Farm Safety Week

Harvest has just started with the Winter Barley, always our first crop. It has been a good year for the Winter Barley, it had a good start last Autumn and this Spring and early Summer had sun and rain almost exactly when required. The quality seems good and due to the lovely dry weather recently we harvested it in perfect conditions and didn’t need to dry the crop prior to storage. This year, unlike last year, there is now a bit of a gap before anything else will be ready for harvesting, we may be waiting about a fortnight before the next crop, which could be Oilseed Rape or Spring Barley. Therefore, the next few weeks will be a time to try and get ahead with other jobs that get put off during the madness of harvest.

This week has been “Farm Safety Week”, a national campaign to try to improve the safety record of our industry which is sadly languishing near the bottom of many a safety league table. Coincidentally we also had a visit from a Health and Safety advisor. This has been a very interesting process and highlighted a few issues I was completely unaware of and provided solutions for others. Farming accounts for 1% of the national workforce and yet is responsible for 22% of workplace fatalities (Source: HSE). This is a shocking statistic, one that, as an industry we must work hard to put right. Farming has undergone many changes over the last 100 years, not least increasing efficiencies through mechanisation. Tractors have replaced horses and subsequently got bigger and bigger, the workforce has shrunk as margins have tightened. Add to this the variety of jobs undertaken in isolation by many farmworkers around the country working long hours, often under time pressure, or the threat of an impending change in weather and the reasons for the poor safety record begin to reveal themselves. The solutions are not always obvious but some small tweaks can make a huge difference. Touch wood our safety record here is pretty good, but it is very important that we are not complacent and move forwards with safety a high priority, especially at this busy time of harvest.

On a lighter note, I gave an interview this week to BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today about our No-Till System as part of their week focusing on cereal production. It was aired at 0545 on Thursday 18th and 0630 Saturday 20th July for those who may wish to listen back click

Hopefully we will continue to enjoy some warm, sunny and dry weather as we move into August. Harvest should really get going and all the schools will have broken up, ready to enjoy the Summer holidays.

July 2019; Be careful what you wish for!

Be careful what you wish for!
Many farmers and gardeners spent the end of May doing rain dances, now we are in a period of seemingly endless rain days we’ve measured rain on 10 of the last 12 days. Though luckily not on the scale that some further north where they have had three of four months rainfall in a week, leading to serious flooding many fields of crops. The rain has been very welcome, hopefully the sun will now come out to help our crops flower and fill out to fulfil their potential.
One Sunday in the middle of June I had an early morning phone call, our three bulls were found by the police on the Fairmile road at 4 o’clock in the morning. Their field gate had been opened and not shut, this is frustrating and potentially very dangerous, luckily this time no harm was done this time. Our bulls are very docile and were probably minding their own business lying down in the corner of the field, anyone walking in the field probably never saw them and thinking the field was empty left the gate open. The crucial message from this is a plea to always leave all gates as you find them, they could have been left open on purpose by the farmer, but if in doubt please do close them.

Walking the bulls back to their field in the daylight!

June tends to be a relatively quiet month on the farm as the crops approach harvest time and the cattle are moving quietly around the farm grazing and growing. This has become the time for meetings and conferences in the farming calendar, I was invited to Westminster to a “Celebration of Rural Business” this is an event organised by the Country Land and Business Association to get rural business people together with MPs to discuss our needs. There was a lot of talk of 4G and broadband connectivity as well as a lot of farming talk on how best to move agricultural policies forward after Brexit and in view of climate change. The day was really interesting and enjoyable. The Palace of Westminster is an incredible place (even covered in scaffolding) and to walk through the central lobby at 6pm filled with journalists filing their reports on the Tory leadership battle, which was in full swing, was interesting!
My visit to Parliament was followed a week later by a trip to
Groundswell which is an agricultural show based around promoting soil health through the use of Conservation Agriculture. There were some inspiring speakers and thought provoking discussions throughout the two day event, my only disappointment was that I was only able to go for one day this year.
All the farms in the parish are looking to join together with many more between here and Hungerford to create a “Farmer Cluster” group to work together and provide wildlife and environmental benefits on a landscape scale rather than just doing our own thing on our patch. This is something which has been done extremely successfully locally on the Marlborough downs over the last few years. Hopefully we can have a similar impact here within our community, I will try to keep you informed as this develops over time.