Farmer Focus: A dark day as team member dies of heart attack

Overall, we’ve had a reasonably kind spring this year, but our season has been darkened by a sad event in our team.

On 17 April, the day before we started planting potatoes, Malc, a very valued and key member of our full-time team, had a heart attack at home. He died the next day, aged 36.

He was a man of many talents and applied an attention to detail and will to constantly do things better throughout his five short years here.

It was his funeral on 10 May, at which I had the privilege to deliver his eulogy.

See also: Spelt and rye earn premium spot in Berks organic rotation

About the author

Andrew Wilson
Arable Farmer Focus writer Andrew Wilson is a fourth-generation tenant of Castle Howard Estate in North Yorkshire. The farm supports crops of wheat, barley, oats, beans, sugar beet, potatoes, and grass for hay across 250ha. Other enterprises include bed and breakfast pigs, environmental stewardship, rooftop solar and contracting work.  
Read more articles by Andrew Wilson

Work stopped for the day, and the whole team turned out to pay our respects. There were tractors, a bike, noise, reek, tears and tributes, and a few beers afterwards.

I must thank a few people who kindly stepped up to help us out recently – you know who you are.

The support has been quite humbling. The agricultural community is a fine place in a time of need.

Back in the ever-volatile world of farming, the tough decisions keep coming.

What to grow, what not to grow, when to buy, when to sell, and when to sit tight.

My late dad always reckoned to “just do a bit” (in other words, never buy or sell everything at once) and that has served me reasonably well.

Is it coincidence that new-season fertiliser is double the wheat price, as it was just about last year?

I’ve decided to use polysulphate as my sulphur source instead of the usual ammonium sulphate next year.

My observations in recent years suggest there is value in applying potash at the same time as nitrogen, and this also fits in with the need for sulphur.

If we get the timing right, we may also save a pass with the spreader.

Our phosphorus levels are pretty static, and largely maintained by rotational farmyard manure, which is just as well, given the price of the stuff.

After an absence of 12 years, I am now contemplating growing some winter oilseed rape again.

This isn’t without risk or compromise, but the milling oat price remains stubbornly low.

Time to do some sums before my time gets swallowed by the irrigators…

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