January has been a month for trips away, starting with the Oxford Farming Conference. I’m not a regular attendee, but I do try to go every few years, as I find it to be one of the better opportunities to seek inspiration by understanding the wider context of the industry within which my business is a very small part.
I was pleased to find that one of the outcomes of the report compiled by Bidwells on behalf of the conference was that farming needs new, innovative ways of combining land, labour, capital and enterprise, as it was felt current business structures are limiting the future potential for farming. I have long felt that this is the case.
The skills required for effective land management and production are different from those required for land ownership, with the latter often driven by tax planning, among other things. There is no reason why the two areas have to be carried out by the same entity. There was much talk about the potential for share farming, which I believe is an underused concept in the UK.
Where two parties share land – either on a landlord and tenant basis or by contract farming – it is ultimately a partnership where trust on both sides is vital for success. Sharing equity is no different. It should be the case that attitudes towards risk and reward change in order for the industry to remain open and vibrant.
The second trip was to Lamma at Peterborough. This is a much more relaxed affair, which I use as an opportunity to catch up with our suppliers. The show’s remit seems to get wider each year and I feel the organisers have an interesting conundrum as they consider how to develop it further.
Back at home, we are largely restricted to the yard, thanks to wet conditions, but have made good progress grading onions out of store for our peeling plant. There are still a number of machinery maintenance tasks to tackle, but with daffodil flower picking looming, it looks as if we will be sticking to the need to do jobs rather than the nice to do ones again.
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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