Farm Business of the Year shows forward thinking in action

Worth Farms is a leader in driving forward innovation in the farming arena whilst caring for the environment that it’s working in. It’s created partnerships which have allowed both sides to prosper. It has a history of innovation and it encourages the people who work on the farm to contribute to the success of the business.

It’s a farm business at the leading edge and that’s been recognised with the Firestone sponsored award of Farm Business of the Year in the 2015 Farm Business Food and Farming Awards.

AH Worth is a fourth generation family farming business operating in the Holbeach Marsh area of South Lincolnshire. Its farming subsidiary, Worth Farms, is a modern farming business that is committed to farming its land in a sustainable and responsible way to maximise financial return whilst protecting and enhancing the natural landscape and wildlife habitat.

Worth Farms operate on over 2000ha of grade 1 silt land growing a range of crops including Potatoes, Wheat, Sugar Beet, Vining Peas, Mustard and energy crops (Maize and Hybrid Rye) for use in a Anaerobic Digester on site, with land let out for speciality salads to JE Piccaver (JEPCO) and a joint venture vegetable growing operation with sister company QV Foods.

Rotation is the key to Worth Farms success. “We have traditionally operated on a six year rotation for the key crops potatoes and vining peas but are now moving these out to eight years to preserve the soils productivity and improve the quality of the crops we produce,” says farm manager Simon Day. “Over the last couple of years we have invested heavily in irrigation infrastructure to enable us to apply water to the potato crop specifically to ensure the best quality product is available to our customers.”

“We irrigate during the crucial tuber initiation stage to help with skin quality and also at harvest to reduce the likelihood of bruising on the susceptible varieties,” he says. “This year we have applied 13 million gallons to the growing crops, typically at 15mm per application. Due to the nature of the silt soils we cannot apply more than this at one time as the infiltration rate is a lot lower than sandy soils and would lead to ponding and soil slumping.”

“Water is a scarce resource as our groundwater is saline so we blend water in two recently built 10 million gallon reservoirs (£290k investment), which we fill over winter through Dyke extraction, harvesting the rain water from the main site (55 acres) and using all of the QV Foods excess water from its waste water treatment plant. We are recycling as much water as we can to use on our growing crops. The farm has a ring main around the whole farm which is used for irrigation on our potatoes and JEPCO’s salad crops.

“The irrigation main is also used by us to move digestate from our AD plant around the farm. The 1.5MW plant was built in a joint venture between AH Worth and Tamar Energy and utilises waste from the site along with a consistent feedstock of Maize and Hybrid Rye as well as some imported vegetable waste. The digestate gives us a wonderful organic fertiliser that we are using to apply to the growing wheat crop in the spring and the maize and rye crop before drilling; it will also be applied to cover crops in the summer.

In 1996 Worth Farms became the first vegetable Leaf demonstration farm (Linking Environment and Farming), part of a continuing commitment to high environmental standards. “Over the past few years we have seen the number of Barn Owls and Marsh Harriers nesting on the farm increase,” said Simon Day. “The team spot Marsh Harrier nests around the farm whilst carrying out field operations and at the right time we ensure the young birds are tagged. We also have 10 barn owl boxes on the farm that are checked each year and again the young are tagged.”

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