Leicestershire father and son team join AHDB Monitor Farm network

Joining AHDB’s Monitor Farm network provides a platform for taking more risks according to AHDB’s newest Monitor Farmers James and Michael Parker.

“You’ve got to be brave to spend,” said Michael. “Hosting a Monitor Farm takes away some of the risk and means trying out new methods and techniques is less of a leap in the dark.”

Based near Melton Mowbray, the father and son team will be the new Vale of Belvoir Monitor Farm hosts at Sherwood Farms in Leicestershire.

Farming a total of 560ha of arable cropping, the pair predominantly grow winter wheat, winter oilseed rape, winter barley, spring barley, winter beans, winter triticale and spring linseed.

Their soils range from heavy clay to clay and sandy loam. Sherwood Farms is also home to 72,000 laying chickens – a mixture of free range and colony. The eggs are packed and sold onsite.

Both James and Michael want to increase the efficiency of their business and to produce crops as economically as possible. They are looking forward to comparing their business with other farmers facing similar challenges, identifying where improvements can be made.

The farm was originally purchased by James’s father and been built up over the years by James. Having joined the business full-time at the age of 26, Michael is keen to carry on his father’s good work and cites yield and black-grass as the main challenges facing the farm.

We’ve hit a bit of yield plateau recently, and we’re not 100% why, but suspect it’s to do with soil health. We’re keen to use the meetings to explore soil nutrients.

“Black-grass is also an issue. We’ve tried using cover crops; a combination of different plant protection products; changing our cultivation strategy and using new machinery so this a definitely something we want to look at further,” Michael said.

“I’d like to explore the financial viability of our spring crops; currently, we’re not making much money from them as they are solely in place to combat the black-grass.”

Having been to several monitor farm meetings already, both James and Michael were keen for one to look at issues specific to their area.

With significant changes on the horizon for British agriculture, both are interested in benchmarking to compare costs and make efficiency savings.

Judith Stafford, AHDB knowledge exchange manager for the East Midlands, said: “With both James and Michael on board we’ve got two monitor farm hosts for the price of one.

“I’m looking forward to both providing a cross-generational perspective on the big issues facing agriculture in the East Midlands region.”

Part of AHDB’s Farm Excellence programme, Monitor Farms bring together groups of farmers interested in improving their businesses by sharing best practice around a nationwide network of host farms.