Opinion: Small can be beautiful when it comes to farms

Once upon a time, seduced by the natty tweed and lurid corduroy trousers, I enrolled in a BSc in Land Management at a hallowed agricultural establishment.

Once per week, in a single yr or one other, we had farm enterprise administration lectures given by a chap with a beard whose title sadly escapes me.

Bearing in thoughts that this was the Nineteen Nineties, when farmers had been kings of the subsidy cheque and Range Rovers proliferated all through the arable shires, the beardy chap was surprisingly glum in regards to the prospects for agriculture.

See additionally: Have braveness to name out unsafe farming practices, says Sam Walker

About the writer

Sam Walker

Farmers Weekly opinion author

Sam is a first-generation tenant farmer working a 120ha (300-acre) natural arable and beef farm on the Jurassic Coast of East Devon. He has a BSc from Harper Adams and former jobs have included farm administration in Gloucestershire and Cambridgeshire and abroad improvement work in Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe. He is a trustee of FWAG South West and his landlords, Clinton Devon Estate, ran an ELM trial through which he was carefully concerned, together with fellow tenants.

“Economies of scale” he would shout each time he glimpsed a possibility. “Economies of scale.  Only the fittest survive, so that you’ve bought to get huge, lean, environment friendly, and unfold the mounted prices – or get out.”

Just the opposite day, a pal was telling me about a big combined beef and arable farm of greater than 1,200ha, being run with a mere three employees.

The setup was designed in order that all of them labored alone – even the stockman. Maybe it’s simply me, however I discover that reasonably miserable (though my erstwhile lecturer would little doubt be holding it up as a shining instance of his doctrine).

Fast ahead what seems like a few weeks, however I now realise has been 1 / 4 of a century, and I discover myself on the helm of one in all his despised small farms. And, in spite of everything that point, I realise he was unsuitable.

My mounted prices are low cost. We do virtually all of the work ourselves, and I idiot no-one by saying I’ve a “shabby stylish” equipment coverage, however I’m satisfied it works.

Furthermore, having your individual smaller equipment leads to alternatives for the spatially challenged arable farmer to diversify, since you’re not going to win on scale versus the prairie-dwelling commodity producers.

Organic is a method. I don’t care in regards to the hair shirts and I don’t look good in sandals, however I do know that it takes numerous variable prices out of the cashflow and I’d reasonably harvest, dry and retailer half the amount of high-value crops than an enormous heap of low cost feed wheat.

This area of interest manufacturing leads to additional alternatives. In the previous few years we have now been approached by contract processors of quinoa, hemp, lentils, grain lupins and even catnip – they’re searching for the smaller grower, with their very own equipment and with the eye to element required to minimize and situation their specialist crops.

Their stipulations can be fairly demanding, and so they most likely wouldn’t be impressed if their crop was inspected solely by a drone earlier than being smashed by means of a monster mix by a contractor in a rush. But if you happen to do what they need, it can be fairly rewarding.

I haven’t mentioned “sure” to too lots of them, and I nonetheless depend on cereals and cattle to pay the lease. But a little bit of crop diversification provides curiosity and spreads timings, in addition to being fairly profitable when it works out.

The increased costs paid for minority crops don’t make them a gold mine, however the contracts have a tendency to mirror the grower’s time and threat. It can make farming extra enjoyable and also you can be taught an enormous quantity.

As Einstein mentioned: “The solely factor that interferes with my studying is my schooling.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.