Farmer Focus: Good relations with neighbours helps the farm

It might be wet underfoot as I walk our crops at the moment, but I swear things have started to grow – just a little.

As I look down the rows of our strip-drilled wheat, there is definitely less of a gap than there was before Christmas.

Field walking is often broken up nicely with chats to local dog walkers. We maintain miles of footpaths and are pleased to see our neighbours using them.

See also: How to hit the right protein content for your milling wheat

They seem to enjoy hearing the tale of the crops. Breadmaking wheat for the local mill, beans (hopefully for human consumption), millet for bird seed and barley for malt in Budweiser beer.

Improving local knowledge

I try to see how technical I can get before they glaze over. It is a fascinating study of human nature. I can report that they are not really interested in our organic matter try-out.

As part of our Monitor Farm project we are applying turkey muck, biosolids from utility company Thames Water and green waste from the local council.

We are going to do this over the course of the next three years to see how we can change the organic matter percentage and the biology and structure of the soil – if at all. We have put an area of the field down to grass too, as a comparison.

We will probably get somebody else’s sheep to graze this grass. The last time we grazed sheep (behind inadequate electric fencing) on cover crops, the local dog walkers had my number on speed dial to tell me the sheep were out.

After a bit of instruction, some of the walkers were putting the sheep back for us. I can conclude that it pays to be pleasant to your residential neighbours.

Christy Willett farms with her son Hew on 475ha at Parklands Farm, Galleywood in Essex, growing combinable crops alongside diversifications into horse stables on DIY livery, industrial and office lets. Christy and Hew are also AHDB Chelmsford Monitor Farmers.