Four farms to take part in three-year business training project

Four farms have been chosen to take part in a three-year programme that helps farming businesses adapt and innovate for the future.

Photo: Nick Down, Yattendon Estate

The farms – two in Scotland and two in England – will now undergo a tailored programme of training, consultancy and trials.

The successful applicants are Ben Lowe and Harriet Ross, Newseat of Dumbreck Farm, Aberdeenshire; Craig and Claire Grant, Kindrought, Aberdeenshire; Andy Bason, Newhouse Farm, Hampshire and Nick Down, Yattendon Estate, Berkshire.

Their performance will now be measured and their experiences shared with other farmers across the UK.

The Resilient and Ready Programme is spearheaded by Linking Environment And Farming (LEAF) and Corteva Agriscience.

It focuses on providing farmers with access to technical insight into their businesses coupled with the training to enable them to turn theory into commercial application.

Practical work to measure and improve aspects of their farms identified as crucial by the participants will focus around Integrated Farm Management (IFM) and include soil health, water quality and biodiversity.

Alice Midmer, of LEAF said: “The level of interest we saw at the launch events for this programme followed through in terms of the quality and quantity of applications.

“It shows that farming businesses are thinking about the future, how to adapt and innovate, and looking for opportunities.

“Our four selected farms have different objectives so the scope to learn from each other and share experiences is huge.”

One of the participating farmers is Nick Down, who manages the farming enterprise of the 3,200ha Yattendon estate since 2017 on behalf of Velcourt.

The site includes 2,000ha of combinable crops which are established in a min-till system. It is also home to 130ha of Christmas trees and 160 let properties plus 40 commercial and light industrial units which have been converted from old farm buildings.

Nick Down said the Resilient and Ready Programme has come at the right time for the business.

"We are large scale but a lot of the land is marginal meaning the best fields effectively subsidise the worst," he said.

"So if we have to take land out of production to access the greatest benefits from a new era of agricultural policy then I believe the estate is well placed."

Mr Down said he wants to develop professionally and do as much with technology and knowledge in house, rather than relying on outside experts.

"This will be equally important in the production of crops as it will in how we manage and monitor our natural capital," he said.

"Last year I spent a lot of time trying to better understand how we can affect our carbon footprint and I hope this programme will help us to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge."

He added that he wants to continue to use the estate's platform to engage with the public and promote the good things it is doing for the industry.

"As our sector evolves in the next few years, we will need to adapt to a new mindset of managing land and I want to be in the best position to offer solutions to the challenges that are coming,” Mr Down said.

Source: Farming UK