I have been a farmer in my own right for a quarter of a century.
I know that I look unfeasibly young to make such a claim; I started work at 15 and pretty well managed to avoid higher education.
Twenty-five more years of toil and I will be looking at the age of retirement from the other side.
To commemorate this halfway milestone, I have compiled the little that I have learned over my 25 years of experience into 25 pieces of advice for 25-year-old farmers.
- Set a clear and simple business plan and stick to it. Tell it to anyone who will listen – your family, colleagues, customers, competitors and even the postman.
- Kill weeds when they are small – this rule applies to any problem you encounter in life.
- Trust everyone, but learn from it if they let you down.
- Always do what you tell people you are going to do.
- Understand there is a difference between profit and turnover and a big difference between having cash and being wealthy.
- Never criticise your competitors and always be helpful to your neighbours.
- Never complain, it is a worse and more addictive habit than nicotine.
- When you make a mistake, say sorry and mean it. If you have really screwed up, bake a cake and write sorry on the top in chocolate buttons.
- Always pay your bills quickly.
- Low costs come from high yields not large scale. High sales prices come from high quality and service, not branding.
- Never raise your voice or lose your cool. Swearwords are more menacing when delivered calmly and thoughtfully.
- Borrow as much as anyone will lend you to purchase appreciating capital assets. Try to avoid buying anything that goes down in value.
- Employ good people to do the jobs you don’t like and then show them your appreciation.
- Don’t compare yourself to people who are 20 years older than you, they had their own challenges 20 years ago.
- Leave your farm every day, your village every week, your county every month and the UK every year. If you can’t do this, think about the balance in your life.
- Always build sheds 100% bigger than you think you can afford and they might be half big enough to do the job.
- Without husbandry, stockmanship and engineering skills, marketing will lead you nowhere.
- Write everything down, your memory will alter facts to suit its own purposes.
- Don’t smoke, it’s a dirty habit.
- Maintain your machinery well and remember that your own body is the most valuable machine on the fleet. Your brain is the muscle that needs the most exercise.
- Know that any predictions that you make will almost always be wrong.
- Always listen to older people and treat them with respect, they will help you to get on in life.
- Always listen to younger people and treat them with respect, they will teach you to work your mobile phone when you are old.
- Share your knowledge and success with others. There is nothing sadder than a rich, lonely workaholic.
- Play the long game, be kind to people and always smile.
Matthew Naylor farms 162ha of Lincolnshire silt in partnership with his father, Nev. Cropping includes potatoes, vegetables, cut flowers and flowering bulbs. Matthew is a trustee of Leaf and a Nuffield scholar.