A Year in the Life of an Arable Farmer
Hi Everyone – Its Emily and I’m back to delve a little more into our arable farming enterprise at Holly Lodge, but firstly I wanted to talk a little bit about this crazy, almost surreal time we find ourselves in at the moment.
I am currently sat in my back garden in the sunshine, with Oscar & Dougal and the birds chirping away in the background. Quite honestly it could be any other day of the spring, however the weight of self-isolation, worry of coming into contact with people out on my dog walk and stress over whether we have enough food and supplies for the next 3 weeks means it’s hard to totally relax. I am sure that everyone reading this has their own anxieties and stresses to deal with over the coming weeks, whether it be work, educating the kids, or their own mental and physical health, so hopefully this blog post will help you escape that for 5 minutes and think of calmer times.
As I said in my first blog, Holly Lodge has 2 main enterprises, arable and cattle. Our arable enterprise is around 1000 acres. In the East of England, the average size of an arable farm is around 300 acres, so Dad’s farm is on the larger side – this means he has plenty to be at! A typical year for dad and his arable enterprise begins in late August/early September with land work and drilling for next year’s crop. Dad splits his crop between autumn and spring drilling – fairly typical for the area we live in. This part of the year is highly stressful as it is totally weather dependant. If it rains, we can’t drill crops! As you can imagine with the autumn and winter we had this year it has been rather more stressful than others. Dads farm spent around 3 months in autumn and winter 2019/20 underwater, and whilst nowhere near as bad as some farmers, it stopped us from drilling around 50% of the farm. This has added immense pressure to the spring.
Throughout the autumn and winter the crops are managed by our agronomist Andrew who also happens to be my future husband! No pressure dear! Andrew ensures that the crops are growing at the correct rate and have all the nutrients that they need to maximise yield. I like to fondly name him the ‘crop doctor’! Andrew works closely with Marcus who drives our sprayer. If you are a regular customer at the dog field, you have probably seen him buzzing about in a giant green tractor with wings.
Throughout the spring the crops come into flower and also start to produce the part of the crop that we need to harvest – the ear. This is when crops need the most care and attention, so Dad spends a lot of his time monitoring their growth stages with Andrew. It also happens to be my favourite time of year as you can walk through the wheat and barley fields and run your hands across the top of the ears. Romantic I know, but there’s nothing like walking through fields in the countryside in the sunshine to make you feel good. Finally, in the middle of July Dad, Marcus, Andrew & James start harvest. This is where the years hard work finally comes to fruition and we find out how well our crops have done. It is a stressful time of year as most days consist of 12 to 18 hours work. Safe to say this is when mum and I get up to most mischief as there is no one about to tell us off! Dad mostly uses buying groups and traders to sell his crops. Some contracts Dad commits to are called futures which means he can sell crops that he hasn’t even planted yet. For example, in January this year Dad had already sold some crop for harvest 2021. He also leaves some to sell off the combine and later in the year.
As you can see a typical year in an arable enterprise requires you to be jack of a lot of trades. A scientist, engineer, accountant, tractor driver and even a trader. I don’t think this is something I fully appreciated until I returned home and started to support Mum and Dad on the farm. It’s quite impressive!
I have attached a few pictures below of the boys hard at work in our arable fields. I have to say looking at them makes me realise I am very lucky to be able to call this place home – the fields that is, not the boys! I’ll be writing a few more blog posts than normal over the coming weeks, as I find it relaxing to write them and hope that it gives everyone something else to have a smile about while we get through the worst of this horrible virus.
Stay safe everyone, and to all those key workers, which includes all the wonderful men in my family as well as my cousin who is a physio for the NHS, we support you and appreciate everything you are doing for us all. Cheers!