Parklands Farm advocate soil health at final Chelmsford Monitor Farm meeting

As a result of hosting an AHDB Monitor Farm, Christy and Hew Willet reported at the final Chelmsford Monitor Farm meeting that they have boosted profitability by cutting costs.

At the meeting February, Hew explained that benchmarking using AHDB’s Farmbench software had an immediate impact on their bottom line, most notably by reducing their machinery fleet and therefore depreciation, lowering their cost of production. By cutting their fixed costs they were no longer spend money on crops that don’t establish.

Hew said: “Benchmarking made a huge difference in the short term. By disposing of machinery we didn’t need, we were able to save money and invest in other areas of the business.”

The pair said that soil health is now higher on their agenda, and have made the decision to re-introduce sheep, incorporating 200 ewes to Parklands Farm’s arable rotation. They decided to incorporate grass and herbal leys following a talk by local farmer Ian Merson at one of their meetings, who encouraged them to do some research.

Christy said: “We incorporated the sheep into the rotation by having cover crops. Ian really sold us the idea when he explained that using livestock in this way was, for him, better than any break crop.”

They added that integrating livestock put the fun back into farming as it meant introducing a new element to their farming system. Listening to speakers at the regular meetings led Christy and Hew to widen their rotation, improving Parklands Farm’s profitability and their work-life balance.

AHDB knowledge exchange manager for the East Anglia region, Teresa Meadows said: “It is fantastic to have worked with Christy and Hew, along with the local Essex farming community over the past three years. Their farm business has made significant progress in reducing the cost structure, bringing a wider diversity of crops into the rotation, changing establishment techniques and more, which has been shared along the way to the benefit of all to learn.

“We have covered a diverse range of topics through the Monitor Farm programme from marketing, achieving yield potential, carbon and borage to benchmarking, soils and robots. I look forward to seeing how these messages and learnings benefit arable businesses in the area further going forwards.”

To learn more about Chelmsford Monitor Farm, including topics covered in meetings, visit the Chelmsford Monitor Farm page on the AHDB website: ahdb.org.uk/farm-excellence/chelmsford

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