Bury St Edmunds: High-flyinng Rougham Estate Farms manager scoops national award

A 25-year-old farm manager based on a Suffolk estate has scooped a national award for the progress he has made since arriving there.

Simon Eddell, farm manager at Rougham Estate Farms near Bury St Edmunds was awarded the Chairman’s Cup in this year’s Velcourt competition.

Velcourt provides farm management and consultancy across a number of sectors including arable and dairy, and the competition is held annually to find the very best among its farm managers.

Chief executive James Townshend and chairman Robin Malim visited each of Velcourt’s 36 farm managers. Simon scooped the cup by impressing judges with how much he’s progressed since taking on the farm near Bury St Edmunds in April 2011.

Simon began his management training scheme at Velcourt after completing an agriculture degree at Newcastle University.

“I don’t think I would have got to be a farm manager at 23 by any other route. The support I’ve got from Velcourt has been enormous. From day one you’re given responsibility with the guidance of a farm director and you can pick up a large amount of knowledge,” he said.

“Each Velcourt farm manager is like a managing director of their own farm. It was a bit daunting at first but you’re backed up by Velcourt’s R&D team and a there is a huge wealth of experienced managers to call if there are any problems.

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“The majority of my peers at Newcastle had farms to go to after they finished and others are now agronomists or following other farm management training schemes. My career path has definitely been the quickest.

“I learnt the science behind farming at university but the Velcourt scheme tells you how to farm and how to run a farming business.”

Simon was brought up near Baldock, in North Hertfordshire.

“My father used to farm but he got out of it before I was born. I’ve always had the bug though and never considered any other career path,” he said.

Rougham Estates has a contract farming agreement with Shrubbery Farm, Hessett, and Simon manages a total of more than 1,000 hectares. He also supplies an agronomy service to a neighbouring farmer.

Rougham is split by the A14 and has a mixture of soil types so Simon is able to grow a variety of crops including wheat for Warburtons, rye for Ryvita, oilseed rape, barley and sugar beet. The farm also grows around 5,000 Christmas trees each year for the festive season.

“At Rougham the landowner’s number one personal goal is wildlife and conservation. It’s not a one-size fits all approach for Velcourt,” said Simon.

“I’ve got an extensive Higher Level Stewardship scheme across the estate – I’d done a bit of Entry Level Stewardship before but HLS is all new and has taken a bit of getting used to. I changed the hedging regime so now it’s all mapped and colour coded and cut in certain years.”

Hedge cutting is also now done in-house as it worked out cheaper for him to buy a cutter and use the existing workers than to bring in a contractor.

Simon said he had a lot of goals he still wanted to achieve at Rougham.

“I am looking to use a lot more precision technology and grow the agronomy services that we offer. I also want to improve the soil husbandry and hopefully get better fertility, using methods like green manure, to lead to better yields,” he said.