Farmer Focus: Machinery breakdowns hamper Andrew Charlton

“Leave it with me, mate. I’ll get back to you.” Surely the favourite saying of every workshop manager, and the 10 words most likely to make a farmer’s spirit sink into his boots.

The second half of 2008 is proving to be extremely wearing on machinery as we all race to get crops in the ground before the weather breaks after a very late start. I’ve never known a season like it for breakdowns, and wish I knew why.

One growing frustration is the practice of the big dealerships, I suspect, to follow what is called “key account management” or, more bluntly, “look after the big customers and the rest can wait”. Happily, locally there is a growing band of small businesses, some of them one-man operations, who offer a pretty good service and supply of kit when needed, and my business – key or otherwise – is heading that way rapidly.

It’s easy to forget there is much to reflect positively upon from 2008. Yields have been excellent, quality very good, and prices well, prices are all over the place, as they are in the conventional world. Thank goodness most of our cereal crop was sold pre-harvest through the Organic Arable Marketing Group.

For 2009, Buzzer and Shepherd wheat have gone into the ground. Hopefully, both show better disease resistance than Einstein.

Another positive to come out of this year is that I graduated with an MBA from the Royal Agricultural College earlier this month. It was lovely to catch up with fellow students and teaching staff of an under-rated course that has reinvigorated me as well as making me realise I’m not the thickie I thought I was.

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