FARMER FOCUS: Promotion means new challenges

This Christmas period has brought about a great many changes for me. I have been promoted within Sentry, progressing along its career structure to a working farm manager.

For someone like me with no family farming background and starting work on a small holding at the age of 15, being promoted to this position at 26 didn’t seem possible. However, that is very much the case thanks to the opportunities Sentry have provided for me (as well as a little hard work on my part).

A promotion at Sentry doesn’t always mean a new farm, but it does for me. So after three very enjoyable years in Hampshire I will be moving an hour down the road to Sussex, and be directly responsible for 600ha of arable land spread across different farming agreements, different land types (heavy or heavier) and different counties (Sussex and Surrey).

There are also a number of other contracting agreements in place covering stubble to stubble, harvesting, spraying and drilling operations. The land is nearly all on Weald clay with pockets of lighter ground on some farms.

Cropping on the farm tends to run around a four-year rotation using oats (winter or spring) as a non-true break crop. This leads to a rotation which runs wheat, oats, wheat and then a break. The break crops range depending on a number of factors, but are from a selection of oilseed rape, peas, linseed and going forward beans. I’m looking forward to the challenges of growing these different crops in the most suitable rotation.

Alongside learning about a new farm it is also the time of year for conferences and meetings. There are a number of internal meetings we hold to encourage ideas within the company and spread knowledge. I will also be visiting a RASE event revolving around fertility and organic matter, this personally interests me as soil is the biggest factor in arable farming and any opportunity to learn how to improve this valuable resource should be taken.

I’m hoping the RASE event teaches me how to reduce the waste we produce in the use of organic fertilisers. This links in with the Sentry conference I’m also attending, on 5 February, which has three key themes; waste, recruitment and policy in austerity. My personal opinion is that agriculture leads the way in waste management with most major products having a market for their by-products, be they feed, fertiliser or other.

Robert Nightingale manages 600ha of combinable cropping across Sentry’s operations in Sussex and Surrey. Cropping includes winter wheat, oats, oilseed rape, linseed, peas and soon beans.

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