Reflecting on the Monitor Farm programme in the south

11 August 2015

It is now just over two years since I became part of AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds inaugural regional team. What a long way things have come in a short time, not least of all a re-branding to ‘AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds’!

The concept of a regional team, which would have business management as an underlying focus, had been a planned strategy for some time. How timely it has proved to be, with the industry going through a period of lower commodity prices pressuring margins.

It has been truly refreshing to attend Monitor Farm meeting after meeting where open dialogue, debate and discussion have enabled farmers to share best practice, challenge each other and glean knowledge to move their own businesses forward.  This has been most marked and beneficial where the sharing has been underpinned by actual farm figures in the Business Group benchmarking meetings.

With a footfall in the thousands this (second) year and a survey response telling us that 93% of attendees said it was a good use of their time, the Monitor Farm programme has been a great success so far. We have four in our South Region, and I’m proud to be involved in delivering the project.

Wantage _openday 15_osr

Farmers discuss OSR at the Wantage Monitor Farm open day 2015

We have a great base to build on. Not just for AHDB as a whole to become the ‘go to’ organisation for knowledge, but within the Cereals & Oilseeds division to have more Monitor Farms, to do more financial benchmarking, and  to help our sector be both environmentally and financially viable and competitive in a UK and a world market.

While there will necessarily be continued great emphasis on agronomic practice and cost management, marketing will remain a key margin-breaking or -making decision process. Factors to consider in marketing will remain a complex matrix. It will never be a precise art, but there are some key areas to remember and keep an eye on:

  1. Knowing your costs of production, and your budgeted ones for harvest ahead
  2. Remembering that there is a three year window to market any one harvest
  3. Considering world stocks: using ratios as an indicator of how fragile the markets may be
  4. Monitoring the futures markets

There’s plenty to think about, and no better environment than within a Monitor Farm or Arable Business Group. Do contact me if you would like more information.



Taunton-based Philip joined AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds from HSBC Agriculture, where he was Senior Agriculture Manager in the South West region. Having studied agriculture at university, Philip spent seven years as a Senior Business Management Consultant with ADAS before developing his career with HSBC. He brings substantial business management experience to the Regional Team, and a detailed understanding of the complexities of the industry in the region.