At MSP, our focus is on delivering high-quality, practical advice to our farming partners. Part of how we understand the challenges that farmers face with each season and the changing marketplace is by running our own farm in Northumberland.
Ben Gothorp, a technical officer at MSP, is the person who keeps the farm running smoothly. He manages the farm, doing the agronomy, planning its operations, fertiliser use and variety choice and also purchasing whatever products it requires. We asked Ben to tell us more about the farm and the challenges he has faced this year.
“Sizing up at just under 360 acres, we grow oilseed rape, winter wheat, and both winter and spring barley for malting. Our home farm has been in operation since 2011, and it plays a key part in our advisory services – it allows us to understand the viability and costs associated with growing each crop and the general running of a farm.
“We run the farm without the Basic Payment support, which means we experience the importance of having to farm as efficiently as possible in order to make a profit, emphasising the importance of continuous improvement for everything that we do. This requirement drives continual improvements in our general practices, cropping, agrochemical and fertiliser regimes and overall work efficiency.
“So, while the farm is first and foremost run as a financially viable enterprise, it also provides us with the chance to run field scale trials and experiment with varieties, fertiliser/agrochemical regimes and rotational changes.
“The biggest challenges we face include running the farm without Basic Payment support, however, this is also a positive as it forces the farm to run as efficiently as possible. We also do not own any farm machinery, so a contractor is used for all of our operational work – this can be frustrating as we have to fit with his other commitments, but it is just a fact of using contractors. The soil type can also cause issues especially in years such as this one, with the farm being situated on heavy land. Poor drainage and problematic grassweeds also impact the crops, but we know what we are dealing with and work to overcome the issues.