New HGCA Monitor Farm launched in Suffolk

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm. L-R: David Barker, Patrick Barker, Brian B

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm. L-R: David Barker, Patrick Barker, Brian Barker and Roy Barker. - Credit: Archant

More than 100 farmers gathered at the Barker family’s farm at Westhorpe, near Stowmarket, yesterday as it joined the second wave of HGCA Monitor Farms as part of Agri-Tech Week.

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm.

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm. - Credit: Archant

Brian Barker, who is in charge of the day-to-day management of the farm while cousin Patrick looks after the other business elements, said joining the scheme, which promotes best practice in farming, followed on from a farmer discussion group which he had been running.

E J Barker & Sons has scooped a number of conservation awards in recent years, including the FWAG Silver Lapwing, but has always kept its focus on improving productivity while helping wildlife to thrive.

“I have always been a competitive farmer and I want to get better,” said Brian. “What’s better than having the best research organisation in farming coming on your farm?”

Being a Monitor Farm means that he will be able to call experts in and get them into Suffolk to talk to Suffolk farmers, he pointed out.

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm. L-R: Tim Isaac, Brian Barker, Roger Steed

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm. L-R: Tim Isaac, Brian Barker, Roger Steed and Tom Jewers. - Credit: Archant


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“Hopefully I can get bigger and better,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a dynamic group of interested farmers who discuss, challenge and benefit from using this as a discussion group.”

The group will meet six times a year over a three year period.

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“Pooling that expertise and experience will benefit us all in the long run,” he said.

While the farm was known for its wildlife work, it has been improving profits and yields at the same time, year-on-year.

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm.

The launch event for Westhorpe Farm as HGCA Monitor Farm. - Credit: Archant

The operation, which owns or manages around 630 hectares of land, will be unusual among Monitor Farms in having both an agronomy and a business group.

The agronomy group will focus on getting the best yields possible, while the business group will look at aspects including benchmarking and crop marketing.

Brian said he felt “excited and apprehensive at the same time” about the farm’s new role.

“It’ll be open to whoever wants to come,” he said. “It’s also making contact with people I wouldn’t normally meet on a day-to-day basis.”

HGCA regional manager Tim Isaac said his organisation was very pleased at how the new farmer-led scheme, which uses individual farms to test and refine new concepts and improve performance, was bedding in across the country and it was a concept farmers had embraced.

“Enthusiasm and interest seems to be building in the right direction,” he said. “I think this has huge potential to take the arable industry forward.”

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