Farmer Focus: Mind-blowing visit to organic Norfolk estate

They say every day is a school day. Well, they don’t come more educational than a day I had last week.

A friend and I were fortunate enough to visit a large west Norfolk estate in the midst of organic conversion and, I have to say, as we left Norfolk behind us, my mind was totally blown.

As we often hear, the profit is in the attention to detail, and this large estate proves that point better than most.

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All crops were weed-free and surprisingly free of disease, and as a farmer who is still reasonably reliant on answers from a can, I couldn’t but help but question my reliance on manufactured chemicals and fertilisers.

In the case of weeds, it seems they aren’t resistant to steel yet, and with the latest technology from RTK GPS and infrared cameras, hoes can be run frighteningly close to growing crops.

Add this technology to in-depth understanding of your weeds, diseases and soil fertility, and its possible to grow very respectable crops without synthetic products.

Now, I’m not sure I’m quite ready to go organic with our combinable crops just yet, but I do believe there are elements we saw that are transferable to our non-organic crops. It’s all very exciting.

Scruffy crops

On my return, I did a full farm walk to review our own crops – they seem to be particularly scruffy this year.

Various strains of brome have appeared where they’ve not been seen before, and although not yield-robbing, the seed return will be unfortunate. We even seem to have some volunteer barley in places we have not grown barley in for 30 years.

It’s quite bizarre, especially as we home-save seed and there certainly wasn’t any in the seed crops.

The elder harvest is slowly coming to an end, with disappointing yields – the weather being the main reason.

It seems people just don’t want to pick flowers day after day in the pouring rain. Perhaps those of you with an engineer’s brain can design us an elderflower harvester.

It needn’t be on tracks or have GPS, just an umbrella please. Designs by email.