Stondon Manor, Henlow, Beds

Meticulous attention to detail is a farming philosophy that’s paying off for arable producer William Parrish.

Whether it’s agronomy, cost control or marketing William, who runs the 590ha (1460 acre) all arable unit with his father at Stondon, Manor, Henlow, Beds applies complete focus.

Crops include winter wheat, oilseed rape, spring malting barley, spring peas and beans with industrial units generated a useful source of extra income. In addition to about 130ha (320 acres) of continuous malting barley the cropping policy focuses on group two and three wheats but no milling wheats. Consort accounts for the first wheats and this year the varieties Zebedee and Wizard are being tested.

Changing the farm’s cultivations policy, to save costs and improve timeliness, is a long-term strategy at Stondon Manor instigated by William. “We used to be a plough and power harrow based system but the ploughed area is now much reduced and power harrowing is used only in the most difficult of conditions.

“A tined cultivator, a Keverneland Stubble Finisher, is now used which is cheaper to run with higher work rates and a more water proof finish.”

Ploughing will now be carried out in a one in three rotation by a neighbouring contractor for timeliness at harvest. And rotational ploughing will help to tame the farm’s wild oats, blackgrass, and brome.

Changing the farm’s cultivation policy will also hopefully improve soil structure, drainage and microbial activity. And that should make the soil easier to work and allow quicker and timelier field operations and possibly a reduced herbicide bill, he says.

Another innovation William has introduced is variable rate fertiliser spreading; again to cut costs by targeting fertiliser precisely where it is needed. And from next year the farm’s fertiliser system is being upgraded from a 24m system to a 30m system. The farm’s hilly terrain makes 30m a more practical option than the more usual 36m.

Yields from the farm’s mixed soils, clay over chalk moving towards loam, achieve 9t/ha (3.7t/acre) over first and second wheat’s.

“Machinery is of course won of our biggest long-term investments and I try to buy new or second hand machines in good condition that will keep a good residual value from local dealers,” says William.

“Replacement policy for tractors is six years or 6,000 hours. By that time after depreciation has levelled out and three years of finance free operation the machines will still hold a reasonable resale value.”

Converting an old 500 sow pig buildings for light industrial use and building new ones has made a key contribution to finances at Stanton Manor.

Relentless attention to detail is also applied to marketing the produce grown at Stanton Manor. “With two local seed merchants, seed is grown for their replication on a contract. This takes care of nearly a quarter of our marketing decision at harvest with a premium paid over basic feed wheat. Thanks to plenty of storage space, William prefers to market group two and three wheat’s throughout the year to manage cash flow. Three local mills within a 30 mile radius accounts for most of the wheat.

William has also aimed to steady improve the farm’s biodiversity over the past five years with the introduction of six metre grass margins next to all major water courses. The farm has been in the Entry Level Scheme for two years and joined the Assured Combinable Crops Scheme after its first year of launch.

Looking to the future, William’s preferred route to expansion is acquiring more land rather than contract farming. “Contract farming opportunities are limited in this area and I have managed to expand by buying ground locally which has allowed fixed costs to be spread without the need for extra capital expenditure on labour or machinery.”

Helping farming develop a better public image is a goal to which he remains committed. “We put up information boards about farming next to public foot paths and I speak to non farming groups about our industry. I want to get over the message that British farmers care for the countryside while trying to make a living and that the food we produce is of the highest standard and the safest in the world.”

William sets great store in matching the right crops to the right conditions as exemplified by his siting of continuous barley on the Chilterns. He also has a meticulous eye for detail which is paying off in the shape of a restyled cultivation policy and fertiliser system.

Read more of what lessons could be learned from William’s farming system by visiting

NAME: William Parish
FARMED AREA: 590ha (1460 acre) all arable unit growing winter wheat, oilseed rape, malting barley, peas and beans.      

AVERAGE YIELDS: 9t/ha (3.7t/acre)
INNOVATION: Modified cultivations policy to save costs and to improve timeliness. Moving to liquid fertiliser application.

STAFF: William, his father and one general worker.

Upcoming webinar


What does the future of farming look like post Covid-19 and Brexit?

Register today