Duxford Monitor Farm

Tom Mead, David Hurst
East Anglia
Farm sectors:
Cereals & Oilseeds
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About Duxford Monitor Farm

  • Bleak House and Law farming became Monitor Farms in June 2018.
  • Bleak House is 377ha of arable cropping, growing wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape, as well as sugar beet.
  • The farm uses a mixture of ploughing and minimal tillage cultivation, aiming to cultivate as shallow as possible when the conditions allow.

Tom Mead and David Hurst have hosted the Duxford Monitor Farm together since 2018. They farm within nine miles of each other at the Hertfordshire-Cambridgeshire border.

With different businesses but common goals and problems, the jointly-hosted Monitor Farm provides an opportunity to look at collaboration, farm management and business resilience from two different perspectives.

Tom Mead is a partner at Bleak House Farm in Cambridgeshire. The family farm has 377ha of arable cropping, growing wheat, barley, oats and oilseed rape, as well as sugar beet. They use a mixture of ploughing and minimal tillage cultivation, aiming to cultivate as shallow as possible when the conditions allow. The farm has storage capacity for around 2,000 tonnes. Winter barley and OSR are generally sold at harvest and wheat and oats are stored longer and marketed between harvest and the following spring. Tom is a graduate of the Tesco Future Farmers programme and is particularly interested in running an efficient farm business on a small scale. He also wants to find ways to push the business forward, looking in detail at soils, how to stay profitable, focus on the customer and maintain a good work-life balance.

David Hurst was the arable manager at Law Farming in Hertfordshire. The business has 1,355ha of arable cropping including rye, wheat, barley, oats, spring barley, forage rape, spring mustard and sugar beet. The farm also has a 1,750 head sheep flock, rents land out for pigs and there are plans to introduce cattle back on to the farm. There are three full-time staff and a harvest student. The farm is ploughed for grass leys and winter and spring barley, but a one pass operation is used elsewhere. David’s ambition for the business in the short term was to continue to reduce fixed and variable costs, without affecting productivity or the quality or value of output. During the Monitor Farm programme, David is looking forward to learning from other farmers and wider industries across the supply chain.

Full farm specifications and initial ‘SWOT’ (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) analyses can be found in the Duxford Monitor Farm Launch Meeting report.

David has now been successful with moving to a new role as a Senior Associate Director with Strutt & Parker, carrying out farm management consultancy in Northumberland. Tom Mead is continuing to remain as host of the Duxford Monitor Farm. The programme will continue over the summer and autumn, concluding in winter 2021/22, with upcoming topics of discussion including ways to improve nitrogen use efficiency and the calculation of carbon emissions and sequestration.

Duxford Monitor Farm meetings & reports

Duxford Monitor Farm summer meeting – 8 June 2021

In this meeting report you can find plans for the then-upcoming Nitrogen Use Efficiency Trial. The trial consists of several tramlines that will be subjected to various N applications and supplementary treatments. The trial field will be yield mapped and grain samples taken from each plot for post-harvest analysis.

You can also find the results from the carbon review that took place on Tom’s farm. Once these carbon reviews are done you can compare your farm to others in the Agrecalc database. High levels of imported SOM and reducing tillage were two actions that Tom took post-review to reduce farm emissions.

The fungicide challenge is a country-wide event that encourages farmers to develop crop protection programmes that focus on margin rather than yield. In the meeting report you can find examples that some of the entrants came up with.


Monitor Farm Monday | Planning a fungicide strategy – 4 February 2021

Open discussion involving Richard Meredith (AHDB), Jonathan Blake (ADAS) and Monitor Farm hosts including Tom & David to run through the options available when designing a fungicide programme.

This webinar provided an independent assessment of fungicide performance against the economically important crop diseases associated with wheat, barley and oilseed rape.


East Anglia Monitor Farms regional update – February 2021

Tom and other East Anglian monitor farmers reported changes they’ve made over the previous 6 months. Tom told about his success with winter bird feeding plots as part of a countryside stewardship scheme. He was pleased with both the establishment of the mix he used as well as the organisation of the scheme.

You can see all East Anglian monitors farmer’s full updates in the regional update recording.


East Anglia Monitor Farms summer meeting – 22 June 2020

Jonathan talked about his recently acquired suckler herd, their feeding rotation and returns he’s seen in comparison to crops from the same land. Tom updates us on crop performance and talk about the wildflower margins he recently drilled.

You can hear their updates, along with the update from other monitor farmers in the region, in the summer meeting recording.


Plant nutrition – 14 February 2020

Sarah Kendall (ADAS) and David Fuller-Shapcott (J.N Fuller-Shapcott & Co.) delivered two talks on the importance of finding the balance of micronutrients for a healthy crop as well as how to diagnose nutrient deficiencies using tissue testing.


Labour and machinery review – 17 January 2020

Tom and Jonathan’s labour and machinery costs were calculated, the results can be seen in the Duxford Monitor Farm L&M Review meeting report.

Results from labour and machinery reviews can then be compared against other Monitor Farms in the network, Tom and Johnathan were considering machine sharing as a way to improve their operational costs.


Yield and breeding – 9 December 2019

Sean Burns gave an introduction to the AHDB Recommended List which was followed by Cathy Hooper (RAGT) explaining the process behind breeding and what breeder are aiming for in the current climate. Full meeting details can be found here.


Soil and rooting – 13 November 2019

Karl Ritz (University of Nottingham) delivered a talk on rooting and soil structure whilst Liz Stockdale (NIAB) introduces the Soil Health Scorecard.

As part of the Soil Biology and Soil Health Partnership, AHDB developed the Soil Health Scorecard. The scorecard consists of several key soil health indicators that, once tested for, are ranked against national and regional soil scores.

More information on the Soil Health Scorecard along with case studies of its use can be found here: Testing the soil health scorecard | AHDB


Duxford Monitor farm summer meeting – 7 June 2019

Tom planned to split a field and use different nutritional input programmes to assess the impact on yield. In preparation for this Tom had tissue testing done on crops subjected to the then-current treatment methods in order to set a benchmark. The tissue testing analysis breakdown can be found in the meeting report.


Crop establishment, seed rates & yield – 16 November 2018

Tom and Jonathan cost out the use of variable seed dispersion rates on their farms, these were as follows:

Law Farming

  • Total investment: £4483.50
  • £4.71/ha over 5yrs

MF Mead & Son

  • Total investment: £3850
  • £8.15/ha over 5yrs

Duxford Monitor Farm in the press and on social media

If you would like to be included in the email invite list for future meetings, contact Ana Reynolds (Knowledge Exchange Manager Cereals & Oilseeds – East Anglia) via Ana.Reynolds@ahdb.org.uk or 07387015465.