I have been a farmer in my own right for a quarter of a century.
I know that I look unfeasibly young to make such a claim; I started work at 15 and pretty well managed to avoid higher education.
Twenty-five more years of toil and I will be looking at the age of retirement from the other side.
To commemorate this halfway milestone, I have compiled the little that I have learned over my 25 years of experience into 25 pieces of advice for 25-year-old farmers.
Matthew Naylor farms 162ha of Lincolnshire silt in partnership with his father, Nev. Cropping includes potatoes, vegetables, cut flowers and flowering bulbs. Matthew is a trustee of Leaf and a Nuffield scholar.
- Set a clear and simple business plan and stick to it. Tell it to anyone who will listen – your family, colleagues, customers, competitors and even the postman.
- Kill weeds when they are small – this rule applies to any problem you encounter in life.
- Trust everyone, but learn from it if they let you down.
- Always do what you tell people you are going to do.
- Understand there is a difference between profit and turnover and a big difference between having cash and being wealthy.
- Never criticise your competitors and always be helpful to your neighbours.
- Never complain, it is a worse and more addictive habit than nicotine.
- When you make a mistake, say sorry and mean it. If you have really screwed up, bake a cake and write sorry on the top in chocolate buttons.
- Always pay your bills quickly.
- Low costs come from high yields not large scale. High sales prices come from high quality and service, not branding.
- Never raise your voice or lose your cool. Swearwords are more menacing when delivered calmly and thoughtfully.
- Borrow as much as anyone will lend you to purchase appreciating capital assets. Try to avoid buying anything that goes down in value.
- Employ good people to do the jobs you don’t like and then show them your appreciation.
- Don’t compare yourself to people who are 20 years older than you, they had their own challenges 20 years ago.
- Leave your farm every day, your village every week, your county every month and the UK every year. If you can’t do this, think about the balance in your life.
- Always build sheds 100% bigger than you think you can afford and they might be half big enough to do the job.
- Without husbandry, stockmanship and engineering skills, marketing will lead you nowhere.
- Write everything down, your memory will alter facts to suit its own purposes.
- Don’t smoke, it’s a dirty habit.
- Maintain your machinery well and remember that your own body is the most valuable machine on the fleet. Your brain is the muscle that needs the most exercise.
- Know that any predictions that you make will almost always be wrong.
- Always listen to older people and treat them with respect, they will help you to get on in life.
- Always listen to younger people and treat them with respect, they will teach you to work your mobile phone when you are old.
- Share your knowledge and success with others. There is nothing sadder than a rich, lonely workaholic.
- Play the long game, be kind to people and always smile.