Allan Chambers meets the new minister

The conference season kicked off recently with a DARD/UFU arable day at Greenmount College.

The day began with an opportunity to meet our new minister for agriculture, Michelle O’Neill. This opportunity arose due to lobbying by the Ulster Arable Society and enabled us to present her with a well-thought-through R&D project to be carried out in our sector. This will be hopefully carried out as a joint venture with other organisations yet to be publicly named. I was extremely impressed with the minister’s grasp on the subject and we are confident of a positive outcome.

At the conference itself, top-class presentations were given by all the speakers, with plenty of food for thought. A paper on share farming was of particular interest to me, as brother David and I are making major changes to our farm business system. For a generation we have been running a farming company by renting our individually owned land to our equally owned limited business. This has worked extremely well, but with progressing age comes the potential for unforeseen circumstances to arise. Our farms are also 14 miles apart and we are both tired of travelling on a daily basis. Fortunately, we have been able to plan this shift of direction fairly easily. David is doing a joint venture with two close neighbouring farmers while I have made a share farming agreement. Both of us are looking forward to the new challenges that will come with the change and as our future partners have well-equipped farms, we will be having a farm sale of machinery on the last Saturday of February. All are welcome. Bring your cheque book!

On farm, apart from preparing for the sale, we have successfully made our first malt. The process worked well and samples are being sent for analysis, as brewers and distillers buy on a potential yield of alcohol basis.

Mistake of the month: Allowed the local TV company to film everyday working situations on our farm during 2012. I didn’t realise how much “stick” I would get from my neighbours and friends.

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