Farmer Focus: Colouring useful for stewardship applications

Like some of you, I am sure I’ve been colouring in maps this last week as we apply for countryside stewardship.

I can still hear those words of encouragement from my art teacher back when I was 13: “Challen, if making a mess were to be rewarded you would be awarded a bachelors degree”.

At the time I remember being unsure if that was a compliment or not.  

See also: Oilseed rape seed dressing offers hope for flea beetle control

After a few mistakes, I soon realised printing off some spare copies of the maps would be time well spent and that if I articulated my tongue into the right position, drawing parallel green and blue lines was not that difficult after all!

In fact, the trickiest bit was counting both hedge lines and in-field trees. I don’t know if many of you have been to Belvoir but we do have rather a lot.

As per most years, we tend not to move any old crop wheat until July which suits our labour profile nicely.

This year more than any, it’s unlikely we are going to need the store before the first week of August. With only spring barley and beans to cut as long as we move around 40 loads per week, it all works very well indeed. I much prefer to see lorries waiting for us than us for them.

The weather recently has been conducive to growing crops and I’m pleasantly surprised how well the spring barleys look now. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not predicting record breakers, just not complete disasters.

I wish I could say the same for the beans. All the ungerminated seeds are now nicely up in row at about four inches tall. In comparison, those which germinated two months ago are now forming pods, which in turn will make desiccation timing quite interesting.

Finally, I’ve spent the past week trying to put a strategic plan together for the farm’s future. I took my existing machinery replacement plan and married it to post-BPS gross margins.

With annual machinery price increases often double the current rate of inflation, it was frightening to read.


Keith Challen manages 1,200ha of heavy clay soils in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, for Belvoir Farming Company. Cropping includes wheat, oilseed rape and elderflowers. The farm is also home to the Belvoir Fruit Farms drinks business.