Demperston launched as a Monitor Farm

The big news at Demperston is that we’ve now ‘launched’ as a Monitor Farm!

In the days building up to the launch the nerves certainly started to set in: public speaking isn’t something I am used to and I was also concerned no one would turn up to listen. It turned out we had an attendance of more than 60, which was great. We even had some decent weather, which certainly helped make the farm tour more enjoyable. There were some familiar faces from the Fife farming community, but also several I hadn’t met before, which bodes well for the future of the project. From our point of view this project is as much about the benefits that can be delivered to the wider cereal growing community in Scotland as much as it is about improving the way we do things at Demperston.

Following a successful morning, we moved to nearby Auchtermuchty for lunch, and it was great to see that almost everyone joined us to take part in the afternoon discussion groups. The groups were asked to look at the strengths and weaknesses of our business and I was secretly hoping the strengths might outweigh the weaknesses. The feedback was very constructive – no-one held back, despite the presence of Alison and myself and it gave us a flavour of what is to come over the next three years. Again, a good number of those present asked to be involved in the community group and management group linked to our Monitor Farm, which are being set up by AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Scotland manager Gavin Dick.

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The discussions highlighted issues that we’ll be tackling together over the coming months. The initial AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds review confirmed that we are already an efficient, profitable enterprise, but we are well aware that certain areas need attention and there are always areas we can improve. These include rotation, the use of different grades of land, managing a business across two sites 12 miles apart, and how best to integrate our cereals, beef and lamb enterprises.

Another important subject for us, and many in the locality, is how we work with potato-growing tenants to everyone’s long-term benefit. It’s very useful that John Weir, who has rented land for potatoes from us in the past, has joined the Monitor Farm project as a partner. I believe this project will help forge a better understanding of what’s needed to make this work for both sides.

At the same time we need to find time to develop the property letting aspect of the farm, while maintaining a healthy work – life balance: easier said than done with two young children!

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All told, a truly rewarding day, and thanks again to Gavin and Claire Hodge fromPotato Council. I must admit it took a while for Alison to persuade me to apply to be a Monitor Farm, but now that we are one it’s really exciting. Roll on 2014!

DannyandAlisonMilne

DannyandAlisonMilne

A fourth generation farmer, Danny Milne runs a mixed livestock enterprise at Auchtermuchty in Fife with his wife Alison and his parents. As well as 70 suckler cows and some sheep, the business grows 550 acres of cereals including spring barley, winter wheat, oilseed rape, field beans and oats. For the Monitor Farm project, a partnership between AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds and Potato Council, the Milnes are joined by neighbour John Weir, who farms 150 acres of potatoes at Lacesston Farm. John is keen to work out how to get the best collaboration between landlord and tenant.

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