Farmer Focus: Insufferable smugness and lots to ‘understand’

Continuing from my last report, February saw us crack on with spring oat drilling, but rain unfortunately stopped play with just three days to go. It’s not stopped raining since.

I suppose rain was on the cards after such an incredibly dry and sunny February.

See also: The benefits of integrating trees into productive arable land

About the author

John Pawsey
Arable Farmer Focus writer John Pawsey is an organic farmer at Shimpling Park in Suffolk. He started converting the 650ha of arable cropping in 1999, and also contract farms an additional 915ha organically, growing wheat, barley, oats, beans and spelt.
Read more articles by John Pawsey

To say that I am feeling pleased that we got so much drilled when we had the chance is wrong. Insufferable smugness is much nearer to the truth. 

In the meantime, our spring barley is putting on a wonderful show with its bright green rows and the first sown oats are now emerging.

Just before the deluge, we managed to get an extremely weedy early drilled crop of winter wheat inter-row hoed with our System Cameleon, which I think was a first on our chalky boulder clay in the shortest month of the year. 

When we do manage to get back on the land the workload will be huge.

The whole farm has to be hoed, wild bird mixtures need to be cut, cultivated then re-sown and the last cereal crop in the rotation has to be undersown with next year’s fertility leys. 

On the drizzly days I have been attending numerous online meetings, mainly starting with the prefix “understanding.”

These include: “Understanding biodiversity net gain”, “Understanding how to replace your Basic Payment” and “Understanding the new Environmental Land Management scheme.”

The last is my favourite as “we don’t actually understand it ourselves.” It’s top of my list.

Even though making future financial plans around a scheme that hasn’t been fully developed is tricky, recent increases in options look promising.

It appears at last we are going to be rewarded for what farming organically has delivered at Shimpling Park Farm over the past 25 years in terms of increased biodiversity and healthier soils. We have surveys to prove it.

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