Farmer Focus: Lessons from last year’s drought and deluge

Happy new year to you all. Let us hope that the recent election result will at least give us some certainty for our future in 2020 and beyond. 

Who knows, we might even enjoy the new challenges, unencumbered by the threat of losing our basic payments for one misdemeanour or another. 

On that very issue, we were one of the select number to receive the dreaded email just before Christmas informing us that Santa wasn’t coming to us.

See also: Why ‘vertical’ farming is growing in the UK

How special should you feel to be one of the 8% of farmers not to receive the payment in December?

I suppose that’s just preparing us for the future when the direct payments are promised to disappear.

Without being too negative, that has to be one of the key things I have learned from 2019, don’t get too hung up on promises made by politicians. It was certainly a challenge to know in which direction to head.

All we could do was to continue to build the business to be able to cope with so many different scenarios.

We had to benchmark and know our costs – particularly the cost of production and productivity per unit.

Along with this, we were identifying new markets, undertaking new diverse ventures and attempting to do the job better, it all sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Part of that learning also relates to knowing who to trust.

Are standards of imported food going to be the same as ours in the future?

Or are customers going to be subject to a price-driven spiral to the bottom, with no respect for the environment or the welfare of the animals in the production of food.

Thank goodness we have our Red Tractor assurance scheme to ensure we continue to demonstrate our world-class standards.

Let’s hope that the new government remembers that when doing their deals, even the best farmers can’t work miracles. 

The second key lesson last year related to the weather. In our case it was to ensure that we stored more water, to enable us to cope with two hot dry summers and two dry winters in a row. But then what to do when we got too much?  

As every year, the third and final lesson was to seize every opportunity as it arose, whether that be in business, with the weather or just with life in general.

Something that I know all farmers attempt to do all of the time.


Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Enterprises include combinable and root crops, plus sugar beet. The estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship.

andrewblenkiron@euston-estate.co.uk

NOVEMBER
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