Ready for a new phase in Royston
Dad’s a fifth generation farmer, and he bought Lower Heath Farm in the 1980’s when we were compulsory purchased out of our old holding due to the expansion of Stevenage.
The family bought more land and then my parents built the farmhouse here. Dad originally started contract farming by round baling for customers around Stevenage in the early 1990’s. The contracting began taking off and we were able to employ our first tractor driver in 1999 – Jon Crosse.
After leaving school I got my degree from Harper Adams and began doing the office work for the farm whilst also qualifying and then working as a full time agronomist for a local distributor. Over the last decade Dad and I have expanded the business – at the same time the agronomy grew too. We now farm 2,650 acres across 12 farms, which are a mixture of owned, rented, share farmed, contract farmed and contract managed. I currently walk 12,000 acres as an agronomist, including our own farms.
Some of our farm buildings.
In 2010 we had to raise the funds to buy out family members from 50% of the business, land and machinery: our solicitor at the time said we would not be able to service (and repay) this amount without selling some land but I knew our business and have worked hard to improve every last financial aspect of our business. And four years down the line we’ve repaid over £250,000 and halved our gearing. This takes a huge amount of management and attention to detail.
In 2012 we began commercially storing OSR for a local merchant, we are currently constructing a new 4,500t store to expand this enterprise.
Our newest enterprise that started in September 2013 is an outdoor lambing flock of 200 New Zealand Romney ewes. Part of their remit is to help ‘process’ the green manure crops that I am using to help build our Organic Matter.
Our biggest markets are the local biscuit mills. With the raft of new Group 3 varieties that have become available recently we are trialling quite a few. This year we are growing Croft, Sterling, Panorama, Invicta, Cordiale and Target.
I got a lot out of being a Nuffield scholar a few years ago, and I’m looking forward to our three years as an AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Monitor Farm. Our opening event is on June 24, and it’s open to all growers – just email Tim Isaac if you’ll be coming.