18 February 2000

Farmer constructs a new enterprise

MANAGING a civil engineering business puts farm fixed costs in to sharp focus for one Lincs grower.

"It makes me look seriously at what we do on the farm," says Robert Pask, of Pask Farms, Grantham.

He and a business partner run Heydour Contract Services, an amenity construction firm specialising in building sports fields. Capital employed is under £20,000 for a turnover of £3m.

"All we have are a few lap-top computers and a levelling laser," he says. All plant and equipment is hired in with drivers on site.

Initially set-up for a one-off job at a local school, the business has been going for five years and now employs an engineer, a tenders and estimates man, and a secretary.

"After we had done the schools playing fields, they asked us to tender to do some footpaths and changing rooms, and it has snow-balled from there. We do more business in a month than the farm does in a year."

About half Mr Pasks time is dedicated to the construction business, which means reliable farm staff are essential. While many growers are grappling with how to shed staff, he has just stepped back up to two full-time staff on the 370ha (900 acre) farm.

"We tried working with just one man last summer, but reliable seasonal staff proved a problem," he says.

Paying better than normal agricultural wages is important to recruit good staff, he stresses. The new man was a mechanic at the local Massey dealers, which is particularly handy for the farms Massey 40RS combine and 8130 tractor, he adds. &#42

Farm staff like Paul Featherstone (left) have to be able to think for themselves, says Lincs grower Robert Pask (right).