Farmers Weekly Farm Employer of the Year 2014: Robert Barnes

Robert Barnes
LE Barnes & Sons, Roxhill Manor Farm, Marston Moretyne, Bedfordshire

Top-notch employment practices can make the difference between a world-class farmer and the rest, and that’s why Robert Barnes takes the people management side of his business very seriously.

A genuine passion for sustainable farming shines through everything this grower and contractor does, from recruitment and development of staff through to technical operations.

“Robert’s passion for developing the business and his staff shines through in his impressive employment practices. He’s ensuring his staff are well managed and their skills are constantly moving on.”
Ennis Vingoe, head of HR, Harper Adams, and independent judge

Robert and his wife, Jules, believe looking after staff is essential to retaining the best employees and ensuring they deliver a consistently strong performance. So five-star treatment is exactly what workers get, including three delicious home-cooked meals every day, roles and responsibilities clearly defined, plenty of training and lots of opportunities for staff to share views and ideas.

This approach is all about creating a working culture that is ideal for a fast-paced arable operation, which includes growing combinable crops on 360ha at home and 1,200ha for others, plus integral grain lab testing, storage, drying and haulage.

The business operates with a no-till and controlled traffic policy and Robert has reduced compaction by 80% in most fields, leading to improved soils and better yields.

He is constantly innovating, both in his farming practices and in the way he recruits, trains and motivates the team.

Everyone’s job is clearly defined, with achievable goals set and monitored through staff appraisals. The company’s business vision is shared with employees in a post-harvest review and everyone contributes views and ideas. Robert encourages staff to come up with new ways of doing things, with an emphasis on improving customer service.

Farm Facts

  • Farming and contracting with integral grain lab testing, storage, drying and haulage
  • Turnover is £3m, 20-22 staff employed
  • 360ha of own land and 1,200ha contracted
  • Growing wheat, oilseed rape, linseed and beans

Winning Ways

  • Passion and drive to develop the business and staff
  • At the forefront of sustainable farming techniques
  • Committed to employee well-being
  • Personal training for each employee

One contracting client said: “In such a challenging year, Robert and his team of loyal and hardworking staff have managed to pull off a successful harvest. Thank you for all your hard work. Yields are as good, if not better, than 2012, and 2014 is looking even better.”

The whole operation has evolved significantly in the past two years through a highly skilled team. The key job of arable manager is held by Stuart Beardsell, who joined the business four-and-half years ago, having been employed as a sprayer operator elsewhere. Stuart is developing as a manager and has visibility on the farm financials. He also has a number of workers reporting to him, such as the farm operatives/sprayer operators Dayle Warren and Michael Devereux. Grain store manager Paul Skears is at the same level as Stuart, with both reporting directly to Robert.

The Barnes family started farming at Marston Moretyne 75 years ago under the stewardship of Robert’s grandfather, Leonard Edward Barnes, and then his father Anthony – hence the initials in LE Barnes & Sons. Robert has two children, Harry and Eleanor, and continues to invest heavily in the business to build a future for the next generation.


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Sponsor’s message

Safety“It’s incredibly important that we nurture the talented people working within these fantastic and imaginative farm businesses and Robert is doing a spectacular job at that.”
Oliver Dale, managing director