5 minutes with West Yorkshire young farmer Bradley Sykes

Welcome to “5 minutes with” where we get to know one of Britain’s brightest and best young farmers.

These brilliant young people are the future of the agriculture industry and we want to bring their lives, businesses, ideas and achievements to the fore.

By celebrating our young farmers and promoting what they do, we hope to generate even more interest in farming from younger generations and help make sure they get all the support they need to thrive in the future.

Bradley Sykes with his combine harvester

See also: How a computer game is fostering new interest in farming

This time we’re getting to know 27-year-old West Yorkshire young farmer and contractor Bradley Sykes.

Where do you come from?


Bradley Sykes

Are you on Twitter and Instagram? Do you have a business page on Facebook?

You can follow the business on Facebook – BI Sykes Agricultural Contractors.

Are you a member of a Young Farmers Club?

I am a member of Selby Young Farmers Club in Yorkshire. This is my final year in the club after joining seven years ago.

What sort of farm do you live/work on?

I live in a little village in Darrington and rent a yard about five minutes away. I own an agricultural contracting business which I started with a borrowed tractor and hedgecutter about seven years ago.

What do you get up to on the farm?

Every day is a new challenge and there is always something different to do. Main operations include vining 1,600ha of peas, combining 1,100ha arable land, bailing 8,000ha and potato planting and lifting.

Customers include big boys such as Albanwise Farming, Poskitt Carrots and Hartleys.

What do you get up to when you’re not farming?

I don’t get much time away from the business, but I enjoy a good Young Farmers dinner dance, chilling out with friends and I love a good night out at the Indian restaurant.

What’s in your lunchbox?

Got to be a corned beef sandwich, crisps, a selection of raisins and grapes, a slice of fruitcake (without cheese), and in true Yorkshireman style you cannot leave the house without a flask of tea.  

What’s the best bit about farming?

The job itself – it is a way of life but who else can boast watching the sunrise and the sunset over some of the most beautiful places in the country.

The countryside is Britain’s greatest asset and very few people see what we see on a daily basis. 

Bradley Sykes tractor and baler

What’s the most frustrating bit about farming?

The lack of education. We are leading the way with technology to increase yields, cut costs and maximise profits, but we have an unskilled workforce that isn’t improving.

I would like to see more funding available to teach the next generation how to farm better and more safely.

Where would you like to be in five years’ time?

I would like to see the business expand to new levels, push the boundaries and take on some land.

For the first time we are growing our own potatoes for wholecrop marketing and McCain – I can see us developing this side of the business and becoming a serious player in the potato world.     

What makes you laugh?

My brother – he is the funniest person I have ever met, he’s my best friend.

What makes you angry?

The public perspective of farming. We are not a bunch of rednecks taking subsidies and overcharging for our produce. We take care of our animals like our children and we look after the countryside like our back garden. 

The reality is we work hard. It’s not an easy life for many reasons and there are a lot of clever farmers who push the bounders on a daily basis. We need to change public perspective.

What’s your proudest achievement to date?

Building a successful business, I proved the doubters wrong, took some risks and went out to achieve.

I was a farm labourer from a non-farming background but I have built a big contracting business. Oh, and my other proudest achievement is purchasing a Claas Lexion 770 combine.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A man called John Wilson told me: “Ignore the critics, don’t follow the crowd, do what you think is right not what others think.”

When you’re in the tractor cab, what’s your top tune, podcast or audiobook?

I admit I am old before my time. I enjoy listening to BBC Radio 2, especially Steve Wright in the Afternoon who does love a factoid. My other love is the local radio station, Minster FM.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would spend the money on?

I would purchase my own farm. I have dreamed of owning a farm since I was a little boy, as my brother and I played carpet farming – I could just see myself owning 1,200ha. 

Bradley Sykes doing land work

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing UK farming today?

The lack of young people entering and then staying in the industry. In the next 10 years farming will struggle as the older generations retire and there are not enough young people to take their place.

Tell us something about you that not many people know.

I suffer with dyslexia – I have hidden it for a long time. I struggle with reading and writing, but it has never hindered my ambition to achieve.