21 January 2000

Optimism remains high in land of opportunity

For the third in our series

of articles profiling farmers

weeklys barometer farms

for 2000, Andrew Blake

reports from Worcs, where

the outlook is positive

FARMING in the Pershore area of Worcs, as elsewhere, is undergoing sweeping changes.

That leaves plenty of scope for survival and even further expansion, says Richard Burt, who is optimistic about the future of his arable business.

"I still view the current farming economy as a bit like the Wild West – a land of opportunity," he says.

From his base at Rotherdale Farm, Throckmorton, the 31-year-old farmer runs 1450ha (3580 acres) of mainly heavy clay soils, all within a 10-mile radius. "We own about 40%, the rest is on a range of agreements."

The business, GH Burt, was founded by his great grandfather on Romney Marsh, Kent. But in 1988 Mr Burt exchanged 200ha (500 acres) for a similar area in the west. In a region historically dominated by family farms and large estates, a keep-it-simple strategy has allowed him to take on more land and justify large-scale equipment.

With hindsight he moved at the right time. "We now have a good enough capital base to consider renting more land, looking at more co-operation and joint ventures. We could afford to expand and build a solid base when commodity prices were still respectable, so we are now at a level supplying good economies of scale."

Mistakes have been made, he admits. "We have bought wrong items of machinery at times and introducing spring beans went horribly wrong once.

Mr Burt is a director of Droitwich-based Acorn Arable. "It is one of the West Midlands main independent arable traders. We source as many of our inputs as possible from it. Agronomy comes from Ross-based Technicrop whose Paul Tainty walks our crops."

ROTHERDALEFARM

&#8226 1452ha arable.

&#8226 70% heavy clay soils.

&#8226 Cropping ha

&#8226 Winter wheat 980

&#8226 Winter OSR 120

&#8226 Winter beans 116

&#8226 Spring peas 101

&#8226 Set-aside 105

&#8226 Onions (let) 30

Heavy land demands significant mechanisation to make the most of cereal potential. But rabbit damage is a constant headache on parts of Richard Burts 1450ha Rotherdale Farm.