Northumberland grower wants farming to stand on its own two feet

Friday, 12 June 2020

AHDB welcomes Chathill Monitor Farm in Northumberland to the Farm Excellence programme, with farm host Pip Robson saying farmers should view the reduction in direct payments as a real opportunity.

Joining AHDB’s Monitor Farm network in the North East of England, Pip said it is important for the industry to be self-sufficient and not rely on support payments.

Pip said: “I think farmers could be much better off without subsidies. Self-sufficiency is something I’ve been working towards for 35 years.”

Based on a coastal plain in the far north of England, Pip runs a mixed farm of just over 800 hectares, including 480 hectares of arable cropping. Along with wheat and barley, Pip’s rotation includes spelt, an ancient grain used in the manufacture of gluten-free bread. He is now in his third year of growing the crop.

Pip is a big believer in using integrated farm management, where different aspects of the business complement each other. The farm features a suckler herd, half of which are pedigree Aberdeen Angus. Pip includes the herd in his crop rotation, alongside break crops such as oilseed rape. He is able to use the manure from the livestock as organic fertiliser.

As well as arable cropping and livestock, the farm has other enterprises including contracting work and an on-farm straw pelleting plant. Pip’s business goal is to combine business flexibility with efficiency. The multiple revenue streams means the business is diverse and able to cope with the uncertainty that is part of farming life.

As a Monitor Farm host Pip will host discussion groups of farmers in his area to share thoughts and ideas. They will hear from experts on matters such as agronomy, cultivation techniques, machinery and much more. One topic Pip is keen to explore is the carbon cycle, as he works to make his business carbon neutral.

Supporting Pip in his new role will be AHDB’s Knowledge Exchange Manager for cereals and oilseeds in the North East of England, Rose Riby.

She said: “It’s great to have Pip on-board. He’s a champion of integrated farm systems and using more traditional approaches, which is a direction many in farming are increasingly considering. I’m looking forward to some really interesting discussions during our meetings”.

Monitor Farms are part of AHDB’s Farm Excellence network. They bring together groups of like-minded farmers who wish to improve their businesses by sharing performance information and best practice around a nationwide network of host farms.

Monitor farmers host four to six meetings on their farms each year. These farmer-led meetings provide an excellent opportunity to identify and share challenges and solutions, with Chathill Monitor Farm sitting alongside Huggate Monitor Farm near York in the North East of the UK.

For more information, including resources and details on future meetings, please visit the Chathill Monitor Farm webpage. You can also find out more on the Monitor Farms homepage or by contacting Rose Riby.