Farmer Focus: Harvest students prove their worth

September is a month of changes here, not just summer turning to autumn, but on the staffing front. At the start of the month we say goodbye to our Harper Adams placement student, Toby, who has completed 12 months with us.

He is being replaced by Tom who is coming a long way south to experience farming in the South West. We also lose our two harvest students mid-month as they head back to university.

As someone who started a farming business from scratch, I have always been grateful to those who gave me the opportunity to gain experience in different places. Without the opportunity to learn at the expense of others, although I hope that they gained as well, I would not have been able to achieve what I have.

I firmly believe it is important for businesses such as mine to create opportunities for young people to join the business for varying lengths of time to gain experience of what we do. I find it incredibly rewarding and am even prepared to overlook the occasional innocent mistake in the interests of the future of agriculture.

Ultimately though having students around the farm is a good way of covering peak demand for labour with additional enthusiastic workers.

I have taken things a step further this year and have created an apprentice position. Although it is early days, I can see this being a good way of bringing fresh talent into the team, which we can mould to our way of doing things.

On the harvesting front, the new combine has performed admirably with the tracks proving a significant advantage over the old wheeled one. While wheat yield looks better than average, I am concerned that my theory that a big heap and a low price outweighs a small yield and a high price is going to be disproved this year.

The next job looming is to give consideration to the Basic Payment Scheme and how to best meet the greening requirements on our own land and on the contract farms. Changes indeed.

Jeremy Oatey manages 1,100ha of arable land near Plymouth in Cornwall and is the Farmers Weekly’s Arable Farmer of the Year. Cropping includes wheat, barley, oilseed rape, oats and beans as well as potatoes, onions, swedes and daffodils

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