Farmer Focus – Ben Martin

May 2024

I finished my last DD article (Sept 23) by wishing everyone well for the Autumn drilling campaign – well I do not think anyone could have predicted what the weather gods were about to throw at us! A relentless wet Autumn, winter and spring have taken their toll, on crops, the land and everyone associated with getting crops through to harvest. I have never ever wished away time, but I think getting harvest 24 done, in the shed and slate wiped clean will be a welcome relief for everyone.

Now more then ever, we need the right people around us. I was given a super snippet of advice recent, that has made a real mark on me Its as important to repel the wrong people, as it is to attract the right people…

Now, we all have friends / family who like a moan, but we must position ourselves so we can attract at least 51% positivity from the people around us. Easier said then done with close family etc, but in our professional / farming lives this is relatively straight forward. Only attend meetings you know you will leave feel inspired and not drained. Go to the farm walks where people will be curious and challenge each other, not knock the methods and solutions others are bring to the table. Employ the staff that will push the business (and you) forward, not just cruise along in 2nd gear. Get rid of the advisors / consultants around you that are nothing but doom and gloom – sure you need these people to be realistic, but they should also be motivating you as well if they are doing their job properly.

Base UK and the Wildfarmed Growers community continue to be two groups that, to me, really highlight the power of working together, challenging each other, and celebrating the wins together. Find your own versions of these groups at all costs!

Sheep grazing the Wildfarmed Abbey Road field in April.

On the farming front the past 10 months have been the biggest challenge possible – that goes without saying. What I have seen and reflected on are the small wins, even during this nightmare season. People that have been prepared, ready to go but flexible in their approach have made the most of the tiny windows of opportunity to get seeds in the ground. Overall, this has paid off, with even late crops looking decent in places. Spring oats are THE spring crop for 2024 – well, from what I have seen outside my front door and locally anyway. It has been fascinating to see how farmers and crops have reacted to this spring. Mega high disease pressure has seemed to be a constant in most mono varieties – is this just a freak one off spring and not to take too much notice of it in regards to variety selection, or will we see more emphasise on blends and stronger, but lower yielding, varieties??

June and early July are now about the social aspect of my job, get out to shows / trials and farm walks. A fascinating farm walk at Hall Farm, Knettishall back in May, has set the tone for this summer I feel. The enthusiasm from James, and his farm guys, is clear to see whilst we were hearing about their Regen journey. Big improvements made to soil health, crop resilience and their farm environment in such a short space of time is truly inspirational.

The wonderful Six Inches of Soil, screening at Shimpling Park Farm

Next up is the local residents farm walk and a screening of six” of Soil here on the farm I live on. This was an incredible afternoon last year and I am sure it will be repeated this time. Getting non farming folk on farms, explaining what is happening and getting them engaged is so important. The questions and curiosity shown is always good fun!

And then to round things off with Groundswell Festival – 2 days to be a massive sponge and try absorb loads of information at the various talks, whilst enjoying the social side of the event!

Typical dog walk this spring – miserable and very soggy for all involved!

Although the coaching and mentoring aspect of my business will continue as normal during harvest, I am very much looking forward to being back on farm and getting stuck into physical farming. This balance of different work is so important to me and keeps me at the coal face and experiencing, with dirty hands, exactly what is happening on farms in 2024.

Safe harvest everyone and look forward to catching up in the Autumn time.

Take care.


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