Buckinghamshire & Bedfordshire Monitor Farm

Will Maclennan
Farm sectors:
Cereals & Oilseeds
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About Buckinghamshire & Bedfordshire Monitor Farm

  • 680 Ha on Hanslope clay
  • 243 Ha contract farmed
  • Winter wheat, winter and spring barley, winter oilseed rape, and winter and spring beans.
  • Arable area – Currently a total of 740 Ha of combinable cropping across all farms
  • Cropping – Dollars Grove is currently cropped on a six year rotation – 1st wheat, W Barley, Oilseed rape, 1st wheat, Spring Barley, Beans, with 2 year fallow and legume mix substituting barley and break crops on the lowest average gross margin fields
  • Grain Storage – All grain stored centrally at Dollars Grove, 2200 t of drying floor capacity and a further 2000t of flat store capacity.
  • Other Information – We are in the second year of Mid-tier countryside stewardship having completed 5 years of higher tier stewardship. 

Will Maclennan has been farm manager at Dollars Grove Farms Ltd since 2008. It is a heavy land farm (Hanslope series clay) based between Milton Keynes and Bedford. Dollars Grove Farms ltd also operates two further contract farming agreements and one stubble to stubble contracting agreement with neighbouring farms. Will’s role and focus at Dollars Grove are to make the arable business profitable in its own right, outside of income from diversification.

One of the critical parts in trying to achieve this has been attending the original Huntingdon monitor farm meetings and, lately, the Northampton monitor farm meetings. Both have provided an excellent platform for new ideas and ways of thinking to progress Dollars Grove and other businesses forward. Will is keen to keep the momentum of this going. Learning about and experimenting with new ideas, then analysing the results along with benchmarking are the corner stones of coping with the challenges that all agricultural businesses are facing and are at the heart of what a monitor farm is all about. It is the ambition of the Bucks and Beds to monitor farms to share information and generate discussion to help make informed decisions that help our businesses thrive.

Will uses a hybrid system for an establishment that remains flexible depending on the year and soil conditions. Traditionally the farm was ploughed but slowly evolved towards rotational ploughing, with single-pass min-till cultivation. Mole ploughing is done on a rotational basis. Flatlift establishment is used for OSR. Will is experimenting with direct drilling, and the farm aims to establish half the area using regen ag techniques by 2024.

Will is keen during the farm’s tenure to look at improving soils and headland management, learn more about good business management techniques and share good mental health practices, getting the best outcomes from the environmental schemes being carried out on the farm, continuing to challenge and adapt agronomy practices and to capture good metrics help with business performance.

Why Dollars Grove Farm has joined the scheme?

  • Will is keen during the farms tenure to look at improving soils and headland management
  • Learn more about good business management techniques and sharing good mental health practice
  • Getting the best outcomes from the environmental schemes being carried out on the farm
  • Continuing to challenge and adapt agronomy practices
  • To capture good metrics help with business performance

What challenges will the Buckinghamshire & Bedfordshire Monitor Farm face?

The main challenge Will brings with him to the monitor farm programme is to work out how Dollars Grove Farm, the arable enterprise within the North Crawley Estate, can itself remain sustainable. With BPS due to be finished by 2028, he believes there is a real challenge to the business to adapt, learn and seize the opportunity in order to allow it to thrive without support. Will also wishes to carry on the excellent work and foundations already laid by previous monitor farms in the area (Russ McKenzie and Rick Davies). He hopes that taking part in the monitor farm programme will push him and the business outside their comfort zone, helping them question and analyse decisions.

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