A desire to drive farm efficiency lay behind grower Gary Shipley’s decision to join AHDB’s farm excellence network as the new Monitor Farmer in Huggate, North Yorkshire.
Having married into the business, Mr Shipley has been the assistant farm manager at Huggate Wold Farms for the last four years.
Soil health and preparing for UK agricultural policy change are other areas Gary is keen to investigate further through the Monitor Farm programme.
He said: “These are uncertain times for farming. As a manager, the efficiency of your business is something you very much have control over, unlike currency fluctuations and the weather. Streamlining on-farm operations was the main reason we decided to join the programme.”
With the UK’s exit from the European Union looming and the removal of the Basic Payment Scheme, Mr Shipley believes that younger generations can lead the way.
“It can be difficult for the older generations to embrace the changes which are going to be required over the coming months, so it’s down to younger farmers like myself to embrace new techniques and technology and show that these solutions can work,” he added.
Originally a livestock farmer, Mr Shipley now oversees a mainly arable enterprise of 657 hectares, growing winter wheat, winter barley, oilseed rape, spring barley, vining peas and potatoes. The farm also features 80 hectares of grazing land for 150 gimmer lambs and a young suckler herd. Farming calcareous silty loam soils, stretching to heavier clay loam, Gary prides himself on keen attention to detail and making sure jobs aren’t rushed.
The high altitude at which Huggate Wold Farms is located – a lofty 700 feet above sea level – means the farm experiences its own micro-climate, with wind, snow and fog regular features in the winter. This creates an interesting time disparity with growers on lower ground, as planting can take place a full two weeks behind growers further down the hill in the York area. It is also gives Mr Shipley a much narrower window for combining.
Mr Shipley has employed a number of different sustainable farming methods over the years, such as biofumigation and direct drilling but experienced mixed results. He is keen to explore other methods and is beginning to look at cover crops, saying it’s important for farmers to see the value in adopting these practices.
Reflecting on why farmers should engage with the Monitor Farm programme Gary said: “If something allows ways to improve your farm and make your life easier, then I think we should all be embracing it. I’m looking forward to meeting other growers and hearing what they’ve got to say”.
Rose Riby, AHDB’s Knowledge Exchange Manager (cereals and oilseeds) for the North East region said: “Mr Shipley is a dedicated and assiduous grower, keen to drive change and improve, making him a fantastic addition to the AHDB Monitor Farm network.
“There’s plenty to get our teeth into over the next few years and I’m really looking forward to exploring local issues and how we can overcome them.”
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.