Video: Berkshire Farm Girl brings in the wheat harvest

Harvest wrapped-up last weekend at Rookery Farms, near Newbury, with a crop of Extase winter wheat destined for the milling market. Overall wheat yields came in at 10t/ha.

We spoke to Eleanor Gilbert, aka Berkshire Farm Girl, who juggled working on the harvest at the family farm, with her university course.

See also: Harvest 2022: The 5 top-yielding winter wheat varieties map

Watch the video of Eleanor’s harvest and read the full report below:

Farm facts: Rookery Farms, Curridge, Thatcham, Berkshire

  • Area 750ha of sandy land over chalk
  • Cropping Winter and spring wheat, winter and spring barley, and oilseed rape, with three-year leys, maize and turnips grown to feed beef cattle and sheep

Variable moisture levels

Scorching hot and dry conditions proved challenging, triggering the harvest team to combine late at night or early in the morning to avoid low moisture contents.

“It’s been such a variable year,” says Miss Gilbert. “We started combining at 9 o’clock one night and the moisture content came in at 5%, so we had to stop and kick-start again at 4 o’clock in the morning.

“We managed to harvest through the entire next day due to the risk of a few thunder storms. As the land was heavier on the last block we cut, moisture levels came in at 10%,” she says.

With all 390ha of winter wheat now safely in the grain store, Miss Gilbert says it’s hard to believe that this time last year the farm was just getting into the thick of wheat harvest.

“It’s crazy how the weather and seasons change year-on-year and affect crops so differently. Last season, we were praying for a minimum of 15% moisture.”

The farm would usually receive 500mm of average rainfall, but less than half of this has fallen this year.

With the good levels of light throughout the growing period, specific weights came in well at about 80kg/hl for the two varieties Extase and Zyatt.

However, straw yields were noticeably down. “Normally we would get big swaths of straw, but they are small and chaffy – just because it is so dry.”

Rookery Farms wheat crop

Rookery Farms wheat crop © MAG/Emma Gillbard

Student-farm balance

Studying agriculture and crop management at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, Miss Gilbert is currently on her industrial placement year, working at Bartholomew’s Agrifood, based in Chichester.

Part of the trial site and seed plant team, she does 12-hour shifts during the week, bagging up seed for the 2023 planting season and expanding her knowledge of the arable supply chain.

She then heads home on the weekends to help with harvest, working into the early morning hours driving the S378 John Deere combine kitted-out with a 35ft header.

“I love driving the combine,” says Miss Gilbert. “It’s definitely my favourite thing about harvest time.”

However, she talks of the extreme risks of fires which many farmers faced. Unfortunately, a few fires broke out across the farm, but thankfully these were contained with minimum damage.

“We grow these crops all year round – it only takes seconds for a flint to come off the back of a piece of machinery and a fire can start. It’s so important to stay safe at harvest.”

Eleanor in tractor cab

Eleanor Gilbert © MAG/Emma Gillbard

Overall crop yields

All in all, harvest 2022 has been a great one, continues Miss Gilbert.

This season, marked the first time liquid fertiliser was used across all crops as a means to improve nitrogen use efficiency.

Combined with the use of individual nozzle control, Miss Gilbert says there was a noticeable yield improvement. This was especially true along the headlands due to elimination of overlaps.

The spring barley variety Laureate yielded particularly well at 10t/ha.

This was due to heavy land retaining moisture well, combined with a good growing season with a plentiful supply of sunlight, to push specific weights up.

Orwell winter barley, on the other hand, was down with yields of 5.9t/ha, and hybrid Bazooka came in at 6.3t/ha.

Oilseed rape yields hit 5.1t/ha from the variety Mambo, but planting of next season’s rapeseed crop has stalled in these dry soil conditions.

“By now, we would have normally drilled oilseed rape as we aim to get it in nice and early to avoid the pressures of cabbage stem flea beetle.

“The seed is still in the shed as if we were to plant it, it just wouldn’t germinate.

“We’re just hoping and praying for some rain now, so we can drill our next crops for harvest 2023.”

Harvest figures for Rookery farms


Average specific weight (kg/hl) for Extase and Zyatt wheat


Yield (t/ha) for Laureate spring barley


Yield (t/ha) for two-row conventional Orwell winter barley


Yield (t/ha) for six-row hybrid variety Bazooka


Conventional OSR variety Mambo hit this yield (t/ha) 

Social media presence

Eleanor Gilbert in wheat field

Eleanor Gilbert © MAG/Emma Gillbard

Promoting British agriculture is of real importance to Eleanor Gilbert.

This prompted her to embark on her social media journey, showcasing the best of British agriculture across her family’s arable farm in Berkshire, where she farms with stepfather Dan and mother Sandy.

Under the name of “Berkshire Farm Girl”, Miss Gilbert posts regular content across her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms, reaching out to nearly 4,300 Twitter followers (@littlebigfarm), more than 2,200 Instagram followers and 1,600 Facebook followers.

Her aim is to bridge the knowledge gap between farming and the general public, educating people on where their food comes from.

She says social media can be a simple and effective way to interact with a wide range of people and get young people interested in the agricultural industry.

“There are so many opportunities within agriculture, and I like to show people how they can get involved.

“One day I can be a tractor driver, the next day a mechanic. There is media, technology and nutrition jobs, there’s so much range.

“I get so many questions asking about farming, especially the long hours we do at harvest – people are genuinely interested,” she continues.

Trespasser jumps in front of the combine at harvest

Rookery Farm experienced a sudden trespasser, when a man jumped in front of the combine during harvest, protesting about the dust from the machine, at the time of Farmers Weekly’s visit.

Miss Gilbert tweeted about the incident: “Yesterday, we had an angry member of the public jump out in front of the combine around the headland because his sandwich was covered in dust.”

Video footage of her mother, Sandy, revealed her quickly driving across the field to prevent the man from becoming injured by either the combine or tractor and trailer.

Thankfully, her mother was able to calm the situation and get the man to move from the field and out of danger.

The video has been viewed more than 2m times on Twitter alone. 

Need a contractor?

Find one now