A farmer’s eye is the best fertilizer

“A farmer’s eye is the best fertilizer”

Pliny the Elder (Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher)

I hope this finds you in a decent position following an above average harvest, good drilling season and all are looking forward with hopes of seeing the prices start to pick up.

Hopefully some of you would have seen or heard that I have been successful in joining forces with the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds to set up and lead our area’s Monitor Farm programme. This is a new initiative that has been tried and tested in Scotland and Yorkshire and now is in the second phase of being rolled out over the country. In phase one AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds East launched two more Monitor farms; Tom Bradshaw in Essex and Jo Franklin in Hertfordshire. Phase two will see Russell McKenzie in Cambridgeshire and me in Suffolk being launched.

The programme is to be farmer-led, discussing real day-to-day farming issues, with the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds levy fund giving the financial support, expertise of all their research and speakers to help move the industry forward in what could be a very testing few years with all the changes and challenges facing our businesses.

My aim is to build a group of proactive and ambitious farmers who would like to join in on what I feel is going to be an extremely interesting journey for my three-year term. I have discussed with a few members of the farming community how I should go about setting this up and I have come up with a plan which will give anyone and everyone a chance to be involved.

Events will be hosted here at Lodge Farm, Westhorpe on set dates through the year. Normally we will attempt the first Friday of the month. We will be organising a couple of group meetings over lunch; the morning session from 10:30 till 12:30pm will be a crop husbandry group, followed by lunch, and after lunch from 1pm to 3pm we will have a Business management group.

The crop husbandry group will be looking into real detail at the growing of crops; trying to build yield, reduce inputs and maximise efficiency with in the growing season. We want farmers, employees, agronomists and researchers to discuss the issues faced throughout the year. Opening a discussion on what they have tried, changed and developed so that the attending group can take from it what they want or give themselves a pat on the back because they feel they are doing better than the rest. Topics will vary but we hope to make them as practical as possible to make it very interactive and enjoyable instead of someone just lecturing you on how to suck eggs!

The Business Management Group will be after lunch so if you didn’t join us for the morning meeting you can pop in for lunch and join the second session. This will be looking in much more detail at the management of your farm business. Drilling down in to the detail on how to find that extra margin of profit, reduce the risk your business carries and once the group is confident and willing we may look at doing some anonymous business bench-marking to see how we really perform against each other. This will be aimed more at the owners and managers, using the AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds again to advise us on marketing strategies, budgeting, benchmarking and alike with other speakers filling the gaps.

I hope this format sounds appealing and you think that you, your business and hopefully your employees will gain something from what we hope we can get out of the programme. We will also try and use the group as an opportunity to do trips to trial days, events and hopefully other farms to make it as diverse as possible.

If you would like to join us to hear more about the idea and events we are hosting a launch meeting on the 14November at Lodge Farm, Westhorpe. At this event I will put my business on the table and share my full farming approach. I will give you an honest presentation about what we do and what we have tried and why we have done it but in return we will be asking a few questions that will give direction in where we lead the group in follow up meetings. We will be using an interactive computer programme to allow all the attending to answer the questions totally anonymously. Everyone will have a wireless hand set with four buttons and all the answers will be multiple choice. A press of the button for each answer will be tallied by the computer and the results will be instantly shown on the screen, this will mean that everyone attending will get a feel already of how others in the group approach the same day to day aim of producing high quality crops.

I really hope that you feel this is something that you would like to get involved with. I hope that I have interested you enough with this explanation and you can join us on the launch day to start the ball rolling in the right direction.

Please email Tim Issac to register your attendance at the launch so that we have enough food, and provisions to accommodate everyone.

Contact Tim Isaac to attend
Email: tim.isaac@ahdb.org.uk
Phone: 07964 975078

Hopefully see you on the 14 November, if not before.

(The launch meeting is taking place during Agri-Tech week: http://www.agritech-east.co.uk, from 8 – 16 November 2014)



Brian and his cousin Patrick run E.J. Barker & Sons, a family farm partnership and contracting business in Suffolk dating back to 1957. The 667ha arable farm business is farmed on 12 - and nine-year rotations, incorporating winter wheat for feed, spring barley, herbage grass seed, oilseed rape and a break crop of beans, linseed or peas. Environmental consideration is crucial to the running of the business, and remains a key factor in all decision-making on farm.