Organic opportunity up for grabs on Cambs Fens

The Cambridgeshire Fens are home to the first serious lumps of top-quality commercial arable land to be launched this year.

Brown & Co’s James O’Brien is handling the sale of 802-acre Putney Hill Farm, Prickwillow, and 442-acre The Apes Hall Farm at Littleport, near Ely, on behalf of 6200-acre East Anglian farming business Frederick Hiam.

Mr O’Brien said the firm was selling the land because it wanted to concentrate more on the production of crops like parsnips in Suffolk where the sandier soil was more suitable.

However, he said there should be plenty of other growers interested in the black mainly Grade 1 irrigated land, which produces good crops of potatoes, sugar beet and vegetables.

Although sugar beet reform would impact on profitability, admitted Mr O’Brien, he said the quality of the land meant yields should be high enough to still make decent money.

Interestingly, the sale also includes possibly the largest chunk of organic arable land to be sold recently.

The Apes Hall Farm is all registered as organic Grade 1/2 soil, but despite the growing popularity of organic food this has not been reflected in the guide price.

“I don’t think it detracts from the value, but I don’t think it adds anything,” said Mr O’Brien.

Including two semi-detached farm cottages and an insulated produce store, The Apes Hall Farm is guided at 1.55m, which puts the land at just under 3000/acre.

Putney Hill Farm is priced at 3.365m and comes with a four-bedroom brick farmhouse and a pair of semi-detached cottages.

But it was the range of buildings and two 10m-gallon reservoirs that were really likely to attract farmers, said Mr O’Brien.

A large refrigerated box potato cold store, ambient onion store and grain store, as well as the reservoirs, are lotted separately with the main 715-acre block of land for about 3500/acre.

Single farm payment entitlements and arable authorisations are included in the sale but, because much of the land has been used to grow unsupported crops, historic payments will be less than on a conventional cereal farm.

The vendors will retain the 2005 and 2006 claims before transferring entitlements to the purchasers.