For 15 years Farmers Weekly’s Barometer Farm series has offered readers the chance to peer “over the hedge” at diverse arable farm businesses.

Barometer farmers have been from as far afield as Cornwall and Scotland, Kent and Northern Ireland.

Indeed, recently some units willing to open their gates to show how they tackle farming’s challenges have been prepared to do so for several seasons.

So, as the series continues into 2006, besides welcoming four new names to be profiled in detail over the coming weeks, we have retained four from 2005.

The Newcomers

South

Nigel Horne

Catmore Farm, West Ilsley, Newbury, Berks

Grows 486ha (1200 acres) of combinable crops on mainly clay loam over chalk.

As farm manager Mr Horne’s key aims in the coming season are to ensure more cost-effective use of increasingly expensive fertilisers and pesticides, and to add value by concentrating on contract-grown seed crops and milling wheat.

East

John Barrett

Hill House Farm, Hedenham, Bungay, Suffolk

Sentry Farms manager of 1275ha (3150 acres) for three landowners.

The land, 80% heavy Beccles series clay and the rest light, supports combinable crops and sugar beet.

Adding value and working with more local farmers to drive down fixed costs even further are high on Mr Barrett’s agenda.

He also intends to look more closely at establishment costs in the face of “exhorbitant” fuel prices, and to use more organic fertilisers.

West

Richard Solari

Heath House Farm, Beckbury, Shifnal, Shropshire

Farms 405ha (1000 acres) of irrigable sandy soils growing potatoes, sugar beet and combinable crops.

As owner Mr Solari expects his main focus for 2006 will be on improving production of the potatoes, which are mostly for processing. There is much less scope for raising profitability in other crops, he points out.

North

Andrew Gloag

Busby House Farm, Stokesley, N Yorks

Grows 1093ha (2700 acres) of own combinable crops, and contract drills and harvests a further 526ha (1300 acres), all on heavy clay loam.

Maximising yield of wheat and of oilseed rape, where he sees particular potential, is Mr Gloag’s reaction to current pressures.

But the environment is not being neglected, with 6m ELS margins to protect watercourses already being established.

Familiar faces return

South west

Troy Stuart

Hill Barton Business Park, Clyst St Mary, Devon

Farmer/contractor on 2000ha (5000 acres).

Mr Stuart says his plan for 2006 is to maintain a degree of flexibility in the business to permit expansion or contraction as circumstances dictate.

Scotland

John Hutcheson

Leckerstone House, Dunfermline, Fife

Produces combinable crops on 1012ha (2500 acres).

Mr Hutcheson believes the route to post-CAP reform success involves keeping a particularly close eye on costs and continuing to focus on the needs of his customers.

N Ireland

Clive Weir DARD Focus Farmer.

Cabra House Farm, Hillsborough, Co Down

Cropping 1215ha (3000 acres) including land in Eire.

Selling grain better, hopefully through new buyer arrangements, figures strongly among Mr Weir’s 2006 ambitions.

Midlands

Ben Atkinson

Grange Farm, Rippingale, Lincs

Grows mainly combinable crops on 2540ha (6276 acres).

Mr Atkinson foresees that weaving his recently acquired 162ha (400 acres) successfully into the existing business will need plenty of attention.