FW Awards 2009 winner: Arable Farmer of the Year – Andrew Gloag

  • Sponsored by GrowHow
  • WINNER: Andrew Gloag, Busby House, North Yorkshire

Andrew Gloag’s family business is an excellent example of how a single operation can be developed to the mutual benefit of many.

When he took over in 1984 there were just 89ha of arable. Today he crops about 1850ha under contract-farming arrangements, many created in the past five years. That expansion reflects the economic difficulties facing many farms on heavy land in the North York Moors’ shadow.

“We aim to provide a profitable way forward for smaller farms, which perhaps they cannot do in their own right,” he says.

Against growing concern for food and energy security, he foresees a positive farming future for all who choose to remain involved.

In 2007 he and an agronomy supplies business set up a joint venture offering contract spraying and spreading. His operation’s scale justifies modern machines and technology that smaller units cannot afford. All equipment, carefully costed, is on rolling hire purchase agreement to ease budgeting.

Two rubber-tracked Agco Challenger tractors do all cultivations and drilling; two Claas Lexion Terra Trac combines do the combining. Winter wheat and oilseed rape account for about 60% of the area. “Last year we averaged 4.01t/acre for wheat and 1.8t/acre for oilseed rape.”

The key to such high output is timeliness, using Sumo non-inversion equipment to prepare seed-beds and sowing with an 8m Vaderstad drill.

Rising annual rainfall is a challenge. Last year he recorded 965mm (38in). “We’ve been getting an extra 5in a year this decade and it tends to come in big events.

“We have a very narrow autumn working window.” The main tractors often work round the clock to ensure everything is sown by early October.

Variety choices and all inputs are in consultation with Nigel Foster of Phoenix Agronomy. Sterile brome is the main grassweed, and information from nearby TAG trials, CMI and Masstock also help drive the agronomy decisions BASIS-qualified Andrew makes.

Despite recent high fertiliser prices, phosphate and potash policy is to maintain indices everywhere.

Three main grain stores and driers are employed, drying costs (last season £12.40/t) being averaged over all farms.

Andrew markets all the grain, having good relationships with local feed mills and using national merchant pools for 25-30% of his output. “Last year’s wheat average was £121.59/t.”

All the farms have shoots and have adopted ELS and 6m grass margins providing useful watercourse buffer zones.



  • 1850ha all-arable heavy soils
  • Mixture of own land, fully managed contracts and stubble-to-stubble agreements – 12 farming “partners”
  • Six full-time employees plus secretary
  • Winter wheat, oilseed rape and barley, and winter and spring beans


  • Andrew has created a well structured, cost-orientated business providing his ‘partners’ with cost-effective solutions
  • He has more than doubled the size of the business in five years
  • He identifies and seizes opportunities and is prepared to invest


  • All three finalists demonstrated both passion and enthusiasm to achieve success in their farming profession. Dave Towse, GrowHow


  • Andrew identified the local market for contract services and developed a cost-conscious business to deliver a quality and timely service. Keith Preston

Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

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