Essex Monitor Farm hailed a great success

Tom Bradshaw, of W Bradshaw & Son farm in Fordham.

Tom Bradshaw, of W Bradshaw & Son farm in Fordham. - Credit: Archant

An Essex-based farmer-led scheme looking at the best way to run a farm using a ‘host’ participant to try out new ideas has been hailed a great success.

Tom Bradshaw hosts a tour of Fletcher's Farm at an HGCA Monitor Farm event in Fordham.

Tom Bradshaw hosts a tour of Fletcher's Farm at an HGCA Monitor Farm event in Fordham. - Credit: Su Anderson

AHDB’s Monitor Farm programme at Tom Bradshaw’s family farm at Fordham, near Colchester, began in summer 2014, and has been meeting at least five times a year since. The project, part of an ongoing nationwide initiative, has now come to a close, with the last meeting held in February.

Clacton-on-Sea farmer David Lord, a steering group member, said the independent, farmer-led aspect of the Monitor Farm was vital.

“It was really important three years ago when we started, and is even more crucial now.

“I joined the Monitor Farm group because I could see the opportunities to improve our business and also the benefits for the industry,” he said.

Tom Bradshaw hosts a tour of Fletcher's Farm at an HGCA Monitor Farm event in Fordham.

Tom Bradshaw hosts a tour of Fletcher's Farm at an HGCA Monitor Farm event in Fordham. - Credit: Su Anderson


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“Before the Monitor Farm, there were a few innovative farmers out there trying something different, but it was very difficult to try to link up with them. I saw this new project as a good way to change the way we farm.”

Farmer Andrew d’Angibau, also a member of the steering group, said: “We’re a close group, and I’ve got to know people a lot better than I did before. These are people I can now use as a sounding board in the future.”

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Over three years, local farmers and others representing more than 30,000 arable hectares took part in meetings on topics chosen by the farmer-led steering group, focused on issues such as crop establishment, cover crops and costings, and many also took part in benchmarking activities.

Tom said: “For me, the benchmarking was an opportunity to ‘ground-truth’ my own figures and work out whether I was right or wrong.”

The former Nuffield scholar, who has completed training with the Worshipful Company of Farmers.

“Ten years ago I probably didn’t have quite the same level of business focus that I do now. It’s making me focus on all the different areas of our business to make sure they are generating a return – both on the capital invested in them and in the management time required.”

As the Monitor Farm project at Tom’s farm comes to a close, AHDB will be launching another project in East Anglia, to be announced later this month.

AHDB is a statutory levy board, funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain. Its purpose is to inspire farmers, growers and the industry to succeed using practical know-how which can be applied straight away to make better decisions and improve performance.

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