Farmer Focus: Jim Alston contracts a potato planter

Jim Alston runs 243ha at Manor Farm, Calthorpe, north Norfolk and as Calibre Farming looks after arable operations on another 500ha. The light to medium soils grow potatoes, cereals and sugar beet

There are several clues that you are getting old, such as failing eyesight and waking up early – but I now have a new one. Not being the world’s best driver, I’ve had my fair share of prangs but, up to recently, that’s always been when moving forwards, probably a tad to quickly.

These days I find I’m still bumping into things, but now it’s when I’m going backwards. What this means I dread to think, but the JCB has recently benefited from a new engine cover followed by my truck needing a new wing.

Some of our potatoes – Marfona and Mariteima – have, for the first time, been planted using a contractor. As I watched him fixing a bearing on his stonepicker I felt even more comfortable with someone else taking the stress away.

Looking for a job while he did all the work I took to walking around the field with a spade and realised I’d found the agricultural equivalent of the clipboard. It provided an air of authority and knowledge far beyond reality and he did an excellent job. He would have done anyway but I still felt in charge.

One thing I did notice, spade in hand, was that the fresh-ploughed land had a lot better profile than that ploughed before Christmas, which was considerably wetter at the depth of the baulker. That’s not a problem until you run a tractor and stone picker in that slot followed by a planter.

On the rest of the farm winter barley and oilseed rape look well while spring barley and sugar beet have been planted in good conditions.

The winter wheat, Einstein, behind potatoes is a different story and to say the skylarks will not have much trouble finding a spot to nest best sums it up.

Jim Alston