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Farmer John’s September 2013 Blog

Farmer John’s September 2013 Blog

1 Sep 2013

Well, it’s been a difficult farming year for cereals whether you are an organic or conventional farmer, with very few good yields.

For the whole of last season I jealously admired a piece of spring wheat Robin Plank was growing near Bradfield. It followed years and years of maize which always had a good helping of Severall’s Farm muck, as did the road from Stanford Dingley to Bradfield in the process. The crop looked immaculate, was clean and thick, grown to yield, a sharp contrast to our diverse poppy fields with a smattering of organic wheat. He was disappointed with his results. I was disappointed with mine. His conventional crop had to yield two and a half tonnes to break even, mine one tonne.

All our efforts looked a little tame compared with the last field of wheat harvested on Wasing Estate. It was due to rain the following day and the contractor from Hampshire was working with a huge combine and massive trailers to move the wheat to their store. Three local farmers were baling the straw, with a team on the task of carting the bales away. The final touch was a tractor and minimum tillage drill planting next year’s crop of oilseed rape. By the evening all was quiet, and with the scene change complete, the field was ready for the rain, which incidentally didn’t come.

One of the benefits of organic farming is that it takes a long time to get a trailer load of corn. I usually take a book to read and intersperse that with the odd nap. The orange flashing light on the combine alerts me of the need for action or a phone call from Turbo, my combine driver, if the nap has gone to a deep sleep. A fairly lightweight book or Farmers Weekly is best, but this year’s read appropriately was “PRAYER – does it make a difference?” by Philip Yancey. Bunny, our gamekeeper, laughed as he saw the title and commented “Hasn’t helped your yields this year”. I had to agree it’s been a difficult farming year and the yields have been poor, but we’ve sold over 700 lambs, have a good income from our organic and wildlife management and Thames Water compensation for the pipeline will save the day!