News from the Field May 2018
They say a good farmer must be able to turn their hand to anything – plumbing, mechanics, horticulture, meteorology, technology and business, to name but a few!
This month has tested the ‘plumbing’ aspect more than I’d like, but hopefully by the time you read this the worst of the wet weather will be behind us - it genuinely has been the worst spring I can remember. The last lot of rain caused the River Calder to top its banks and flow over into the lowlands, but I am pleased to report that the Environment Agency (EA) has been more responsive to these issues than in previous years. EA staff met with us onsite to survey the extent of the flood risk and have provided us with three pumps to alleviate flood water which we hope will keep the water at bay. Flood management is certainly being given a lot of profile in the national press, so hopefully this more proactive approach will continue.
The annual farming cycle continues despite the weather: It’s been a trying time for the vegetable grower who uses our fields, but the spring cabbage should soon be harvested successfully. A broccoli crop will soon be grown in its place, as well as in the stubble fields, and so the rotation continues. The lambs are growing well and will be back in the deer park soon as the ground dries up, as well as grazing around the Christmas trees.
Last month, for the first time ever, we received a spot audit from Red Tractor, rather than a scheduled one. Red Tractor is the main independent UK assurance scheme that ensures food is produced to a national standard and I urge you to always look for the logo when you are shopping and include this in your purchasing decisions. The auditor went through all our records and I’m pleased to say we passed. Of course no-one likes an audit, but I think unannounced audits are probably the only way to really ensure standards are met; and with Brexit looming it’s key that our domestic standards are robust to give consumers confidence in British produce.
I’ve also been busy in the office, using the year-end figures to evaluate our performance and set budgets for the forthcoming year. The Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board provides tools to benchmark your farm’s performance against others and establish if there are any areas where you could improve upon. With margins becoming ever tighter in farming, tools like these are really useful and an exercise like this is well worth spending a wet afternoon on.
So yes, it’s true, farmers can turn their hands to many things – however with spring finally here, I think most will be at their happiest driving a tractor, or seeing to their stock, in a nice, dry field!