Farmer Focus: Coping with one of the wettest winters

This winter seems to be turning into the wettest for some time. Everywhere is sodden after frequent heavy periods of rain and the ground is not getting a chance to dry out.

This is depressing, so I decided a break was required. A short trip to the French Alps with some friends seemed to be the answer – only to find there was rain there too and so we lost a full day. However, the other two made up for it.

See also: Video: Cultivating potato tramlines cuts water and soil losses

This may seem a bit rash after the year we have just had, but if the year comes that I can’t afford to get away from the long hours, the commitment and the investment that is tied up in the farm, that is the year I will put a for sale sign at the end of the drive.

Arable conference

The previous week we had our annual arable conference here in Northern Ireland. It has attracted in excess of 200 people, mostly farmers, for the past four years.

Yet again, we managed to attract an excellent line-up of speakers from both Ireland and GB. There were plenty of subjects, starting with how Brexit could potentially affect our industry, how to react to that, how to become better farmers and, if some were to choose, how to get out of farming.

By the time it got to my small contribution, it was clear that, technically, I was at the shallow end of the “knowledge pool” and was regretting not attending more lectures while at the Royal Agricultural University many years ago.

However, I always think it is a disappointing day when you don’t learn something and much that I heard should help me to plan ahead and tackle the challenges yet to come.

Having read Mr Gove’s speech at the Oxford Farming Conference, I suspect there will be plenty of those ahead, but I found I was in broad agreement with most of it.

How it will all be successfully achieved is the real challenge, but I strongly believe that food production and the environment go hand in hand and so need to be treated and funded equally.


Robert Moore farms on the Molenan Estate in Northern Ireland, where his family have farmed for more than 200 years. He switched to arable production in the late 1990s, away from beef and sheep. He still has a small suckler herd on non-suitable arable land.