and flood/drought prevention. This year’s event took place on 23 and 24 June and attracted over 3,500


attendees, up from 2,200 in 2019. To meet the latest government guidelines on Covid-19 security, the site was moved to a new larger location spanning several fields. Conferences and seminars were held in seven large, opensided tents, with more than 100 sessions across the two days. Visitors could see demonstrations of some impressive farm kit in the two exhibitor and demonstration fields, including working direct drills, compost turners and robots. There were large areas dedicated to soil analysis and testing, cover crops, herbal leys, tree management, heritage wheat trials and mob grazing. The dung beetle safari led by Sally-Ann Spence, Claire Whittle and Max Anderson was a particular hit, attracting a huge audience interested in learning more about the vital role they play in improving the quality and structure of our soils. Exhibitors at the event included DEFRA, which on day one led a session on the incoming Sustainable Farming Incentive. In a session chaired by Sue Prichard we learned how the department is planning to make the delivery of public goods attractive by getting the rates profitable to motivate farmers to make better decisions. In the longer term, DEFRA would like to move to a system of paying farmers

A leading agronomy company for results rather than actions. They have also committed to making the administrative burden more ‘bearable’ and said it was wrong that farmers should need to pay someone to fill in a form. During the same session we also heard from a large-scale arable farmer who for the first time had sold his carbon credits on the private market, a move that he claimed more than offset his loss in Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). His hope was that this new market could end up replacing the need for taxpayer support, enabling farmers like him to “stand on our own two feet”. Other farmers I spoke to urged caution on signing up without first fully exploring the longer-term implications and potential ‘issues’ such as double accounting. Most agreed, though, that carbon and biodiversity agreements will play an important role in the future of farming. So watch this space. On day two the Rt Hon George Eustice, Secretary of State for DEFRA, was interviewed by Baroness Rosie Boycott on the future of the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS), after which the floor was opened for questions from the audience. He acknowledged the environmental benefits that regenerative farmers are already delivering and provided insight into some of the mechanisms designed to accelerate sustainability in farming and move towards “paying farmers properly for nature”. Topics covered included encouraging new entrants, local food systems, the planting of trees, increasing carbon sequestration and achieving net zero by 2050. In response to a question about the Australian free trade deal, Mr Eustice sought to allay fears, saying the Government was looking at a carbon border tax to prevent unfair competition from products with larger emissions. Other sessions I attended on day one included The Role of Finance in the Regen Transition and Carbon Payments are Here. Both were fascinating. In the former, one member of the panel remarked on the large disparity between sectors, with investors ready to invest tens of millions of pounds in areas >> like vertical farming while livestock farmers struggled to raise £25,000.

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THE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE SHOW AND CONFERENCE << Another panelist and investor said progress was being made, with more ‘patient’ capital available to regenerative farms with a longer-term payback. In the session on carbon payments, Andrew Voysey of Soil Capital provided more details on the workings of Europe’s first certified, multi-national carbon payment programme for farmers. He explained that initially the scheme will only be open to arable farmers with a minimum of 200 to 300 hectares of land. It involves an annual baseline assessment, costing just under £1,000, to determine whether your farm is a net emitter or net sequesterer of carbon. Based on the findings, Soil Capital then advises on the best way to reduce emissions and start sequestering carbon into your soils. Payments received by the farmer are based on 70% of the final price of the certificate, with a floor price of £23. As an example, he said a farmer that

moved from ploughing to min till could expect an annual payment of between £3,000 and £4,000. More details are available via their website. One of my favourite sessions was on How to transition to Pasture-Fed Dairy, chaired by Jimmy Woodrow of the Pasture For Life Association. The diverse panel of farmers, which included Dan Burdett, discussed the issues holding back the sector. Moving to once a day milking, spring calving and focusing on the power of grass were highlighted as practical solutions to making the transition to a ‘more stress-free farming system’. Offering advice to the audience, Angus Dalton quipped: “The best investments come on a roll,” referring to electric fencing or water pipe. Lastly, I was thrilled to catch up with the Land Gardeners and the wider Climate Compost team, which was running workshop sessions and demonstrations on how to make their microbially



rich compost using a mixture of straw, manure, fresh greens, old compost and clay. As with all conferences, there were many sessions I didn’t get to see such as A Regenerative Journey, sharing the story of an Oxfordshire farm transitioning to a fully regenerative approach in two years. I also wanted to see the Fibreshed UK session. Thankfully the Groundswell team recorded the sessions and are planning to make them available on their YouTube channel soon. To finish I wanted to highlight the awardwinning podcast Farmerama Radio, which has just released a new four-part series called Landed which explores land ownership and colonial legacy, told by a Scottish farmer’s son (Col Gordon) as he returns home to his family farm. Having so far listened to the first episode, I think the series will resonate with anyone interested in the future of family farms and regenerative farming.

‘DIDDLY SQUAT’ FLEXIBILITY IN SOME SUPPORT SCHEMES I’ve been enjoying watching Clarkson’s Farm. In fact, I haven’t spoken to anyone – even those not involved in agriculture – who hasn’t. Yes, he sometimes acts the fool, but the show convincingly conveys how tough agriculture is and highlights the challenges farmers face – whether that’s technical, mechanical, meteorological or bureaucratic. One scene that particularly struck a chord was the BPS form-filling nightmare he faced because of the variety of crops on Diddly Squat Farm. The former Top Gear-presenting petrolhead decided, understandably, to grow a range of produce to stock his farm shop’s shelves, but soon discovered the difficulties and frustrations in terms of paperwork this brings. It’s sadly an all-too-common occurrence in agriculture – bureaucratically cumbersome support schemes ending up driving decision-making in ways precisely contrary to their aim. We are in an era of change so, whether it’s the Farming in Protected Landscapes (FiPL) scheme, the Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI) or the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS), it’s vital they’re flexible enough not to discourage farmers from doing the things they aim to incentivise. Take Countryside Stewardship. It brings many opportunities, but it’s a source of huge frustration that some of the options, though in theory fitting well into regenerative agriculture systems, are simply impractical once you delve into the detail and the eligibility requirements. As our understanding of regenerative agriculture grows, as the science and technology supporting it evolves, so farmers need the flexibility to alter and fine-tune their approaches. But it’s impossible to be agile and responsive to new ideas and knowledge if you’ve got one hand tied behind your back. The watchword is flexibility. Those embarking on regenerative agriculture don’t want to – or can’t – commit to, for example, five years of delivering a set area of an exactly prescribed mix of herbal leys. DEFRA and all policymakers need to listen more to – and involve – those on the ground. Schemes shouldn’t be driven by distant, unrealistic, impractical ideology or the needs of IT systems. They need farmer input. To be fair, the new FiPL scheme – which will bring opportunities in AONBs such as the High Weald or National Parks like the South Downs – does appear to be trying to address this. A panel, consisting

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mainly of farmers, will decide which projects (based partly on DEFRA guidance) are funded. It’s also why the recent Groundswell event in Hertfordshire was so encouraging to be involved in. It felt like a real grassroots movement; farmers taking the lead and running their own event, focused on knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning. Too many events these days are clouded by vested interests and industry politics. Groundswell was simply a place to learn and to share learning. And that’s how, when it comes to running more profitable businesses and looking after the environment, we’ll get better. The event reminded me that regenerative agriculture is not an ‘all or nothing’ concept. Those practising it are using different methods, to different degrees, with different enterprises on different farms, all under the same banner. Hence why the schemes supporting it must have flexibility at their heart. As well as having more grassroots input into scheme design and management, we need more scope for local experts to be involved in decisionmaking. Let’s get away from the ‘computer says no’ response that has all-too-often blighted decisionmaking in the past. A good example is the legume and herb-rich sward option (GS4) under CS. It’s appealing for many reasons, but isn’t allowed on land with ‘historic’ or ‘archaeological’ features. Well, Bronze Age field systems feature across much of the South Downs, so it’s automatically precluded in many spots where it might well have no damaging effect

whatsoever as part of a regenerative system. This means all those opportunities for improving soil organic matter or water retention from having a grass and herb mix in an arable rotation are missed out on. Wouldn’t it be sensible to be able to just ask an experienced archaeologist with local knowledge for their opinion on whether direct drilling a particular field with a herbal ley should be allowed? And while we’re on the subject of rules, here’s one that I reckon should be immediately implemented. DEFRA policymakers should be made to watch Clarkson’s Farm. That might bring home to them some of the bureaucratic burdens farmers face and the way cumbersome schemes have the potential to push farmers away from desirable – or even, at times, logical – choices when it comes to their businesses and the environmental outcomes we most want to see. I’ve certainly thoroughly enjoyed watching the series with my sons, even if the potty-mouthed presenter sometimes uses language that’s a bit unsuitable for younger viewers. There again, sometimes the paperwork in farming is enough to make even the most saintly among us resort to swearing!

ANTHONY WESTON T: 01892 770339 @anthonycweston






This article is based on two presentations given at Groundswell 2021, What lies beneath: perspectives on the underworld, and The belowground powerplant: how the biological engine of the earth underpins soil health. Regenerative agriculture wisely puts soil health at the heart of its concepts and practices. These are nicely summarised by the Groundswell 5 Principles of Regenerative Agriculture illustration. Here are some mechanistic reasons why these tenets make sense, and particularly in relation to the biology of the soil system.



For field-based growers, soils represent a primary business asset. But the importance of healthy soil goes far beyond the farm gate. Human societies have always been highly dependent upon healthy soils. This is because the earth beneath our feet underpins the environment we live in at local, national and ultimately global scales. Soils provide a platform to live on and are fundamental to the provision of the majority of our

food. They support all terrestrial habitats, store and filter water, cycle carbon and nutrients, are intimately involved in climate regulation and even tell us about our past via the archaeology they hold. As such, soils need appropriate and sympathetic management to ensure they function in an effective and persistent manner to meet as many of these demands as possible. Soils are also remarkable systems. They are extremely complex both in terms of the variety of their constituents and the way these are arranged in space, from scales of millionths of a metre to kilometres. Soils are dynamic and reactive entities teeming with a huge variety of life, supporting levels of biodiversity that almost defy imagination. The amount of living material below ground always matches or exceeds that above ground, and there are typically tens of thousands of microbial species


and many hundreds of other tiny organisms in a handful of soil from almost anywhere. These communities can be thought of as the ‘biological engine of the earth’, working to drive and regulate the majority of the key processes and functions which soils deliver. But there’s more to work than life; soils function by virtue of the way they are put together and the interactions that occur between the myriad of physical, chemical and biological components within. These all occur in the astonishingly complex labyrinths of pore networks present to a greater or lesser extent in all soils. Soil structure is profoundly important since it provides the support matrix for plant roots, is the habitat of all soil biota, regulates how water and air are held in the fabric of the soil and governs how gases, liquids, solutes, particles and organisms move through the below ground matrix.


More diverse systems have inherently greater capacity to carry out a broad range of functions, and for soils this range is enormous, as mentioned above. Diversity in systems also imparts resilience, since there is more opportunity for adaptation to changing circumstances (e.g. abnormal weather or pest/pathogen loads). Cropping strategies based on broad rotations, rotational leys and companion cropping will generally engender below ground biodiversity, since more variety in the form of plant material entering the system material sustains more variation in the below ground communities which consume it. These strategies, combined with those that minimise soil disturbance (see below), also tend to increase the diversity of soil pore networks in terms of the range of pore sizes and their inherent shape and connectedness. This in turn increases biodiversity by providing more complex habitats and also improves water retention and transmission to plants.


The soil surface is where the underground meets the overground, and is a crucial zone in terms of regulating how water enters the fabric of the soil and how gases exchange between the soil pore networks and the atmosphere. Structural degeneration of the soil surface impairs these processes and can also make it prone to erosion and inhospitable seedbeds. Maintaining

plant or residue cover on the surface provides physical protection from rainfall and trampling, but also feeds the soil biota which in turn improves soil structure by several mechanisms. These include restructuring by passage through animal guts, adhesion of soil particles by microbial glues, binding by fungal hyphae and coating with water-resistant compounds. These actions lead to a more diverse pore system, including more pores which connect the surface to the fabric and hence allow effective infiltration and gas exchange. Over-winter cover crops (and judicious maincrop/cover-crop management) are then a sound strategy to achieve an inherently healthy soil surface.


Plants have an absolutely key role in soil functioning, since they provide the energy that fuels the biological engine. This energy is derived from sunlight, transformed by plants into chemicallybound energy that can then be utilised by other organisms. As long as a soil has plants actively growing in it, carbon and associated energy will be delivered below ground, with all the associated benefits. In the absence of plants, the soil biota continues to metabolise soil organic matter and releases carbon (as carbon dioxide, CO2) via respiration, which passes to the atmosphere. From the perspective of the soil biota, ‘carbon capture’ is then really all about ‘energy capture’. Mycorrhizae are particular types of fungi which connect to plant roots and effectively extend the volume of soil which is explored by the plant/ fungus system. Since fungal hyphae are ordersof-magnitude smaller than roots, they can cover much greater spatial extents than their host roots and are able to grow into smaller soil pores that are otherwise inaccessible to the plant. This enables mycorrhizae to acquire nutrients – especially phosphorus – and pass them to the plant at rates far more rapidly than can occur via diffusion through the soil. Mycorrhizae can also connect the root systems of different plants together and enable signalling between the plants to occur. This can allow rapid transmission of stress messages from a plant that is being attacked by pests, signalling other plants to start synthesising protective compounds. Mycorrhizal hyphal networks play a part in maintaining soil structure via binding and coating mechanisms. Maintain mycorrhiza by ensuring the presence of host plants in the soil (maintain living roots), and minimising disruption of their delicate hyphal networks via tillage.

MINIMISE SOIL DISTURBANCE Soils function by virtue of their spatial organisation and especially the integrity of

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this arrangement. The detailed reasons for this are complicated, but essentially it’s about the connectivity of the system. This is readily appreciated in the context of improving water infiltration, for which pores at the soil surface need to be connected to the soil fabric (see above). Going beyond this, it includes the connectivity of entire soil pore networks, which underpin the appropriate movement of gases, water and nutrients between both organisms and plant roots, but balanced by a constraint of such processes. Pore connectivity also regulates the movement of organisms themselves and the interactions between them. Fungal networks need to be coherent and connected to function well. There are also factors associated with physical protection of organic matter. Disturbed soils tend to become disconnected in physical and biological terms and hence function less efficiently. No-till agriculture is then a principal means to achieve minimal soil disturbance and maintain soil integrity.


In one sense, it could be argued that managing the soil biota is a form of ‘micro-livestock’ integration! However, mega-scale animals represent both an opportunity and challenge for soil management. Grazing animals modify carbon and nutrient cycling substantially via a myriad of interactions with the soil biological engine. Manures can provide an effective combined fertiliser and soil conditioner by virtue of the nutrients and organic matter within them. Animals tend to disturb soil systems, so allowing long recovery periods melds with the tenet of minimising soil disturbance. The effects of mob grazing on soil biological systems are poorly understood, but since they involve relatively short-term disturbance and in principle soil surfaces are protected by a dense sward, recovery from perturbation may be rapid. The concept of mimicking nature directly connects to the principle of harnessing mechanisms manifest in biological systems which have evolved over aeons in the context of terrestrial ecosystems and absence of industrial intervention. These systems are inherently diverse, connected and ultimately governed by solar-derived energy flows. Hence the sense of the 5 Groundswell Principles.






To get to the answer, we need first to understand what we are talking about, so here is a quick Bee 101. There are approximately 253 species of bee in the UK. I say approximately as we have gained at least one, Bombus hypnorum, the tree bumble bee. This arrived in the UK probably 20 years ago and has since charged north, with new distributions reported every year. We also have more than likely lost a couple of species to extinction. We have some summer visitors, and the violet winged carpenter bee is a regular, but we don’t think that they have established nesting here yet; with climate change it is just a matter of time. If we broaden our view to Europe, they have approximately 2,000 species. This is due obviously to a greater range of climatic and landscape diversity. When the cluster of islands that make up the UK were joined to the European mainline by land bridge, relatively few species moved across. Taking a global perspective, there are approximately 18,000 species in an amazing range of sizes. The smallest is Perdita minimus, a tiny bee with a body length of just 2mm (or 1/32” in old money). The largest is Megachilie pluto, with a body length of 38mm (1 ½”) with a wingspan of 65mm (2 ½”). Bees belong to the super family Hymenoptera, which encompasses bees, wasps and ants and has an incredible 150,000 species approximately. Bees are found across the globe, except for the two ice caps. And as a matter of interest, bumble bees are only found in the northern hemisphere (except where they have been introduced e.g., New Zealand). To be precise, if you drew a line through the Atlas Mountains right round the world, you would find bumble bees north of this. So let’s turn to fine-tuning our appreciation of bees. Bees can be (broadly) divided into two groups – solitary bees and social bees. Solitary bees are not stay at home, depressed, no-mates bees. They may

WHAT HAVE BEES EVER DONE FOR US? live in aggregations but each one is only working for herself. Social bees, on the other hand, work cooperatively for the good of the colony. These two broad groups can further be split into generalists and specialists. On the whole, generalists, bees that will visit any plant yielding pollen and nectar, are doing a lot better than the specialists. Specialist bees are species that visit only one family or even only one species of plant. With changes in agriculture, these single species have become fewer with less opportunity for the pollinator. An example of this is Bombus ruderatus, at one stage plentiful in the British countryside, but unfortunately a specialist on red clover; as this crop fell out of favour in agriculture, the food source declined dramatically and entomologists considered that this bee might be extinct. As clovers were introduced into pollen and nectar mixes for ELS and HLS schemes, though, this species made a remarkable return. So, what have bees ever done for us? The obvious answer is honey, but only 12 species of the approximately 18,000 make honey as we know it. Bumble bees and stingless bees make a form of honey, but it is insipid compared with honeybee honey, although stingless bee honey has great value in traditional native medicine. Honey is the most counterfeited food product in the world, with suppliers using dirty tricks to bulk up honey with corn syrup or specialist honeys with bland plain honey. Humans have a long-standing relationship with honey. Cave paintings in Spain show honey gathering 8,000 years ago, and I can

imagine that the hunter who came home with a slab of honeycomb got the best piece of mammoth that evening. Even though humans have had an interest in keeping bees for a long time, the last great leap forward in the honey business was in the 1880’s, with the invention of the moveable frame, allowing honey collection without the need to kill the bees first. Now we come to the nub of the question – crop pollination! Honeybees are the go-to pollinator simply because a grower can phone a bee keeper and have several million bees delivered in fairly short order. Solitary bees are way better at pollination; some academics believe they may be as high as 400% more efficient on a bee for bee event basis. This is due to the different way that solitary bees tend to collect pollen. They generally collect it dry on either the abdomen or legs, whereas honeybees collect it, masticate it and then glue it into their pollen baskets. So it is only the stray grains of pollen on the honeybee’s body that transfer to the ripe stigma. It is also important to recognise that not all bees are suitable for all crops. Tomatoes, for instance, can only be pollinated by bumble bees as they require buzz pollination, a process whereby the bee grips the flower (tomato flowers hang facing down, remember), decouples its wings and vibrates the flight muscles. This vibrates the flower and causes it to release pollen.


In some countries, crop insurance providers are refusing payouts if the grower cannot provide proof of adequate pollinator provision. I guess the view is that if you didn’t have good pollination, you may not have a particularly good crop. The entire business of pollination is, basically, a sales job. The plant requires a service, moving pollen from one flower to another, and is prepared to pay for the service with nectar. Obviously, nectar production has a cost, and the plant wants best value for money (don’t we all). A particular risk if you have flowers is selfpollination, and plants have evolved a number of strategies to mitigate this risk. Plants that have male/female flowers have anthers that ripen and produce pollen at a different time to the stigma becoming receptive. Plants with male and female flowers switch nectar production on at different


times of the day in order to keep bees guessing and visiting more flowers. Do not forget, bees are really smart, and masters of the ‘minimal work for maximum return’ philosophy. Managed pollination is a big business. And probably none bigger than in the almond orchards of California. This is a $15 billion crop, almost solely dependent on honeybees imported into the orchards for the three weeks of bloom. In the 1990s a beekeeper was lucky to get paid $15 for hive rental; in the early 2000s it had jumped to $190 – per hive. Cue bee apocalypse because of colony collapse disorder (CCD) and varroa, a parasitic mite devastating bee colonies in North America and the rest of the western world. Bee colony rental prices soared to $285/$300 per colony. To put that into context, the almond industry requires 1.2m beehives to be brought in for their crop. One beekeeping operation will supply 85,000 hives into almonds; that’s $24 million for three weeks’ work. That is the cost of managed pollination, but the returns can be amazing too. Research has shown that apples that are well pollinated store longer in cold storage, are better shaped and have more even colour. Pollination is not simply good for fruit crops. Oil seed rape shows astonishing results with high pollinator numbers: 4% more oil, truncated ripening window, bushier plants (so less lodging) and with the increased area of green stem the plants continue photosynthesis long after the leaves have fallen, creating bigger seed, and of course fewer red seeds. I know 4% does not seem like much, but an increase of 4% is another 18 million litres of oil in the UK production. So, the next big question is: which species is the best pollinator? Well, that depends on the crop. Honeybees are no good on tomatoes, but bumble bees are ace. Generally, solitary bees cannot be obtained in high enough numbers to be the exclusive pollinator in fruit crops, but used in conjunction with honeybees can produce spectacular results. There is an interesting dynamic between honeybees and solitary bees, in that the solitary bees force the honeybees to become more promiscuous. The secret to getting large populations of solitary bees is land management. Solitary bees have specific nesting requirements, generally relatively easy to achieve within an agricultural context, but it requires knowledge and commitment. Building solitary bee populations is not a short-term goal, but the benefits will be long term for your business. We have looked at honey and pollination, but there are other uses for bees as well. Honey has been used as medical treatments for as long as there have been shaman, medicine men and traditional healers looking after the health of humans.

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Photo: Malcolm Triggs

The stingless bee honey is used across Africa and Central America/the Caribbean for the treatment of eye infections, and normal honey is becoming more commonplace in mainstream pharmaceuticals. But it doesn’t stop there. Bees have been used to carry bio-fungicides onto plants and this is an exciting area of development as the possibilities

are virtually endless as we become more adept at finding crop protection methods that don’t hurt the planet. A final thought: No bees, no honey, no work, no money!



THE REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE SHOW AND CONFERENCE In September 2022, ARU Peterborough, a brand new university being built in the heart of the city, will welcome its first intake of students. The course portfolio has been co-created with businesses to ensure it provides the skills needed by regional employers. Our BSc degrees in agri-food technology and environmental management are designed to support individual aspirations while providing the talent and expertise needed to realise the long-term goals of the East of England’s agri-environmental industry, helping to drive regional prosperity. All those involved in food supply will be aware of the opportunities, as well as challenges, arising from the transition from the Area Arable Payments Scheme to the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS). Not surprisingly, sustainability and the natural environment were the focus of many



THE EAST OF ENGLAND presentations, debates, and discussions at this year’s Groundswell conference. Education and research need to respond to these changes to make sure the next generation of farmers, agronomists and technologists, as well as society as a whole, can benefit. That is why the combination of farming and the natural environment is a key part of both our new degree delivery and our research activities. ARU Peterborough’s degree courses start in 2022, and we are already carrying out research, running

workshops and providing continuous professional development training in agri-environmental areas. Our focus is on data science, crop modelling, food supply chains, soil health and soil carbon, food security and technology integration. We are working with stakeholders throughout the supply chain as well as those associated with it, such as water companies and the health sector. If our future food supply is going to be sustainable, this must apply to all aspects, not just production in the field.

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GET AHEAD OF THE GAME Groundswell is arguably among the most important events on the farming calendar. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you cannot have missed the increasing references to ‘regenerative’ in the farming press. And about time, too. We’d go so far as to say that the collection of practices described as ‘regenerative’ has huge potential to put the brakes on – and even reverse – many of the negative impacts of intensive agriculture. Groundswell is the epicentre of all things regenerative. It’s THE event where you can discover what the buzz is all about in a relaxed, welcoming environment. As an organisation, it was our first time exhibiting at Groundswell. Although we’re a relatively new farm certifier in the UK and Europe (only launching here in 2016), A Greener World operates across four continents, certifying and empowering over 6,000 farms – including more than 4,000 in the UK and Ireland alone – and covering over 1,000,000 acres of farmland globally. Groundswell presented the perfect opportunity to promote our family of farm certifications, including Certified Animal

Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW, Certified Non-GMO by AGW, and our newest addition – Certified Regenerative by AGW, a whole-farm programme measuring real change to benefit soil, water, air, biodiversity, infrastructure, animal welfare and social responsibility. In a post-Brexit world, trusted certifications like A Greener World’s will become increasingly important, particularly as more consumers seek


out British meat, dairy and eggs and make better, higher welfare food choices. Our no-nonsense farm certifications give farmers the tools to talk with pride to customers and the confidence that they are backed up by an independent, credible and trusted farm certifier that guarantees the highest farming standards in environment and animal welfare. If you’d like to find out more, get in touch. Or pop by our stand at Groundswell 2022!


CARBON CAPTURE OFFERS NEW MARKETS Regenerative farming, carbon storage and biodiversity net gain may still be comparatively new concepts for farmers, but Charlotte Pearson-Wood, associate partner with Batcheller Monkhouse, believes it won’t be long before they are mainstream. While she recognises that landowners are understandably cautious about regenerative agriculture, she has also seen what a positive effect if can have, not just on the environment but on the balance sheet. “This is a time of transition,” she explained. “Within a couple of years this focus on reducing our carbon footprint and working more closely with nature will be the new ‘business as usual’. The important thing farmers and landowners need to do now is prepare for change and make sure they don’t get left behind.” For Charlotte, whose role at Batcheller Monkhouse focuses on rural and environmental issues, getting ready for change includes encouraging landowners to take reliable professional advice before making any major business decisions. “When it comes to new income streams such as selling carbon credits in what is a new and currently unregulated market, farmers and landowners will need to make sure the deal on offer is sound and is the best one available. As with all new opportunities, there will be plenty of sharks in the water,” she said. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to sell something if you don’t know how much you have to sell, and

that’s as true for carbon as it is for carrots. With that in mind, the first thing landowners need to do if they want to sell any kind of carbon storage opportunity is to know what their baseline is. The first step is to measure your own carbon footprint accurately. As Charlotte explained: “Without knowing your starting position it is difficult to show any improvement and without knowing how much carbon you could store on your land it is difficult to sell that capacity to buyers looking to offset their own footprint.” While the concept of ‘selling’ carbon storage may not be the easiest to grasp, it is essentially “just another commercial deal,” and as Charlotte explained, Batcheller Monkhouse has considerable experience in negotiating such deals – from solar parks to housing developments. “Selling carbon is no different,” she stressed. One new area of potential income for landowners is in working with developers who need to follow the planning rules on biodiversity net gain. While the regulations encourage developers to improve biodiversity on site, they can choose to fund improvements elsewhere if their own site is too challenging. There are, though, many questions that landowners need to ask before committing to such a scheme. They include who will be liable for ongoing maintenance and how long the agreement will last, along with how much the developer is offering to pay and how it will affect the owner’s tax position. It is clearly also important to decide whether the

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terms should be set out in a lease or management agreement and – potentially the trickiest question –to agree who will be liable if the scheme fails to meet the agreed environmental targets. “It’s set to be a growth area but there are plenty of pitfalls,” said Charlotte. “While landowners should be aware of the potential benefits of helping a developer meet biodiversity net gain requirements, they need to take advice around the detail.” One of the Governments objectives to assist the UK’s carbon balance sheet is large scale tree planting, however as Batcheller Monkhouse Partner Alex Wilks explains: “Different trees absorb varying amounts of CO2 at different stages in their life cycle, and the practicalities of planting such a massive area of woodland will raise many questions, not least from landowners, who have a much better idea of the issues than the politicians making the promises or the civil servants trying to deliver them. “If the Government is to achieve anything like its goals, we will need to see a massive shift in policy. Landowners will need to be persuaded to turn huge areas of land, most of it presumably farmland, over to trees – hopefully without damaging the ecology of parts of the UK by planting the wrong trees in the wrong places. “Whatever details emerge in due course, I am certain that there will be great incentives over the next few years for landowners to plant trees, but as with all such schemes, taking good advice from experts will be vital.”








Currently, there is a lack of consensus around any definition of regenerative agriculture. Some scientists and growers define regenerative agriculture as a system of crop production designed to reduce reliance on pesticides and fertiliser inputs, while others believe that regenerative agriculture is a system of crop production which improves soil carbon reserves, enhances biodiversity, reduces nutrient leaching and gaseous emissions and enhances ecosystem services. Many research papers concerning regenerative agriculture highlight the importance of soil biodiversity and the macro-organisms and microorganisms which are responsible for the biological cycling of nutrients. Those growers who promote regenerative agriculture believe that the decline of soil biodiversity is due to the widespread use of monocultures, along with strong dependence on fertiliser, fungicide, herbicide and insecticide use. Fungicides are routinely used to protect crops against a range of seed, soil and air-borne diseases. However, some fungicides can have negative effects on soil micro-organisms. It is worth mentioning that the treatment of crop seeds with fungicide is widely used as a risk management strategy and to reduce reliance on prophylactic foliar sprays. However, most of the chemicals used for seed dressing are systemic, which means that they are distributed across the plant and can also be released into the soil, which can have negative effects on soil micro-organisms. The effect of different types of fungicide seed dressings on soil biology can vary from stimulating Collembola surface activity to reducing Collembolan reproduction, increasing numbers of protozoa and reducing plant decomposition rate, to increasing earthworm mortality or not influencing earthworm activity. Some farmers have been able to grow crops successfully without any seed dressings, which tends to suggest that it is quite possible to reduce reliance on seed dressings if clean and healthy seed is used. A prophylactic seed dressing should be avoided and as agronomists we should follow regulatory standards and advisory thresholds for seed treatment to manage any key seedborne diseases. This will help reduce the negative effects of those fungicides on soil micro-organism. The application of foliar fungicides can have an impact on non-target micro-organisms in the soil rhizosphere. However, if we use appropriate nozzles, water volume, pressure, and forward speed and avoid spraying in windy conditions then the negative effects of fungicides on soil

micro-organisms can be avoided. Our prime objective should be reducing reliance on pesticides by using integrated pest management tools and other non-chemical options. There has been an increasing interest in the use of bio-stimulants and foliar trace-elements to improve crop health and thereby reduce reliance on fungicide inputs. More and more farmers are exploring other options to reduce pesticide use. Bio-stimulants are being promoted and recommended by a few agronomy advisors with the claims that they can improve crop tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. There are certain claims that some of the bio-stimulants improve soil biology and reduce the need for fertiliser and other inputs, but there is very little independent data to confirm the benefits of these products. A review of the replicated trials conducted by NIAB has shown little or no benefit of most of the bio-stimulants in disease control and yield enhancement. A few bio-stimulants have shown some benefits when applied with low fungicide inputs, but not when a standard fungicide programme was used in a trial. This tends to suggest that by choosing an appropriate bio-stimulant, we may be able to reduce our reliance on fungicide use and hence


Regional Agronomist (South) NIAB


improve soil health and biology. Fungicides still have an important role to play in regenerative agriculture. The newly introduced fungicides are, relatively, safer and less harmful to soil health and soil biology compared to older chemistry. By choosing a disease resistant variety, appropriate drilling date, chemicals and integrated pest management tools we can produce more yield per unit of land from fewer inputs, and hence reduce carbon footprint, improve soil health and soil biology and maximise farm profits. If we can produce more food from less land then we can reduce the need to bring more land into production. In simple terms, there are two ways to meet this future food demand. The first is to increase production from the existing area of agricultural land. The second is to increase the area of land under cultivation. But converting land use to agriculture has a direct effect on habitat loss and several indirect effects through altering biogeochemical and hydrological cycles. In many countries an expansion of agricultural land to increase food production will mean that inherently less productive soils are brought under cultivation, requiring disproportionate land use conversion which will cause more damage to the planet than damage caused by fungicide use.

IN CONJUNCTION WITH Can farming learn anything from the recent success of the England football team? If the manager gives up wearing waistcoats, will success automatically follow? Probably not. But if you leave the hang-ups of the previous generation behind you and focus on what you can achieve as a united team with a plan, will success folllow? I think so. Now, more than ever, I believe farming needs to look forwards, forget the past and come up with a plan and a direction for what the future of our industry is going to look like and not let others tell us what to do from the sidelines. Like most of you I was disappointed with the Australian trade deal. Why the government had to go for no tariffs and no quotas I don’t understand. The Australians asked for it but I’m sure they were as surprised as us that the UK government acquiesced. Some level of tariff and quota would have kept everyone happy and left us some wiggle room on future deals. Now the Kiwis want to go one better than the Australians; they always do. But what more can we give away? The past few weeks have clarified the future for English farmers considerably. We are going to be exposed to unlimited free trade, almost all future support will be environment based – with most of the money going to certain areas and large schemes – and animal welfare and production standards will be gold plated to some of the highest in the world. A successful economic model for English farming? A question I put to George Eustice when he came to NFU Council recently and unsurprisingly he didn’t really give an answer. He knows the answer, but isn’t winning the argument around the Cabinet table. My take home lesson is don’t expect anything very helpful from this Government anytime soon. ELMS will be a glorified stewardship scheme, the trade deals will keep on coming and standards will keep going up. It won’t be all bad, but… What can we do about it? Yes, we must speak truth to power and lobby our MPs about the consequences of their actions, but we cannot go on television moaning about every new trade deal that comes along. People will stop listening in the end and buy an Aussie burger next time they eat out anyway. I am certain we must come up with our own blueprint for success that will resonate with our customers across all price points, pay us a small premium over imported food and allow us to be willing partners in government schemes rather than dependant on them. Henry Dimbleby has his own blueprint in his food strategy and there are some good things in there. Over-processed foods, whether they are vegan or not, are damaging to people and the environment. Of course the global food industry loves processed food. The American model of branded

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David Exwood, arable, beef and sheep farmer and farm shop proprietor, Horsham, is positive about the future. meals of no discernible origin made from ingredients sourced from the cheapest producer in the world is how they make money. But look at the cost. We are already the fattest country in Europe. So Henry is right, but does he really have the best interests of farming at heart, or is his answer just an elitist food model that leaves the masses eating McGreggs supplied from abroad? I believe there is so much that we can do that will leave us with a great future. I see so many innovative and forward thinking farmers around the South East from whom we can all learn. For my part,

at Westons we have gone insecticide free across the whole farm for two years now. I’m not being paid a subsidy or a premium for it, but I believe it is the right thing to do and will have considerable benefits over time that customers will buy in to. Is it successful? Time will tell, but I have 250 acres of wall-to-wall oilseed rape that I can’t wait to cut. The key to success? Good management. And farming must come up with its own blueprint for future success that will probably have good management at its core. Don’t believe it can be done? Let Gareth be your inspiration.






Unpredictable weather has us on tenterhooks, checking forecasts, searching for a long enough slot to cut some grass. Ideally we need to crack on with making hay, but alas the ‘sun’ is proving elusive. Potential hay is being snatched as silage. Grumbling won’t help; no doubt the Canadians would be glad of our weather. Enduring high temperatures under the heat dome of 49 degrees plus can’t be much fun. At least you can’t blame the weather on Brexit or Covid-19, which makes a change. All these factors have financial implications for farmers, but in particular the weather. This was well highlighted in the Clarkson’s Farm programmes, which I surprisingly enjoyed watching. I’m not a Clarkson fan but welcome any publicity that gives consumers a better understanding of the challenges faced by food producers. The combination of Brexit and Covid-19 is causing problems at both ends of the food chain.

Fruit and vegetable growers are having difficulties sourcing people for harvesting. Food distributors are encountering problems due to a lack of HGV drivers. Not being able to move food to the right place at the right time increases food wastage, as well as creating unhappy shoppers, retailers and producers. All links in the chain need to function smoothly to provide an efficient service. Youngest daughter tells me that getting food delivered out to the supermarkets is a major problem. She blames me for voting Brexit. I’m unrepentant: ‘buy local’. Shrek (ATV) is poorly. He must have got hungry because he ate up a substantial belt; this is becoming an expensive habit, as it’s only two months since he ate the last one. Meanwhile my Fitbit is ecstatic, awarding me all sorts of stupid badges. Getting fitter wasn’t on my wish list, but stock need checking so it’s back to Shanks’s pony, it’s too wet to use my convertible as a stand in. We can’t even swap Shrek in for a new one, as I’m

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informed that if I order one now, with luck it might turn up in a year’s time. Secondhand cars and machinery have shot up in price. You can order spare parts, but no one has a clue when they will turn up, it’s causing chaos. It’s looking like a long wait for a pressure washer part. Meanwhile we’ve raided an old defunct one and, hey presto, it kind of works. Such times call for improvisational action. The B and C words are convenient excuses to cover a multitude of sins. Annoyingly the promise of less red tape appears to be a figment of our politicians’ imagination. Those of us who have to live and work in the real world will just have to get on with it as best we can. Good thing farmers are generally an adaptable breed. Last night our family adapted into a removal team. The pickup truck and livestock trailer were spruced up before being loaded to capacity with furniture. Eldest daughter was moving into a second floor flat in Shoreham with a balcony overlooking the river Adur estuary. Many hands

made light work, curtain rails were put up and furniture reassembled. On the homeward journey we encountered night road closures which forced us onto the byroads. Turning the trailer around in dark country lanes was testing. It was gone midnight by the time we had done essential chores. I went to sleep dreaming of a lie-in. Farming has a habit of bringing you back to reality. Early next morning we were woken by the phone; “cattle on the road”. One particular troublesome young heifer seems to go on a ‘let’s go scouting for bulls’ walkabout every time she comes bulling. She tends to gather up a few chums to accompany her; I suppose she thinks there’s safety in numbers or perhaps she wants a second opinion. While we walked these adventurous youngsters the mile back down the road I gave them a stern talking to, but I don’t think they were listening. No different to teenagers really. Then it was breakfast and the farming day began. It started with collecting faecal samples from my lambs to check on their worm status as I’m keen to avoid resistance to worming products. Taking samples to our livestock vet for analysis is no small task; the ten minute trip to the local town is long gone. Sadly, vet care for farm animals is now outsourced to ever-larger practices. Including traffic hold ups, it took me just shy of two hours for the round trip to deliver my egg-box containing samples. I explained my mission to a slightly perplexed receptionist. I vividly recall my very first trip to a vet. Aged six, I clasped my young terrier pup wrapped in a towel. She’d had her first encounter with a rat and had arterial blood intermittently spurting from her mouth. I had no idea that I should apply pressure to the wound, and so consequently we were liberally sprayed with blood. My mother drove to our vet’s surgery which was situated within his house. Our vet became a family friend. He took one look and ushered us in, saying: “I think I’d better put the kettle on.” He then showed me how to restrain my pup and proceeded to pop in a few stitches. Then we all sat down together and enjoyed a therapeutic cup of tea. That’s what I’d describe as holistic treatment. I’m feeling nostalgic and thinking the old days had their merits. Tapping into other people’s knowledge is always interesting. I’m finding the benefits of belonging to a farm cluster WhatsApp group are definitely a plus. I was astounded to learn that dried nettles are exceptionally nutritious for livestock; better than minced clover. I also enjoyed attending the ‘trees in the farming landscape’ session and I’m hoping to learn more on the value of ‘dung beetles’. I’m following the progress of trialling natural fly repellents as opposed to using insecticides. I’m told it’s a steep learning curve, but isn’t that true of all farming life?

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> New belt arrived but waiting for drive pulley

> Shrek chewed up a belt

> Livestock trailers have their uses


> Get back in the field > Taking the mischievous heifers back to their field

> Bringing silage bales back to the farm > Challenging times, not all bad being a farmer, beautiful scenery






T: 01264 321 595



“Rain makes grain” is the old adage; well, if that’s correct we should have plenty! You could add “and then it messes it up again”. The rain in June and early July has been beneficial to the grain fill. It has brought some Septoria and other disease issues in wheat, especially where key spray applications were not possible, but we could really do with some hours of sunlight now. We are supposed to be having a week of hot dry weather soon. Some winter barley has gone down with recent storms, but in the main that crop is well formed now. Most of it is feed, and with combining due to start about 20 July it should not have been impaired much. In France, to the south of Paris the rain has delayed their winter barley with one day’s combining followed by two day’s rain, but only the bushel weight has been affected so far; surprisingly the yield has not. It’s still average, the grain size is good and malting quality also. Early French wheat has both hagberg and low protein problems, but again yield is OK so far. Maybe that is because the yields were going to be above average without this wet weather. Another old saying is “flat wheat can break you” whereas “flat barley can make you”. We will have to wait and see! Certainly I would prefer to see the rain now rather than in August. I cannot forget last year, when up to 14 August we combined some high-quality spring malting barley. It started raining then and carried on until the first week of September, ruining half the spring malting barley crop still in the field. Generally, all the crops are better established than they were 12 months ago and so are in a better place to withstand issues.


BENEFICIAL The grain market is now behaving like it normally does pre-harvest in the northern hemisphere, with prices falling further as harvest approaches. The usual suspects who do not have the storage infrastructure and need for hard US dollars from exports, such as the Baltics and Black Sea countries, are pushing cheap barley into the export market to be followed by equally cheap wheat. The beneficial rain all over the world from America to Eastern Europe has eased crop fears in what were dry areas. I have been commenting since April that our forward grain values were at historically high figures, especially when you consider that we have been expecting a return to more average UK crop sizes. Anyway, for the time


being UK grain prices still have the lifebelt of high old crop values about them, until the combines roll! End users are anxiously awaiting the arrival of new crop French wheat which is supposed to be here in July. Old crop barley, of which there is less left than wheat, is in great demand. Those who can finish off their new crop feed barley before the end of July, by desiccating, should make a good premium to the ordinary ‘as available’ price. Likewise with wheat, which has a differential of £40 between old crop and the new crop price, those who can combine before the middle of August should achieve a premium somewhere between the old and new price. After that the bets are off ! Some merchants are talking about the UK wheat crop being up to 15.5 million tonnes. That’s looking too optimistic to me. If we get five million tonnes more than last year at 14.5 million tonnes, then that’s realistic. From mid Wales to the Midlands there are huge black grass problems. Add to that the patchy areas, particularly in the Midlands where the crops didn’t establish, then record yields are unlikely. But if Russia lives up to being the “biggest wheat exporter in the world” and sorts out its export tax,




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then it could depress the export market in September and October. As I have said, if we have half a million tonnes exportable surplus, that should go by Christmas. If there were a miracle and we had a 15.5 million tonne crop, giving an extra million tonnes, that would take longer to shift. However, even with new crop wheat at £25 per tonne off the very top, we still have historical high forward prices for wheat. So if your crop looks good and you have to sell or move before Christmas, that is still an option. Assuming you have followed advice and managed your risk by committing to pools or trackers, or making forward sales for October, November or December, you should be able to play the longer game from January onwards. You see, the trade can run, but it cannot hide forever from certain facts. The USA stocks of maize, soya and wheat are 44 million tonnes less than this time last year. Global stocks of grain are at an eight-year low. These are real facts and can only be redressed by big world crops. Some places like Australia look good for this, but most of the rest don’t. Spring-planted wheat in North America and part of Russia and Ukraine have been badly affected by extreme heat and drought. This alone should cause milling premiums to rise, especially when you add the quality issues now in France. When the rest of the world catches up with the UK lifting of lockdowns, this will create greater demand for food and drink than we have seen for 16 months. So we should have a lot more grain to trade than last year. You have already had some opportunities to sell at good prices and you will again. But the bigger your crop is, the fewer and further apart these will be. Good luck with your combining.



REASSURING Although it’s still six months away, I can already confidently predict that my New Year’s Eve celebrations this year will be a disappointment. I know this because the Basic Payments manna from heaven that has been falling on my December doormat for the past 16 years will be cut by 20%. Worse still, it is due to be trimmed even more in 2022 until it is hacked back to nothing by 2027. Like any other farmer, of course, I’m aware that the BPS is nuts from the taxpayer’s point of view. I don’t have to engage in much wildlife conservation work or grow any food to receive it. But if farmers should be taught one thing, it’s never to look a gift horse in the mouth. Regular readers will know I’ve never made any secret of the fact that any profit from growing crops on my flinty, rabbit-infested downland and Wealden quagmire has relied on this annual largesse. The government, of course, has tried to reassure us all that there is nothing to worry about as the forthcoming Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) will put all to rights. But will it? Five years after Brexit, alarming chunks of the BPS are already being taken out of my beloved BPS payments, and the detail of future plans is still not forthcoming. What we do know about ELMS is not exactly reassuring. Payments are likely to be based on an ‘income forgone’ basis, so farmers will only

STEPHEN CARR Arable farmer

be paid for engaging in farming techniques that reduce their profitability. Even more concerning, it is very likely that some payments will be based on ‘outcomes’, so if biodiversity or greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are not met, ELMS might be reduced or fines imposed. This is all an uncomfortable reminder that what makes the BPS so idiotic (farmers don’t have to do much for it) is what makes it so wonderful (all of the payments are profit). But if the promised £3 billion to maintain the agricultural budget is dependent on requiring us to invest in new equipment and new techniques that hugely compromise our farming efficiency, our future looks bleak indeed. So, like the piper, I have to sit patiently and wait for ‘the man to call the tune’ – in this case, DEFRA’s George Eustice. But it seems certain that, whatever tune he calls for, even if it’s something not so very far from Auld Lang Syne, it will involve a lot of twiddly scales and complex key changes that will make it very hard to play.



FARMERS & CONTRACTORS | Call Steve 07747 827901 | TO ADVERTISE CALL 01303 233883



AGRONOMY The variation in drilling dates caused by rain interruptions last October has highlighted some clear differences in disease development between early and late-sown crops this year. After a dry start to the spring, the rain came in April and in some areas of Kent it has not yet stopped. The amount of rainfall in these areas during June has been exceptional – and many earlysown wheats have come under significant Septoria pressure even where robust flag leaf sprays were applied, proving that underlying infection risk never really disappears. Warm, wet conditions in May triggered this late surge, but it may have been exacerbated where T0 and T1 fungicides were scaled back during the cool, dry conditions earlier in spring. The loss of chlorothalonil from programmes, and any extended gap between T1 and T2 sprays, could also have played a part. Whatever the reason, it reinforces the threat Septoria poses when drilling early, alongside eyespot, Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus and take-all, albeit to lesser extents. Mildew and yellow rust are typically more problematic in later-sown crops, although the appearance of new, aggressive yellow rust races continues to make it less predictable and harder to control.



Drilling later is a very effective way of reducing Septoria risk, as moving from mid-September sowing to mid-October can be equivalent to gaining an extra point on a variety’s resistance rating. For example, a crop of end-September sown KWS Extase (rated 8) may be at similar Septoria risk to November-drilled KWS Firefly (6.8). But with recent wash-out autumns still fresh in mind, this must be balanced against the need to get crops in before the weather breaks. The key is to tailor variety choices to drilling date and the subsequent risks crops will face throughout the season, from disease to lodging, so protectant



This season has clearly shown how early drilling can increase pressure from Septoria and other wheat diseases. Hutchinsons’ James Short examines how to manage such risks this autumn. programmes can be planned and fields prioritised for treatment well in advance. Variety ratings are a good starting point to indicate inherent susceptibility, and generally it is best to opt for those rated 6+ for Septoria if drilling early. But consider other factors too, such as treated and untreated yields, lodging susceptibility, eyespot rating, speed of development and rust scores. We saw last year how quickly new rust races can overcome varietal resistance; this year the pressure is on Septoria, so treat the present RL ratings with caution. The South East tends to be dominated by Group 1, 2 and 3 (biscuits), but continue to aim for a balanced portfolio of varieties and drilling dates to spread the risk. Omnia’s disease modelling function is a valuable tool for assessing disease risk and planning for the season ahead. It uses accurate data from various sources to give a clear colour-coded indication of risk, based on three main factors; the responsiveness of varieties to fungicides, the impact of drilling date on disease risk and the influence of weather on inoculum build-up.


Regional director, Hutchinsons T: 07721 567083 E: Canterbury: 01227 830064





Luke Haynes, of Stevens Farm (Hawkhurst), based near Cranbrook in Kent, has been named as Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year 2021. Presented at the Syngenta Sprays & Sprayers event in Lincolnshire as part of Cereals 2021, the Farm Sprayer Operator of the Year (FSOOTY) rewards the top operators for skills and for their awareness of safe and efficient operations. Chosen from six finalists selected from farms and contracting businesses across the UK, Luke operates across 1,150 hectares of arable cropping, including applications onto wheat, oats, oilseed rape and beans. He operates a Fendt Rogator 645 fitted with a 5,000-litre tank and 30-metre Pommier boom. His go-to nozzle choice has been the Syngenta 3D Nozzle which, in conjunction with his sprayer’s Optinozzle systems, can automatically select the optimum spray pattern for any given water volume and speed.

MINE’S A (LOW IMPACT) PINT The search is on to find disease-resistant hop varieties that will satisfy UK drinkers’ thirst for a more environmentally friendly brew. Farmers, brewers and breeders are teaming up with researchers to begin a three-year trial to meet increasing demand for ‘low-impact’ beer, which has accelerated since the pandemic. Hops are notoriously vulnerable to disease and pests in the UK’s temperate climate. Conventional growers are relying on a dwindling number of agrochemicals and organic growers – of which there are only three in the UK – are facing a two-in-five crop failure rate. To tackle this issue, a ‘field lab’ run through the Innovative Farmers programme is bringing hop growers together with the Organic Research Centre to co-design practical on-farm research. “UK grown organic hops are very difficult to get hold of, and the challenge of growing them is the largest barrier to increasing production of UK organic beer,” said Greg Pilley, field lab coordinator and founder of Stroud Brewery, one of only five dedicated organic breweries in the country. “By collaborating as a supply chain, we’re aiming to identify varieties that farmers can grow more confidently, and as a brewer I’d like to have regular UK supplies of organic hops; there is also a huge variety of flavours to tap into, which could help British brewers create more distinctive products.” UK hop production has dropped from 77,000 acres in its heyday in 1865 to less than 2,000 today, with around 50 growers and 25 varieties. Most organic hops are imported, mainly from Belgium, Germany, and New Zealand.

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What was an abundance of grass has turned into a bit of an embarrassment. I won’t say that I have too much grass; you can’t have too much, simply more than is needed for immediate requirements. After a recent walk around the grazing platform, I reckon that I have sufficient grass in front of the sheep to last them until probably the end of August, if it went dry tomorrow. It wouldn’t be the best of grazing, ultimately some would be standing hay, but it would keep them going, which really is quite reassuring. Having so much grass in front of the sheep at this time of the year is quite a novelty; aided by some fairly quick rotation around the paddocks and judicious use of the topper I hope to be able to maintain some sort of quality, with the weaned lambs taking priority. Despite dubious grass quality, the sheep have done well. The ewes look surprisingly well, some probably a little too well, and may need to be kept fairly tight to ensure they don’t overshoot on body condition score. It is not as if they haven’t been working hard; they have almost all done their lambs well. As is always the case some have done better than others, but there are none that I would call poor lambs. The first draw of some Suffolk cross Lleyn lambs averaged 43kg at about 14 weeks. I feel sorry for those that are waiting for a suitable weather window to make hay. But that’s farming. There is nothing that we can do to influence the weather, in the short term at least, and there is little point in worrying about things over which we have no control. Easy to say but, I’m sure, not quite so easy to live with, particularly if you happen to be a contractor with customers all demanding your services at the same time once we do get a suitable weather window. People will just need to be patient and understanding. Lamb prices have come back now. It was bound to happen, but they are still above where they were at the same time last year; producers have had a very good run so far this year. There is also positive news on the wool front. Prices are on the way up, not where they need to be but moving in the right direction, and trade is improving, significantly more for some wool qualities than others. New Zealand wool prices are also rising, a good indicator of a better global trading season for 2021. In addition, British Wool (BW) has made significant progress in reducing overhead costs and streamlined the collection, transport and grading process, with some depots closed and a number of regional wool drop off centres established (with no onward transport costs). Overall handling and servicing costs per kg of

ALAN WEST Sheep farmer

wool directed through BW have been reduced, giving producers a slightly bigger slice of the return for their wool. BW has also been directing more resources into the promotion of British wool to help grow the market for both British wool and products manufactured with British wool, capitalising on the growing trend among consumers to support British farm products. There is, however, still a bit of a fundamental misunderstanding among many wool producers as to the role and function of BW, the biggest misconception being that it is a buyer of wool. British Wool is effectively an agent for producers responsible for the collaborative collection, grading and marketing of wool produced in the UK. It does not set prices, which are determined by the market, an international market, and established at the regular auctions organized and run by BW. Covid-19 hit international trade in wool hard last year and this was reflected in global prices. The timely introduction of online bidding during lockdown has generated significant benefits, in particular ensuring sales continued throughout lockdown which has resulted in a minimal carry over of wool from last year’s clip, providing a stable base for the start of the 2021 marketing season. This useful online facility will, moving forward, be retained as an option in a more flexible and accessible marketing mix alongside the live auctions. One of the key advantages of BW lies in the

collection and grading of wool, a process that combines wool of the same grade, possibly from a significant number of individual producers, into large parcels that suit the requirements of the scouring plants. The vast majority of wool produced in the UK will begin its processing journey in one of two large scouring plants, both of which rely on high throughputs in order to be able to process at a sensible cost; they need wool of the same grade in large, 50 tonne lots, something that would almost certainly not happen without the grading and amalgamation services provided by BW. Without the economies of scale, processing costs would increase, making wool less competitive. Similarly, without the quantities of graded wool that can be supplied via BW, profitability would be significantly reduced in the scouring plants. A loss of one of these plants would reduce the domestic processing capacity by about 50%, the consequential impact of which would decimate the UK wool industry. The whole system is closely integrated and requires the economies of scale generated by the support of wool producers across the UK. Every additional fleece has a positive, if only marginal, impact on reducing costs and increasing prices paid per kg of wool to producers. Definitely still very much a work in progress but certainly moving in the right direction and a development that certainly needs and deserves the support of producers. At the end of last month I paid a visit to some old acquaintances at Brinsbury College, West Sussex. Brinsbury is where my formal agricultural education started some 50+ years ago in the shape of evening classes working towards and achieving (at distinction) the City and Guilds Full Technical Certificate in Agriculture, which sounds very grand, and it did provide a good basis to go onto

> It is a long time since sheep producers have been embarrassed by so much grass in July, you can never have too much grass, but?


VET DIARY other things. I really was sad to see the College almost shut down 20+ years ago; I can recall many people, at the time, effectively writing Brinsbury off as a centre for agricultural education. A timely take over by Chichester College, however, set them on a steady road to recovery, one link with a larger further education college that has succeeded. People laughed when the college began to rebuild and restock with Dairy Shorthorns, a move that has proved fortuitous (probably ahead of its time). The college now has a thriving dairy herd producing relatively cheap milk, largely off grass and almost certainly presenting a better bottom line than many other herds with significantly higher milk yields per cow; it’s not always about performance. Good, imaginative leadership, an open-minded approach and a very close working relationship between curriculum and the farm really have paid dividends for the college. Like the cows, the sheep flock, based upon the Lleyn, is moving in the same direction, targeting efficiency and maximising production off grass and forage. Maintaining a, virtually closed, self replacing flock has provided opportunities for reducing vet costs and building a relatively high flock health status with the regular use of feacal egg counts facilitating a strategic approach to worm control. To improve the size and carcass quality of lambs produced, Texel cross Lleyn ewes now form the bulk of the commercial flock. These are returned to good Texel rams to produce strong, well-fleshed lambs, 90% of which are sold as finished lambs on a deadweight basis. To keep the whole system as simple as possible, rather than relying on a nucleus flock of Lleyn ewes to provide replacements, criss-cross breeding is now being employed with alternate generations of home bred ewe tegs put to either a Texel or Lleyn ram. Grass is not only the key to relatively low cost milk and lamb production; it is an integral part of the farm’s arable rotation. Breaking with tradition, herbal leys have now been added, replacing some of the more standard ryegrass white clover mixes. In addition, ryegrass and red clover leys now provide an excellent feed for finishing lambs post weaning, with grazing controlled behind an electric fence plus back fence. After weaning, the ewes follow the dairy cows, tidying up the grazing and ensuring a steady return in condition ahead of tupping in the autumn. Ewes are lambed indoors. All in all, a nicely integrated system that is very much in harmony with some of the post-Brexit trends towards greener, more efficient and lower carbon livestock production. Learners also benefit from the close working relationship between curriculum and farm, with significant involvement in farm activities and ample opportunities to see good, forward thinking practices in action. All of this from a College that 20+ years ago many in the industry would have happily written off.

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FOR CULL COWS What a difference a year makes. From the dry, barren and burnt fields of 2020 to the lush pasture of 2021 which is proving a challenge in itself; I don’t think many people could have predicted such contrasting years. A lot of our focus at this time of the year is on the boys, making sure they are firing on all cylinders ready for their nine-week working period. It takes two to tango, though, so what factors are we going to consider when making decisions about our cull cows? A correctly planned culling and replacement policy can lead to genetic advancement and is vital to the economics of a beef enterprise. The end of the calving period is when decisions about the cows’ future breeding season are made and problem cows are removed. Barren cows are a burden and a drain on resources. Rolling cows over causes them to become overly fat, with further suppression of fertility hormones causing a further failure to conceive and leaving us with an overconditioned, unproductive and ultimately unprofitable animal. Even if she conceives, the excess fat in the pelvis will likely lead to calving difficulties. Heifers which do not conceive should be fattened as we do not want animals with sub-optimal fertility forming the future of the herd. Animals which have had issues around the calving period e.g. uterine or cervical prolapse, should be culled as there is a high risk of re-prolapse. Animals which experienced

calving difficulties are less likely to conceive due to a prolonged return to cyclicity. It can be tempting to extend the breeding period to allow for these cows to conceive, but over time this proves uneconomical. The individual animal’s disease status plays an important role in the decision to cull. Animals which are known Johnes/Neospora positive should be culled at the next opportunity. Those animals which have been inconclusive reactors on the TB skin test should also be culled. Animals which have repeated bouts of lameness or have had an episode of mastitis which has left the quarter damaged/blind should also be culled. A good cull cow trade will make up for any potential breeding losses for these animals. In 1991, Basil Lowman stated: “Fertility is the single most important factor influencing the profitability of suckled calf production.” Thirty years later not much has changed and a correctly planned culling and replacement policy can help achieve a profitable enterprise.


Cliffe Veterinary Group T: 01273 473232 E:





GRAHAM ELLIS FRICS FAAV FLAA For and on behalf of Stanfords T: 01206 842156 E:



As this report was being written at the beginning of July we still saw a very strong beef trade with numbers generally inadequate for the demand, and despite reports of a reduced retail demand we saw in Colchester strong competition for all cattle and many more could be sold to advantage. Prices generally are well above levels seen 12 months ago, something that is very much needed with increased feed costs and the high price of replacement store cattle. It is good to see that weight can be sold to advantage, but good finish to the cattle is important as always. Prices are regularly seen in the region of 235p/kg to 245p/kg, with averages between 215p/kg and 220p/kg. The over thirty months (OTM) cattle trade is probably the dearest that has been seen, with strong competition throughout for all over aged cattle including cull cows. Processing meat is required and with the high demand for barbecue meats, no doubt fueled by the success of the England football team and the demand for burgers, the trade is strong. Store cattle as always at this time of year are very short and more could be sold if available. Many finished cattle yards are now empty, and with the likelihood of a good supply of winter forage hopefully the demand will stay strong.

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Sheep trade hit a plateau in the four weeks leading up to this report being written, with a sudden drop off the edge which was against most people’s expectations. However, it must be remembered that the price level is still very much in line with 12 months ago and in all honesty we had been warning of a likely adjustment of price levels following the exceptional prices received right through to the beginning of June this year. It is always difficult for vendors to take a price drop, but most producers anticipated it. Still, good lambs are trading from £100 to £130 per head for weight and good finish and handy weight 36kg to 38kg lambs are regularly trading around the £90 per head level, with best continentals above this. There is still a very strong trade which can hopefully be maintained through the coming months. The cull ewe trade is at very good levels, with plenty of ewes well over £125 per head and averages probably £40 a head up on the year. It will be interesting to see where the replacement ewes and shearlings trade will be this year. By the time this report has been read some evidence will be available, with indications suggesting we could be in for an exceptional year. Very few store sheep are being sold at the time of this report, but there is likely to be a strong trade which will also help to underpin the finished sheep trade. Pigs continue to slightly increase in price on deadweight sales, although this is a somewhat slower increase than producers had hoped for. More demand for pork for the barbecue season is obviously helping this increase, and let us hope that continues throughout the summer months. It is also good to see cull sow prices increasing substantially, with strong demand throughout. With the somewhat uncertain weather conditions as this report was being written causing some concern with regard to harvesting of corn crops, it was noticeable that some barleys had been affected by the wet weather, but it still appears that there will be a good supply of straw and good corn yields seem possible.


PETER KINGWILL T: 01233 502222 Weather is always a major factor in farming, and indeed in livestock marketing, and summer 2021 has been enough to test the patience of a saint let alone a South East farmer! June started well enough, with dairymen and some bigger operators getting a good first cut of silage, or indeed second, safely gathered in. An extended dry period would have seen the markets go very quiet as farmers concentrated on silage and hay, but it was not to be, as the weather turned changeable at best. This has helped us in the markets short term, but we are as keen as anyone to see good stocks of forage for winter and beyond. We also want old grass cut to allow that growth of the important flush of grass during the late summer and autumn period Ashford Market has been busy in a quiet month. Prices have remained very strong and confidence over prospects is buoyant. Positivity from the strong returns over the past 12 months will feed through into the breeding units and demand for bulling heifers has been stronger. Seasonal sales of ewe tegs are just around the corner, but producers are right to be maintaining or expanding their flock levels. The difficult winters of late have seen significant culling of non-performers in beef and sheep sectors. It has been good to see more people back in the market buoyed by vaccination, and though Covid-19 is far from over we are all hoping we will be closer to a new normal come 19 July. We are fortunate to see customers from near and far at Ashford, so while many will visit the pages of market reports online or in hard copy it seemed a good opportunity to report on some of June`s successes to the wider audience of South East Farmer.


• Lambs £160, H & J Noakes Romney Marsh and 353p/kg, Miss K Tucker, Pulborough

WEATHER AGAIN! • Finished Limousin heifer 237p/kg £1559, W Alexander, Sevenoaks • Limousin steer 235p/kg, R F & E A Simmons, Hythe • Limousin cull cow 226p/kg £1150, Burden Bros, Sheppey • Sussex store heifers £1015, Bowes Lyon Estate, Hitchen • Finished pigs Ms M Godden, Ashford, 147p/kg and £118


• Lambs £158.50, T Masters, Seaford and 343p/kg, K Lukehurst, Ashford • Cull ewes £162, Link Bros, Romney Marsh • Finished British Blue heifer 254p/kg £1645, A Price, Maidstone • Limousin steer 250p/kg £1524, W Alexander • British Blue cull cow 207p/kg £1610, A Price • Sussex store steers £1320, E T Ledger & Son, Sittingbourne • Aberdeen Angus store heifers £1140, Ells Farm, Dorking • Sussex cow and calf £1320, M Gibb, Maidstone • Calves, Limousin bull £355 and Sussex heifer £300, R L Goodman & Son, Ashford


• Lambs £152.50, J Metianu & S Aspital, Ashford and 330p/kg, N C & C Hedges, Robertsbridge • Cull ewes £160, Miss R Thompson, Romney Marsh • Finished Limousin steer 229p/kg, R F & E A Simmons • British Blue steer £1544, K&PM Sinden, Sevenoaks • Limousin heifer 235p/kg £1527, WS Furnival, Romney Marsh • Limousin cull cow 173p/kg £1431, MB Farms, Sittingbourne • Finished pigs 130p/kg £139, P&R Marshall, Sittingbourne


• Lambs £125, T Masters, Seaford and 272p/kg, M Keeley, Ashford • Cull ewes £155, M Keeley • North country Mule ewes with Suffolk lambs £230 (£78.90/life), Paley Farm, Cranbrook • Finished Limousin x Friesian steer 217p/kg £1379, AJ Down, Ashford • Limousin heifer 227p/kg £1404, AJ Thompson & Sons, Romney Marsh • Cull Limousin cow 172p/kg £1526, HJ Emery & Son, Tonbridge • Cull Holstein cow 150p/kg £1299, Appleton Farm, Deal • Limousin x Friesian steers £975 • British Blue x Friesian heifers £980, AJ Kearl, Dorking • Calves, British Blue bull £380, D Murdoch & Sons, Maidstone and Simmental heifer £380, R & J Ledger, Ashford


• Lambs £125, D J Morphett, Ashford and 300p/kg, G Husk, Ashford • Cull ewes £155, D Masters, Cranbrook • Finished Limousin steer 239p/kg, R C & J L Pickering, Hadlow • Limousin x Friesian steer £1472, A J Down, Ashford • Blonde heifer 249p/kg £1466, D W Ferguson, Dover • Cull Hereford cow 169p/kg £1255, M J Burton, Reigate • Cull British Friesian cow 146p/kg £1192, R & J Ledger, Ashford • Finished pigs 150p/kg and £114, Brooker & Son, Edenbridge Let us all hope that we will see more of the sunshine in the coming months to help with all the upcoming harvests.


While welcoming the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, introduced by the Government to improve “the UK’s already world-leading position on animal welfare”, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is challenging the wider implications of the Bill, particularly around the suggested ban on live exports. Chief Executive Phil Stocker said the aim of reducing travel time from production to slaughter ”needs to also address the availability, capacity and location of abattoirs and slaughter facilities, alongside a real shortage of staff and labour and how ministers will ensure future international trade


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deals also meet and uphold these standards”. The NSA believes that for a ban to be feasible, there needs to be enough abattoirs in the right areas providing the right service. “Most farmers want to keep journeys to slaughter as short as possible, but there still needs to be choice and competition in order to maintain prices,” the association stressed.






Housing can be a stressful time for cattle and farm teams, bringing with it a change in daily routine, diet and disease risk factors. Good planning to ensure herds are up to date with vaccinations and other routine treatments can prevent production losses over the winter, writes Emily Collins-Winagte BVMSci MRCVS, Westpoint Horsham. Closer contact between animals, reduced ventilation and damp environments can create a ‘perfect storm’ for viral replication and disease in cattle. Many different vaccines exist but a few key principles underpin the success of any vaccination protocol: timing of the doses, vaccine storage and vaccine administration. Most vaccinations should be given when cattle are healthy, to ensure a successful prolonged immune response is stimulated. Vaccinations should be planned to ensure maximum protection for cattle when they are most at risk from disease. For some vaccines this can require two vaccine doses followed by a period of several weeks before immunity develops. The datasheet for vaccines should be checked both for the details of these timings and if wanting to use them in pregnant animals. It is important to check how vaccinations should be administered – usually intramuscularly, intranasally or subcutaneously. Cleanliness is important to reduce the risk of introducing infection at the vaccination site and to ensure efficacy of the vaccine given.


Vaccines for BVD have been available for over 15 years, but the disease is still commonly found on UK farms. Recent testing schemes, such as BVD Stamp It Out, have raised the profile of this disease, with more farmers aware of the disease status of their herd. The main motivation for vaccinating against BVD is to prevent persistently infected (PI) calves being born. PI calves are created when dams are infected with BVD in the first trimester. These calves will continually shed virus throughout their life, so will spread disease to the rest of the herd. There are two types of BVD; type-one is the most common, but type-two has also been identified in the UK. Some BVD primary vaccination programmes require two doses, but there is a single-shot primary course available now. Annual, or biannual, boosters are required, the details of which should be checked on the vaccine datasheet. To ensure full protection against BVD, cattle must have completed the primary course before their first service. The timing of administration should aim for full protection several weeks before the service date, to ensure foetal protection and prevent the production of PI calves.


IBR is a highly contagious viral infection caused by a herpes virus. Once infected, the animal remains infected for life and may spread the virus intermittently during times of stress or immune suppression. Around 40% of farms in the UK are thought to have IBR present. There are multiple vaccines available, with inactivated ones generally better at producing longer-term immunity. Live vaccines have a rapid onset of immunity, so can be used in a disease outbreak scenario to create immunity quickly. Marker vaccines are now available which enable vaccinated and naturally infected animals to be differentiated through laboratory testing.


There are several vaccines available against common respiratory pathogens, marketed in various combinations. The common viral causes of pneumonia in cattle include infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, parainfluenza virus-3, respiratory syncytial virus and bovine viral diarrhoea. Many of the pneumonia vaccines commonly used are multivalent – providing protection against multi-agent diseases. They may also include protection for single-agent diseases such as BVD



or IBR. These vaccines often require six-monthly boosters, so it is important to plan accordingly to ensure year-round protection. Some of the vaccines used in calves to protect against common causes of pneumonia should be repeated after six months, which may coincide with the housing period. It should be factored into planning that some pneumonia vaccinations may need to be started before housing, to give enough time for second doses and full immunity to develop before cattle are moved inside. While vaccinations are available and useful, they are only one part of a preventative programme for respiratory disease in adult cattle. Considerations about space per animal, ventilation and protection from inclement weather are also incredibly important. This list of vaccines that can be used at housing is not exhaustive; others may fit with your cattle management plan. Protocols should be discussed with your vet to ensure time and money are not being wasted through incorrect use of vaccines. This element of disease control is most useful when tailored to the specifics of your farm, therefore a better understanding of a herd’s disease status, through sampling and testing, creates the most effective vaccine protocol.

If you would like to discuss anything covered in this article contact your local Westpoint practice


Westpoint Horsham Westpoint Ashford T: 01306 628086 T: 01306 628208 E:


Westpoint Sevenoaks T: 01959 564383




The farming year is racing through and hopefully harvest will be under way as you read this (weather dependant). The world and his wife seem to be looking at baling straw this year and I fear the market could be overwhelmed. With no export trade at the moment, straw from these parts can only go up (up country and not up in price). If we have a good harvest the price of straw should come back to its usual levels for the time of year; if we have a difficult harvest who knows what will happen. As harvest approaches, we take time to reflect on the growing season, and the dull June will ultimately affect the yields that we gain from harvest this year. Second cut silage was delayed by three to four weeks due to the amount of rain that kept falling. Great joy in our household as Amazon have announced a second series of Clarkson’s Farm. We all enjoyed the first series and shall look forward to the second. Jeremy Clarkson’s programme has been the best thing to promote farming in a very long time. You may love him or hate him, but you can’t fail to be drawn in. In one series Clarkson’s Farm has succeeded where Countryfile has failed for the past 25 years. Every farm needs a Kaleb Cooper or possibly a Fergus. Zara has had an incredible month with the horses and has managed to qualify for the Pony Club

Championships in all three disciplines. So, we shall be hitting the road for a few days at the end of the month. The freezer is now full with meals for the boys to heat up when they come home from work. Exhausted is an understatement; after a week of pony club senior camp with 36 children and not a lot of sleep it can only mean one thing. Summer holidays are finally upon us… Yippee. No more school runs until September. Meanwhile the world is slowly opening its doors again; families are either going on a staycation or potentially hoping to holiday abroad. Ted doesn’t really mind where he goes as long as he can see a combine in the distance. Breakfast, lunch and ice cream runs for us this summer, or “combine chasing” as its commonly known. There is nothing better than a fish and chip supper sitting on top of the white cliffs of Dover on a warm summer’s evening with all the harvest team. In 2018 there were 14,000 non-fatal farming injuries and 39 deaths recorded in the UK. A training course specifically designed for farmers has been created to emphasise the importance of non-technical skills (NTS). NTS refers to “human factor” skills such as task management and situation awareness and may well form part of the Red Tractor assurance in years to come. Farming is the most dangerous industry in the UK,

with a fatality rate 18 times higher than the general industry average. Causes of death have remained broadly the same over the past five years, with being struck by a moving vehicle, injured by an animal and falling from height the most frequent causes. Seeing the younger generation work it would appear their health and safety and attitude to work is vastly different to the older generation. Online farm safety awareness courses are a must for all farm children and adults alike. They are really informative. It certainly seems to be a new mindset for the younger generation, which is great news for the future. Small changes can make so much difference. There is a huge feeling among the industry that children are safer in cabs, but the statistics just don’t show it. Most children have just left the cab, are approaching the cab or have fallen out of the cab when they are hurt. Not many children are knocked down in the farmyard just because it’s their play area. The HSE is running farm safety courses again and they are very much worth the visit, even if it stops you resting the tractor tyre against the wall for later or climbing down the steps of the tractor forwards or not turning the engine off when you get out of the tractor. Please stop and think ‘child’; they’re only young once. Until next time, stay safe.


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Tenants thinking about retiring or planning for succession in the next five years are being advised to plan for changes after the Government amended the Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) in June. The new regulations for England made under the Agriculture Act 2020 will

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apply from 2024 and will see changes to the rules on succession. The main change will be the removal of the commercial unit test that previously prevented some successors with larger, separate, businesses from taking on the tenancy. The removal of this previous barrier to succession will widen the opportunity for larger businesses to secure tenancies going forward. The eligibility tests will still require the applicant to prove a close relationship with the tenant and pass a principal source of livelihood test. The suitability test, however, is being tightened up to require the applicant to demonstrate how they are going to farm the holding commercially, with or without other land, considering the need for higher standards of efficient production and care for the environment. The test will consider the applicant’s experience, training and skills in business management, financial standing and character. Commenting on the changes, Matthew Anwyl, partner and Chartered Surveyor at leading property consultancy Berrys said: “The new suitability test introduces a higher bar for those wishing to succeed to a tenancy. “It is now not enough to just demonstrate you can farm and have the experience; you will have to demonstrate your commercial ability to be able to farm the holding as well as the ability to farm in a manner that cares for the environment. “Abolishing the commercial unit test will also pave the way for farmers operating on a larger commercial scale to succeed if all the other conditions are met.” Mr Anwyl added: “If you have an AHA agreement and are starting to think about the next generation, then it is vitally important to start preparing for the changes now. “It is essential you consider which set of rules is most favourable to your circumstances. One of the rules requires the applicant to demonstrate their income source for the previous five years, so acting now and planning will ease the process from 2024 onwards.” Mr Anwyl also highlighted the impact of the withdrawal of Basic Payments, describing it as “the elephant in the room.” He commented: “By 2027 the payments will be gone, so it is important to look at how you are going to replace BPS; look at what your cash needs are and get a handle on your costs, budgets and business overall.”


Over recent years many companies and organisations have committed to the global pledge to secure net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. The agricultural sector, which is responsible for around 10% of GHG emissions in the UK, has made a similar pledge, with the NFU setting an ambitious target of reaching net zero GHG emissions across all agriculture in England and Wales by 2040. With sustainability and combatting climate change high on the agenda, natural solutions are becoming more popular with agricultural businesses. They are both cheap and attractive, as well as helping businesses to meet their environmental responsibilities. Three of the most relevant to farmers and landowners are renewable energy, carbon removals and the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS), all of which offer an attractive combination of both environmental and financial benefits.


The most popular sources of renewable energy within the agricultural industry are solar, wind and anaerobic digestion. From a financial perspective, the use of renewable energies such as these can reduce the expenses and fixed costs faced by farmers and landowners through improved energy efficiency. Similarly, the use of renewable energy can also provide an income stream through the sale of renewable energy stores. From an environmental perspective it can help to combat climate change and support progress toward the ‘net zero’ target. It is suggested that through renewable energy, farmers and landowners can also displace greenhouse gas emissions by coupling bioenergy with carbon capture and storage.


Carbon removals have long been hailed as the most logical approach to achieve the ‘net zero’ pledge. Some of the most efficient and attractive carbon removal initiatives for those in the agricultural



Reshaping the future of farming. industry include tree planting, peatland restoration, soil improvements and coastal and marine restoration. Farmers and landowners could easily enter the carbon market and use their land to capture, utilise and store carbon. The carbon removal initiatives listed above tie in very neatly with ELMS, suggesting that farmers and landowners could benefit from both a private and public form of income.


ELMS is being introduced to replace the current Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which will be gradually phased out over the next seven years and stopped altogether in 2028. ELMS will pay farmers and landowners to produce ‘public goods’ and require land, water and livestock to be managed in a way that “mitigates or adapts to climate change”. This means farmers and landowners will receive an income stream based upon improvements to the environment, the protection and enhancement of biodiversity, building resilience against climate change and increasing sustainability in the farming sector. DEFRA is currently rolling out pilot ELMS across England and Wales. ELMS consists of three mechanisms: 1. Sustainable Farming Incentive (farm husbandry): payment will be provided for actions that manage land in a sustainable way. The pilot scheme has already begun and it will officially launch in 2022. 2. Local Nature Recovery: payment will be provided for actions such as creating, managing or restoring habitats, natural flood management

and species management. The pilot scheme will begin in 2022 and officially launch in 2024. 3. Landscape Recovery: payment will be provided for large-scale forest and woodland creation, peatland restoration and creation/restoration of coastal habitats. The pilot scheme will begin in 2022 and officially launch in 2024. Farmers will initially only be eligible for ELMS if they receive BPS. However it will eventually be opened up to all farmers and landowners. The scheme will give farmers an opportunity to secure a complementary income stream to their farm business by undertaking sustainable farming actions that benefit the wider environment. It is clear that with the agricultural industry following and hoping to surpass the global ‘net zero’ pledge, the sector will undergo many changes over the next few years in its bid to achieve sustainability and combat climate change. Although these changes are largely unknown, it is clear that a focus on the sustainability agenda will bring with it many avenues for income and capital that farmers and landowners should consider as part of their longer-term business planning.


Partner, Brachers LLP T: 01622 776442 E:

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DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY? As of 28 June 2021, national policy in England prioritises the delivery of First Homes as part of developer contributions as well as on ‘exception sites’. A key strand of the new First Homes policy is ensuring that more new homes are available at a discount to local people who would otherwise struggle to buy a home on the open market. The initiative is a feature of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. Over the past 23 years, the average house price in the UK has increased from £58,854 in August 1996 to £235,298 in November 2019, quadrupling the deposit needed to buy. With new homes priced beyond the means of many people, communities have little incentive to support new housing developments in their areas. Yet by contrast, when the benefits to local first-time buyers are clear, local support for development is high: almost three in four (73%) people in England support the building of more affordable homes in their local area. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government aims to sell at least 10,000 homes at a discount through the First Homes scheme in years to come if there is enough demand.



A First Home is: • discounted in perpetuity by a minimum of 30% against the market value, with councils able to set 40% or 50% in perpetuity discounts where need is evidenced and developers permitted to offer higher in perpetuity discounts • one with a first sale price no higher than £420,000 in Greater London or £250,000 elsewhere in England after the discount has been applied, with councils able to set lower price caps

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• sold with a mortgage or home purchase plan for at least 50% of the discounted purchase value to a person meeting the First Homes eligibility criteria • a primary residence, not used for investment or commercial gain, although it may be let for up to two years.


First Homes are to be “prioritised” for first time buyers (as already defined in legislation for the purpose of stamp duty relief). Councils will be able to prioritise key workers and people with a local connection when deciding who is eligible for the scheme. If no local tests are set, the purchaser must be a first-time buyer borrowing at least 50% of the discounted purchase value. The purchaser (or purchasers) should not have a combined annual household income greater than £80,000 (or £90,000 in Greater London) in the tax year immediately preceding the year of purchase.


The First Homes exception site policy could create new opportunities for land which would not normally be supported for development. First Home exception sites can come forward on unallocated land outside a Local Plan (albeit not in the Green Belt, National Parks, a limited number of designated ‘rural areas’, or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Exception sites have to deliver primarily First Homes - but not exclusively. Schemes on these exception sites can include a proportion of market homes. The policy says that “First Homes exception sites can deliver a small proportion of market housing, provided that it can be demonstrated that this is necessary in order to ensure the overall viability of the site”. Exception sites also should be adjacent to existing settlements and proportionate in size to them and need to comply with any local design policies and standards. Local planning authorities are told to support the development of these exception sites unless the need for such homes is already being met within the local authority’s area. As a specialist land promoter, Catesby Estates has studied the First Homes policy in detail and can advise landowners on situations where it could be used as part of a promotion strategy.

Charlotte Pearson-Wood: 01892 509280 Harry Broadbent-Combe: 01798 877555

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A rare opportunity to rent a sizable block of bare land, on the edge of Redhill, has been brought to the market by Savills. Dean Farm, located just north of the town, extends to approximately 317 acres of Grade 3 land and comprises 253 acres arable, 17 acres of pasture and 47 acres of interspersed woodland. Available as a single lot on a five year farm business tenancy, with effect from 15 September 2021, the land is currently cropped with oilseed rape, having previously been wheat. Situated either side of the A23, the land benefits from convenient access and is currently not subject to any environmental stewardship schemes. Jack Curnow, in the rural management team at Savills in Sevenoaks, comments: “With a versatile plot made up of arable, pasture and woodland, this land represents an incredibly exciting and rare opportunity for a local farmer because it has not been brought to the open market for many years. The Landlord is willing to consider applications for either the Countryside Stewardship Scheme or Environmental Land Management schemes as part of the tender process and a longer tenancy may be granted if this is the case.” Jack adds: “With a relative shortage of supply in the UK farmland market, there is a strong market for good quality, commercial blocks of land near to existing bases or for those that present standalone opportunities”.


Viewings for Dean Farm are strictly by appointment through Savills. For further information, contact Jack Curnow at Savills on 01732 879058 or email

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The Government is offering grants to land managers, including farmers, to help them fight pests and diseases that can damage trees, woods and forests. Those with responsibility for trees and woodlands in England are being encouraged to sign up to the pilot of the Tree Health Scheme which starts in August and will include funding for biosecure felling and treating diseased or infested trees. The scheme will also support the restocking and maintenance of newly re-planted trees following a pest or disease outbreak and recognises the fact that plants and trees are vital national assets that deliver £10.5 billion per year in social, environmental and economic benefits. The pilot will last for three years, with the

new scheme due to be fully rolled out in 2024 after detailed testing and revisions. Details of the pilot will be published in the summer ahead of applications opening at the end of August 2021. The pilot follows the Government’s commitment, set out in the Agricultural Transition Plan, to reduce the impact of tree pests and disease. It will work alongside plans for a renewed agricultural sector aimed at transforming the way farmers and land managers are encouraged to develop sustainable farming practices alongside profitable food production. The Tree Health Scheme will expand on the current support available via the Countryside Stewardship Woodland Tree Health grants, which will remain in place until 2024. Professor Nicola Spence, the UK’s Chief Plant

Health Officer, said: “Trees provide huge benefits to our economy, society and the environment – from protecting vulnerable wildlife and acting as carbon storage to enabling a sustainable timber industry. “That’s why it is crucial that collectively we look after our woodland and forests. I hope all those who are eligible will apply to the pilot this summer. They will play a critical role in supporting the design of future policies for the benefit of both our environment and valuable industries.” The pilot will be looking to trial new elements of the future scheme through 100 agreements with woodland owners and land managers in London, the South East, the North West and the West Midlands. Applicants will need to have an eligible tree pest or disease confirmed on their land by the Forestry Commission, which will run the scheme.

Merstham, Surrey A rare opportunity to rent a 317 acre block of land near Redhill, Surrey comprising of 253 acres arable, 17 acres of pasture and 47 acres of interspersed woodland. 5 Year Farm Business Tenancy. Available from 29 September 2021. Price on Application Jack Curnow Savills Sevenoaks 01732 879 050





OF COMPLETIONS June was an extraordinarily busy month for lawyers, particularly in our residential property department, due to the Stamp Duty Land Tax (“SDLT”) deadline which ended on 30 June. It was estimated that 1.3 million people benefitted from the SDLT break, which led to a significant increase in the workload of conveyancers during this time. It has been, for many in conveyancing, the busiest time of their career, with employees having to work around the clock to push transactions through. Despite the incredible pressure felt by the department and the stress all those in or around the property market have been under, we have achieved an astonishing number of completions, enabling clients to make huge savings of SDLT. From July, the new tapered rate of SDLT came into force, with the nil rate band for properties valued up to £250,000. From 1 October the threshold will revert to the nil rate band of £125,000. During the SDLT holiday, the average house price increased by 13% in the year leading up to June 2021 and the lack of housing supply has continued to drive up prices. While it is difficult to predict what will happen in the future for the housing market, it is anticipated that from 1 October 2021 there will be a slowing of the transactions and a dip in property prices, due to a decrease in demand caused The average value of farmland in England and Wales has broken the £7,000/acre barrier for the first time since June 2019, according to the latest Knight Frank Farmland Index. Prices for bare land rose 2% in the second quarter of 2021 to £7,065/acre, helping boost annual growth to 1% – the first positive 12-month movement recorded by the index over the past five years. Strong demand and historically low levels of supply are helping to support values. Environmentally minded buyers are becoming particularly active at the moment. A number of Hollywood film stars have even been in touch with our Farms & Estates team regarding the potential to buy land for rewilding, while those

TH & Co

by buyers not benefitting in the way they did during the SDLT holiday. October also marks the end of the furlough scheme, which may also contribute to the slowing of the market and cause a drop in house prices, although this should hopefully be cushioned by the scarcity of houses on the market following the busy year we have had. While the residential property department feels less pressured following the end of the SDLT holiday it has by no means slowed down for conveyancers and the property market is currently as buoyant as ever.


Director (Legal Executive) Rural & Commercial Property Specialist T: 01227 643271 E:

£7,000/ACRE BARRIER BROKEN interested in regenerative agriculture are also active. The potential to earn carbon credits from farmland, not to mention attractive returns from renewable energy schemes like solar PV, is also peaking the interest of institutional buyers. However, with no significant carbon trading schemes in place yet in the UK, this market remains embryonic. In addition, tax-driven buyers looking to rollover their capital gains from land sales for development or compulsory purchase remain keen market players at the moment.

Strong arable and livestock commodity prices have also helped to offset some of the uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit, although the longer-term implications of replacing the area-based Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) with the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMS) are still to play out. Much will depend on how quickly farm businesses can adapt to losing their BPS cash by becoming more efficient or substituting it with ELMS or other environmental payments.





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Alan Johnson, curriculum manager at Plumpton College, reports on this month’s student activities.



Our third-year students’ trip to Scotland was a great success this June. Students agreed it was an amazing experience where they had the opportunity to see a wide range of diverse agricultural practices and observe and be part of the local culture and activities during their stay. During the trip they visited Anthony Kinch’s arable farm and Craigies soft fruit pick your own and enjoyed a particularly inspirational visit to Jim Shanks’ mixed farm, where he milks 170 Holsteins. The slurry goes into the farm’s bio digester and the heat generated dries wood pulp. This in turn is burnt to heat four acres of glasshouses containing tomatoes. The trip was rounded off with a visit to Robert Neill at Upper Nesbit Farm, 2017 Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year. Each farmer spoke with passion about the need for the students to follow their own instincts, push the boundaries and not be afraid to make mistakes, but above all love what they did. In fact, the students felt it was difficult to put into words all the things they had learned. The feedback from the students confirmed that all the effort put in by staff to arrange the trip was well worth it, and that it had opened their eyes to alternative, large scale farming. They came away with new ideas to enhance their farming practice in their home counties, too. They also enjoyed learning about the culture and history of Scotland, the Scottish Borders and the issues facing Scottish farmers, which

gave a very authentic insight into the Scottish way of life. Meanwhile, at college, the students are enjoying the success of completing their first year after working hard on their academic studies. Now comes the opportunity to start their middle year, particularly as the weather has started to improve again at last and second cut silage/hay making and associated tasks are due to start again.


I have now finished my first year at Plumpton College, but before I left to start my middle year work placement I had the opportunity to complete my telehandler ticket which I really enjoyed. It has made me more confident going into the workplace. My middle year placement is on a mixed livestock farm which has 4,000 breeding ewes and 400 head of cattle located in area around Rye. It has been a busy start to working life, consisting of independently looking after a large flock of sheep each day to ensure they are fit and healthy and taking appropriate action if not. I am also responsible for ensuring they are growing on well to meet the demands of consumers. In addition I am responsible for feeding cattle, and the telehandler ticket from college has proved invaluable in allowing me to do this. We have been busy worming lambs and shearing both ewes and lambs when the unpredictable rainy weather has

allowed. I’m looking forward to continually putting the theory from college into practice as I go through my next academic year.


I have now finished my first year at Plumpton College. Even though Covid-19 meant that I could not physically be on campus for a lot of the year I have really enjoyed it and the tutors have been amazing. I have learned so much and I am looking forward to my next two years with the college. Now that I have finished my first year, I have begun my middle year placement. I spent my work experience on a beef farm near where I live in Kent and the great news is that I now have the opportunity to continue working there on a full-time basis as my middle year placement. Currently on the farm, the cattle are out grazing for the summer. This does need careful monitoring with supplementary feeding given as necessary to maintain good growth/production rates. In September the majority of the autumn calvers will be coming back into the shed to calve. This is essential as it is much easier to check that calving progresses well and calves receive colostrum. Our autumn calvers are all heifers, so additional supervision is required, and our main herd is due to calve at the start of January. I am looking forward to spending this year working and improving my practical skills.

Visit the website for further information on how to sign up:




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 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

All aspects of steel work, cladding & groundwork. Family run business with 45 years experience.

100% British designed & built

Over 35 Year’s experience

Site visits Call to arrange a site survey


All refurbishments & repairs undertaken. Call for a free quote today.

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


We are specialists in: ]ub1†Ѵ|†u-Ѵķ;t†;v|ub-m-m7 Ѵb]_|bm7†v|ub-Ѵ0†bѴ7bm]vĺ mŊ_o†v;=-0ub1-ঞom-m7 rѴ-mmbm]v;uˆb1;vĺ

Call us today: 01323 848684 Or send an email:


S3111 SS SE Farmers ad 93x60mm.indd 1

17/12/2020 15:27


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

Asbestos roof sheeting removals Asbestos encapsulation Asbestos fire damage, clearance & re-instatement works Asbestos clearance & de-contamination Asbestos disposals by licenced registered company New metal roofs installed over old asbestos roofs Roof light & sheet repairs Gutter repairs Gutter replacements & re-lining Strip & refurbishment works Change of use projects Demolition & Groundworks


Professional Services to the Agricultural, Industrial & Equestrian Sectors


FREEPHONE: 01233 659129

from BT land-line

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

01323 890403

• Structural Steel • Drawing Services • Design Services • Mezzanine Floors • Custom Steelwork



Fully insured and licensed. 23 years family run business. Covering all KENT & SUSSEX New metal roofs installed over old asbestos roofs with insulation & low u-values ! Asbestos roof removals New roof replacements

CONSTRUCTION Penfold Profiles

Asbestos removal Sheeting Guttering

Asbestos disposals


Roof light & sheet repairs Gutter repairs Gutter replacements & re-lining Strip & refurbishment works Change of use projects Demolition & Groundworks






Specialists in agricultural and industrial buildings ASBESTOS Survey Removal Disposal

GUTTERS Aluminium liners PVC liners Accessories

SHEETING Complete buildings New roof system for conversions Repairs – Rooflights

Over-Cladding & Metal Insulated Roofs & Walls


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

 07864 823 476  07889 481618

Penfold Profiles. Lees Paddock, High Halden, Ashford, Kent

Competitive Direct Drilling Service Using our proven Simtech Aitchison direct drill we seed • When ‘stitching in’ or rejuvenating grassland, Nitrogen application is not recommended as this can encourage into all surfaces - grasses, clovers, brassicas, cereals, pulses, existing vegetation to compete with the germination process. maize and all mixtures. The unique T-slot boot allows a If drilling into a recently desiccated seed bed, Nitrogen perfect environment for the seeds to germinate, along application can be bene�icial. its 3m sowing width with 20 rows (15cm). This method saves time and money compared with more traditional • Rolling post-drilling should always be considered, but not re-seeding methods, but is also capable of stitching and always done. Our drill, with its inverted T-slot leaving the rejuvenating existing crops. seed on a �irm base surrounded by tilth, is creating an ideal (mini-greenhouse) environment for germination. It would be • Our Drill likes a �irm tight seed bed. For example, when a mistake to close the slot too much or too soon, so timing and stitching into an existing crop, post cropping or grazing is choice of roller needs careful consideration – many jobs do ideal, so reducing competition. not require rolling. • When desiccating, for best results, we need to drill ‘at the green stage’ in other words, just prior or post spraying. If drilling is carried out when existing vegetation is dead, this can affect germination due to decomposing organic matter and toxins. Also, blockage of the tines can occur.

• If drilling into a weedy seed bed, topping is normally not recommended as drilling with our front press and pre-cutting disc, will directionally �latten any vegetation for the following drill. Topping can leave a loose matted mass which can cause blockage.

Town Place Farm, Haywards Heath Tel: 01825 790341 Mob: 07970 621832 Email:







Drainage Contractors Working with farmers since 1947




Tel: 01732 460912 Mobile: 07976 287836 Email:




LAND DRAINAGE (01622) 890884

 Contact FIELD MAPPING Maurice today  DRAINAGE SURVEYING  07468 429409  DESIGN   DRAINAGE



 

O’Reilly Oakstown Ltd Port, O’REILLY FROMAtlantic £220Way, PERBarry ACRE Barry, Wales, CF63 3RA, UK concrete




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


   








TOM: 01795 880441 or 07943 192383





   


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








CROP PROTECTION SERVICES FOR PIGEONS, CROWS AND DEER MANAGEMENT. CROP SURVEYS AND ESTATE SURVEYS CONDUCTED BY DRONES. All our drone pilots are fully trained in 3D modelling and mapping. Livestock checks also undertaken. Further information can be obtained from Head Office Monday to Friday (9am-5pm) on 01869 277534


Redhill Farm Services: Fencing Division


Supplied and erected & Repairs Tel: 01737 821220 Mob: 07768 931891 Email:

HAULIERS 07860 728204 Hay & Straw Merchant | Machinery Haulage

LAND DRAINAGE, EARTHWORKS, GROUNDWORKS & CONSTRUCTION FULL LAND DRAINAGE SERVICE sportsfields, amenity and irrigation systems using Mastenbroek trenchers PONDS, LAKES & RESERVOIRS construction and maintenance


GROUNDWORKS & CONSTRUCTION primary excavations, aggregate sub-base, agricultural construction and concreting


Find us on Facebook 

ENVIRONMENTAL HABITATS water course maintenance and improvement works

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


IRRIGATION Why dig when we can trench it?

Trencher with operator for installing: • Irrigation and water pipes

BIG PROJECT? ON SITE? NEED A TOILET? Call QiK Group today for a competitive price P U O R G

01233 713555

or check out


• Utility cables and ducting • Repairs to water pipes • Impact moling

Enquiries Est 1993

01580 891728 or 07768 626131


Manufacturers of Chestnut Fencing Products

Horizontal Cylindrical Tanks From 54,500 litres to 27,250 litres (12,000 - 6,000 gallon)

Hardwood gates

Single and twin compartments, with cradles

Cleft post and rail

Bunded Tanks From 27,000 litres to 10,000 litres (6,000 - 2,000 gallon)

Stakes and posts

With cabinet, guage and alarm

Chestnut fencing

CWP fenci f n ng


Tel: 07985298221


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

Tel 01638 712328



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










1 5 8 9 11 12 14

9 10



16 18 21 24 26

13 14





27 28


19 20








Crossword by Rebecca Farmer, Broadstairs, Kent

PRIZE ANAGRAM: Cattle disease (13)

To enter, simply unscramble the anagram (13) using the green squares.

Portable cot (9) Insect pest (5) To go somewhere with another (9) Boasts (5) Lump of earth (4) Tidal mouth of river (7) Heavy cropping berry plants producing bunches of pale berries (13) Sturdy (6) 14 line poem (6) Flax (7) Diving duck (4) Introduction of harmful or poisonous substance (9) Spread throughout (8) Whirlpool (4)

1 2 3 4 6 7 10 13 14 15 17 18 19 20

Type of roof (6) Move with a curving trajectory (3) Character on Sesame Street (4) Quintessential (7) Type of coat of a Retriever (5) Eg: Peas, lentils, lupins (7) Catherine ----, wife of Henry VIII (4) Shock (4) Semi aquatic rodent (5,4) Skin condition (4) Bird (3) Glossy lustre (5) Tree (3) Characterised by twisting or spiralling pattern (6) 22 Occupied (2,3) 23 Item of men’s clothing (5) 24 Land along the edge of the sea (5) LAST MONTH’S ANSWERS:

PRIZE ANAGRAM: Left behind after harvest (5)

Email your replies with your name, address and phone number to Correct entries will be entered into a draw which will take place on 10 August. The winner will be announced in the September 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






A 10
















T 11





R 15



















































A 20



L 14










S 25




O 24




N 12















N 22



















Correct answer: Pasture topper LAST MONTH’S WINNER: Dominic Uhart from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire



For viticulturists in Great Britain In association with

g n i l l fi e c a p s r o t i b i Exh ! W O N K O O B . t s a f up

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 August 2021  

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