Can Ashley farm without subsidies?

Thursday, 13 June 2019

New Monitor Farm host Ashley Jones has the bold aim of generating enough extra profit to replace direct payments within the next three years – about £200 per hectare.

More than 40 local farmers heard about 29-year-old Ashley’s vision for the business at the launch meeting of the AHDB Monitor Farm project on Monday 10 June. The group braved a very wet tour of Smeaton Farm in Saltash to find out about how Ashley wants to profitably double his 100 hectare arable cropping as part of his bid to make money without basic payments.

Ashley said: “We’re keen on trying new ideas. If somebody here wants us to try something, as long as it’s sensible, I’ll give it a go.”

There’s already plenty of diversification on the farm in place to support the whole business – a maize maze, Christmas trees and more – but Ashley doesn’t want that to distract from his passion for farming.

Benchmarking, using AHDB’s Farmbench programme, will be a vital part of the process for Ashley and his father at Smeaton Farm, to help them understand how each part of the farm is performing. A group from the Monitor Farm project will be benchmarking together, comparing costs and businesses to learn from each other.

David Pett, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager for benchmarking, said: “It’s always interesting to see someone else’s figures. But how do yours stack up? We will look at all the aspects of growing a crop. It’s ultimately all about making informed decisions.”

Meetings of the farmer-led Monitor Farm group at Saltash will run monthly from November to March, with an additional event in the summer, for the next three years.

Ashley has previously joined Monitor Farm meetings at Truro host Howard Emmett’s farm. He said: “I’ve always enjoyed going to Howard Emmett’s meetings – you have 20 to 40 farmers in a room and they all have different opinions.”

Philip Dolbear, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager, added: “Ashley’s enthusiasm for farming is clear and his ambitions will provide a great focus for the next three years on the Monitor Farm programme. A business mind-set and a whole farm approach, as well as his passion for arable farming will underpin this.” 

To get involved, contact Philip Dolbear on or 07964 255614. All meeting dates will be posted on