Farmer Focus: 5 wishes for a satisfying farming year

A new year has dawned and with it the customary expectation. Will it be better than the last? With my usual optimism I thought I would have a go at constructing a wish list.

Top of my list is a ‘normal’ weather pattern, whatever that is. To my mind it is a cool start to the year so I can harvest daffodil flowers in an orderly manner using the minimum number of pickers as they are likely to be in short supply.

Then I would like some decent spring drilling and planting weather, with just enough rain to enable good seed-beds but not too much to prevent progress.

See also: Malting barley: What growers need to know for 2019

An early summer period with soft showers and warm sunshine through until harvest would be desirable.

After that I have a conundrum as a damp, tricky cereal harvest usually means a good potato lift. However, September and October need to be open and dry.

Big heap or small heap?

Second on the list needs to be clarity on the trading position for the UK, its future relationship with Europe and with the rest of the world.

At present I am ringing my grain merchant every time I see the pound has fallen again. I’m not sure that is a sustainable strategy for the long term. I’m sure I will not be alone in preferring some stability.

Third, I would like to resolve whether I am better off with a big heap and a lower price or a small heap and a higher price. 2018 has been an example of the latter but I am inclining towards the former.

Fourth, I want to continue investing in my soils and farming infrastructure. As a business we have made significant investment in equipment to try to produce better crops in a more efficient way.

A large part of our investment will be in continuing to build strategic relationships with my customers. Not an easy thing to do but probably an important one.

Finally I want to be able to enjoy what I do. I hope that all readers are able to experience a satisfying 2019.

Jeremy Oatey manages 1,200ha of arable land near Plymouth in Cornwall and is 2013 Farmers Weekly Arable Farmer of the Year. Cropping includes wheat, barley, OSR, oats, beans, potatoes, onions, swedes and daffodils.

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