Farmer Focus: So much to do but no weather window to do it

This is my 50th report in this hallowed spot in Farmers Weekly as an arable Farmer Focus writer.

I hope you will agree that over the past five years, I have penned a “cup half full” rather than a “cup half empty” kind of attitude on this page – even in the face of disappointing harvests and difficult seasons. 

See also: 12 new varieties added to spring wheat and minor cereal lists

About the author

John Pawsey
Arable Farmer Focus writer John Pawsey is an organic farmer at Shimpling Park in Suffolk. He started converting the 650ha of arable cropping in 1999, and also contract farms an additional 915ha organically, growing wheat, barley, oats, beans and spelt.
Read more articles by John Pawsey

I am also aware that this is my last submission of 2023, so by the time you are reading this, you will be, at the very least, anticipating Christmas cheer and warmth.

The last thing you expect to hear from me is a gloomy conclusion in the last remaining days of December.

However, I am really struggling to pen something positive. 

The wonderful thing about farming is that even after a poor harvest we get the chance to have another go. It’s like going to confession; our mistakes are acknowledged, the slate is wiped clean.

The first tine entering the soil in preparation for our next harvest is that Groundhog Day moment of 6am in the morning, with Sonny and Cher on repeat singing “I got you babe” on Phil Connors’ radio alarm.

Nothing has changed, but everything is possible.

But the slate at Shimpling Park Farm has not been completely wiped clean. The board rubber still contains some chalk from last year, leaving a smear that threatens the year to come. 

Constant wet weather from 20 October leaves our beans and wheat bi-crop seed in the shed. All preparations for spring sowing have been stopped, for fear of undoing all the good work we have done to our soils.

It’s like being in limbo. There is so much to do, but no opportunity to do it. I’ve never known a year like it.

This is my prediction. Christmas Day is going to be 20C. We are going to be eating turkey on the terrace, and I will have a hat on to protect my bald head from being burnt. January will be the best drilling month of the winter.

Hurrah! Merry Christmas to all.

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