First organic host among AHDB’s eight new monitor farms

The first organic AHDB Monitor Farm is among the new batch of eight outfits helping growers tackle challenges such as productivity over the next three years.

Tim May (pictured), who runs 1,000ha of organic cropping including milling wheat and oats, malting barley and feed beans, hopes to share what he has learned from his business with other farmers.

He also plans to try new approaches in the three-year stint to continue reducing costs while increasing yields.

His organic conversion started in 2017 and has been built on the back of a regenerative approach to farming.

See also: North Yorks grower warms to feed winter wheat Beowulf

Tim’s focus has been on minimising cultivations and improving soil structure, employing technology to highlight areas where site-specific management is required.

Other Monitor farms

The other seven farms stretch from Camborne in north Cornwall to Yarm, in North Yorkshire. Here is a round-up of their aims for the three-year stint along with their cropping details:

Camborne Monitor Farm

Pete Olds grows winter wheat and barley, cabbage, cauliflowers, potatoes and maize on 140ha of medium sandy loam in north Cornwall.

Some of the grain is milled on farm, to produce feed for his 14,000 laying hens.

His aim is to focus on the arable side of his business, bring up average yields and improve areas of his technical knowledge in the process.

Pilton Monitor Farm

Steanbow Farms in Somerset is a 615ha family-run farm, on heavy clay.

Neil and Michael Christensen grow winter wheat, maize and lucerne, which acts as a three-to-four-year break crop and feed for their 650 dairy cows. They also have 485,000 broiler chickens.

The family hopes to bring industry expertise on to the farm, to discuss innovative ideas and share their learnings with like-minded farmers.

Kent Monitor Farm

Tom and Debbie Reynolds manage 332ha across two farms, near Hythe.

The area contains chalk downland, pasture for life cattle and 158ha of arable. They also have a contracting business and commercial lets.

The couple’s aim is to make the business more climate resilient over the next three years.

Leverton Monitor Farm

Located in Spilsby near Skegness and run by Joe Vickers, it consists of 1,500ha, across four farms.

Two thirds of the land is used for combinable crops, which are grown for milling, malting and feed. Potatoes and sugar beet also form part of the rotation.

His aims are to maintain productivity and staff performance and perhaps look to diversify to mitigate the weather-associated risks of farming.

Hereford Monitor Farm

Garnstone Farm in Ledgemoor, run by Chris Greenaway, has 1,400ha, of which 880ha is arable.

Wheat, spring linseed, herbage seed and tenderstem broccoli are grown on the medium silty clay loam over clay.

Maize and whole crop oats are grown for a nearby anaerobic digester plant and grass leys provide grazing for the estate’s Aberdeen Angus suckler and rearing herd, which was established six years ago.

His aims are to see every crop perform financially, making the best use of stewardship payments and grants to achieve this.

Altcar Moss Monitor Farm

Simon, Lisa and Cameron Edwards farm 372ha of rented land on peat and sandy clay loam soils, just north of Liverpool.

Presently growing wheat, barley, oats, beans and oilseed rape, they are looking for alternative crops suited to their peatland.

Their aims are to share information, navigate farm succession and encourage the next generation to look for opportunities in the face of these challenges.

North Yorkshire Monitor Farm

Crathorne Farms, in Yarm, between Darlington and Middlesbrough, is a mixed arable and dairy farm.

Joe Dugdale grows winter wheat, oilseed rape, winter beans, oats and ahiflower, on 650ha of the 1,000ha farm.

His aims are to reduce reliance on artificial inputs through crop health, a good rotation and targeting inputs.

Joe also hopes to further reduce cultivations without compromising output, by building soil organic matter and extending the rotation with diverse plant species.

Monitor Farm meetings

Four of the new Monitor Farms walks are taking place in July.

  • 4 July 2024 – Altcar Moss Monitor Farm – Lydiate, Merseyside
  • 4 July 2024 – Camborne Monitor Farm – Camborne, Cornwall 
  • 4 July 2024 – Hereford Monitor Farm – Ledgemoor, near Woebly, Herefordshire
  • 9 July 2024 – Kent Monitor Farm – Hythe, Kent

For more details, visit the AHDB Monitor Farm website.


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