Neil ThomsonNeil Thomson ©Jim Varney

There has not been a lot of activity on the farm recently, except for the daily chores of feeding and bedding. Holidays are also taken – and well deserved they are, too. I am of the firm opinion that it is healthy that we should work to live rather than live to work.

See also: Read more from our arable Farmer Focus writers

So I am privileged to have this time of year where the pace of life can slow down a gear and we can reflect on the successes and failures of the past 12 months and attempt to plan the next.

So what are the lessons from 2014? On a national scale we see that we shouldn’t base our future wealth on the value of crude oil coming from the North Sea. Just imagine the mess we Scots would have been in had we voted Yes with the value of oil as it is now.

On a more local scale, but a similar economic theme, I – and probably many other farmers – should have recognised that the price of cereals this time last year was a very good one.

Another lesson that has been reinforced again to me is that the weather is still has the overriding influence in our lives. So what can we plan to mitigate the effects of the wrong weather at the wrong time of year?

The answer is easy because, in most cases, it is: Spend! Yes, come on, you know that’s right. Go on, build a reservoir, build a grain dryer, build a cold store, buy a bigger machine to do a job quicker.

Hang on a minute… Are we making any more money? That is the uncomfortable question we have to answer before we make these big decisions, especially when you see the value of the stuff we produce drop like a stone.

Just ask the potato producers how they are feeling just now…

Neil Thomson

Neil Thomson farms 607ha in partnership with his father and brother from Caverton Mill, Kelso, on the Scottish Borders, growing combinable crops and brassicas. Some of the mainly medium loam is let for potatoes, and the farm also has cattle and sheep.