Most farmers across the UK have welcomed the DEFRA-backed Agriknowledge project, which
has been touring the country with a roadshow geared to helping arable farms back into profit.
Last week, north-east correspondent Wendy Owen canvassed opinions at Scotch Corner
GROWER David Cowton of Peterlee, Co Durham, admits he is already a great fan of the HGCA – one of the projects backers. He was impressed with the simple way information was presented and found the Agriknowledge website, which was available for review on the day, very easy to navigate.
• Andrew Williams, who farms just 54ha (135 acres) near Barnard Castle, Co Durham, felt the roadshow had been useful. "As a small farmer, I need to be technically on the ball." However, he was surprised that less than 100 producers from the north-east turned up.
• The choice of topics – machinery cost management, weed control fertiliser use, disease control and crop marketing – was an excellent way to focus attention on getting the basics right, said Mark Exelby, who farms near Ripon, North Yorks. He is determined to set time aside to use the free Agriknow-ledge CD-ROM as a reference tool and felt an event dedicated to practical farming instead of diversification was a "welcome relief".
• Stephen Dennis, of Middlesbrough, had been thinking about buying a personal computer – looking at the Agriknowledge web-site helped him make his mind up. "There is such a lot of information out there." He also thought the emphasis on timeliness of operations by ADASs Bill Clark had given him a lot of food for thought.
• David Metcalfe, who farms near Richmond, North Yorks, felt figures showing the difference between the top 25% of farmers and the rest of producers were not 100% reliable. "A lot depends on the way farm incomes and costs are worked out and the interpretation they are given." Neither did he agree with the impression that using contractors was often more cost-effective than owning machinery. "In this part of the country, contractors are not always available when they are needed. If that is the case, the timeliness which we are told is so important is sacrificed and crop quality can be lost."
• Durham grower Jim Harle pointed out that most of the information was nothing farmers did not already know. "But it is good to have a reminder and the point about timeliness has hit home." He was also staggered by the amount of information on the web-site. "Having such a lot of material in one place will save me a lot of time."
• Another convert to the internet was Mark Marley, a producer and on-farm grain trader from Northallerton, North Yorks. "This has made me realise that I need to get a PC. I also intend to work out a more structured machinery policy and set down detailed costings for my operations."
• Being able to get independent information was the best part of the roadshow for Nick Paxton, also of Northallerton. He feels his levy money is being well-spent and was pleased to see experts travelling so far north. "This has focused my mind on getting the basics right and it is nice to see the speakers have kept things simple." *