Cambridgeshire farmer wins…

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…scholarship to study arable production world-wide.

James Peck travels to Washington from his Cambridgeshire home next week (March 7) on the first of part of a world study tour which will take him to the major areas of arable production. Awarded one of the 21 Nuffield Farming Scholarships which have been made this year he will be investigating the constraints on water and the increasing demand for fuel.

James Peck

The 33 year old farmer who is vice-chairman of Cambridgeshire CLA (Country Land and Business Association) will be travelling for eight weeks in all. His study topic is Arable farming, where next and how do we get there? He will be looking for the answers in Brazil, Argentina, Canada, America, Australia and Russia.

“We are at a crucial point for food production,” he explains. “We farmers are going to have to provide vastly more food for a rapidly growing world population and we shall have to do so under the restrictions of climate change. At the same time we will have to ensure that the environment does not suffer. That’s a tall order, and it’s why I believe it is imperative to establish the nature of food production now and how we are going to meet the challenges ahead.”

Constraints on water all over the globe and intense need for fuel – electricity especially – is the reason why James will be taking particular research into these two areas. Already at home he is seeking to reduce dependence upon electricity from the grid and to use less heating oil for houses and businesses at the farm and to dry grain. ‘Harvesting’ rainwater from roofs in order to cut consumption is also under consideration.

James lives and runs his business P.X.Farms Ltd at Scotland Farm, Dry Drayton near Cambridge where the family has farmed for four generations. He established the enterprise, of which he is managing director, in 2003 when he was 26. Since then it has grown from 1600 acres – the family’s own land and three other farms – to a total of 2800 acres on nine farms. The business encompasses a haulage operation specialising in combinable crops and has a contract to store grain at the farm in a newly-constructed store of 26,500 tonnes capacity.

He is able to take time out to travel because of his dedicated team of staff and modern day communications which will keep him in touch throughout with all that is happening with the business. With other Nuffield scholars he will first spend a week in Washington and Pennsylvania where he will be given a thorough grounding in the work he will be undertaking and what will be expected of him. His report, running to 10,000 words, will be used to help advance agriculture, and he will be required to give a presentation at the major Nuffield winter conference.

For further information:

Sally Smith, CLA: 01553 764422 or 07729 448046
James Peck: 01954 210211 or 01954 211123 or 07976 939596

Notes to Editors

JAMES PECK is a former Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year. He has helped raise funds to support local charities and maintain the grounds of Dry Drayton Church. On the farm he has created permissive rights of way to link a number of footpaths together to make a continuous walk for the local community.

P.X.Farms Ltd is an agricultural contracting company.

*NUFFIELD FARMING SCHOLARSHIPS. Founded in 1943 by the original benefactor, the late Lord Nuffield (William Morris), the present Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust was subsequently established in 1947 and is dedicated to developing leadership in farming and the rural industries. The UK Trust forms part of a much wider organisation operating in Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. Since its establishment, the trust has offered over 600 opportunities at home and more than 1000 worldwide for individuals with vision and energy to develop themselves and make a difference to agriculture and land-based industries.

Funded by the agriculture and food industries, charities and trusts with agricultural objectives, as well as past scholars themselves, the UK Trust presents around 20 new awards each year to enthusiastic individuals aged between 22 and 45 years old. Each scholar is provided with travel and subsistence costs for a period of eight weeks in return for a written paper and the presentation of study findings at an annual winter conference. For more information visit

THE CLA. As a membership organisation, the CLA supports landowners and rural businesses and communities, assessing and commenting upon national and regional policy and lobbying government on their behalf. There is a team of experts in London and a regional structure able to give local support. The CLA has been looking after the interests of its members, as well as promoting the positive aspects of land ownership and land management, for over 100 years.

CLA members own approximately half the rural land in England and Wales, and the resulting expertise puts the organisation in a unique position to formulate policies and lobby effectively.

Source: Country Land & Business Association

Nuffield UK announces 2010 Scholarship award winners

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Starting out on their journeys of a lifetime, 21 new hopefuls from the farming, food chain and rural industries have been announced winners of a 2010 Nuffield Farming Scholarship Award.

Drawn from all corners of the country, their travels begin in the USA at a pre-study ‘International Conference’ focusing on global food and farming issues, where they will also join fellow Nuffield Scholars from around the world, prior to setting off on their solo studies in the spring.


“Carrying the flag for British food and farming, our newly awarded Scholars are impatient to travel, to meet industry experts at the top of their fields, to gather groundbreaking information and bring back recommendations that can help steer UK farming’s future,” says John Stones, Director, Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust, who congratulates this year’s award winners on their achievement and being selected form a record number of applicants in 2009.

“Our 2010 Scholars include farmers and farm managers running livestock and cropping enterprises of various sizes, several ‘farm-to-fork’ food retailers, along with a specialist sheep consultant and a conservation advisor. We have also awarded an agronomist, a farming policy adviser, a specialist avian vet and a bee keeper who is keen to research and get to the heart of the decline of the honey bee.

“Sharing a passion to study a topic that they feel strongly about, this year’s study themes include ‘new entrants to farming’ and ‘climbing the farming ladder’, ‘the route to sustainable agriculture’, ‘the search for green opportunities’ and ‘practical alternatives to inorganic fertilisers’. They also include studies on the softer skills in farming with two Scholars examining ‘the attributes of successful business people’ and ‘how to communicate effectively with farmers.”

International Conference, Washington DC

John Stones points out: “The study topics chosen by all our Scholars are highly geared towards the UK farming industry and how they can benefit UK farmers. But their first Nuffield experience is truly global.”

At an international gathering in Washington in March, UK award winners will be joined by Nuffield Scholars from Australia, Canada, France, Ireland and New Zealand – along with delegates from like-minded associations from around the world, such as the Eisenhower Fellowships [USA], the Executive Programme for Agricultural Producers [USA], Global Dairy Farmers [Netherlands], the Mexican Farm Co-operative and the Uruguayan Farmers.

The focus of this year’s event is the ‘global food crisis’, with Scholars being challenged to think about world food production, its uncertainties and its interdependencies, and understand how agriculture fits within the jigsaw of world politics, energy supplies and population growth.

How can a global population of nine billion be fed healthily and sustainably? How can it be in the best interests of a nation to maintain food prices at low levels to the detriment of food producers? How, as an industry, do we place more value on food to ensure the people who produce it can maintain an equitable and sustainable existence? These are some of the questions that will be examined and debated.

“Forming part of an ambitious international learning programme run by Nuffield, the conference will help strengthen Scholar’s understanding of the global food system and help them understand the implications for UK farming patterns,” explains John. “But, just as important, it will also provide our Scholars with an exceptional forum for exchanging their ideas and building new networks.

“Our new Scholars will soon get a feel for the bigger picture and their new contacts are bound to bring a global dimension to their future studies.

Nuffield Farming Scholarships

Supported and sponsored by leading agribusiness organisations, charities and individuals, this year’s award winners join a growing and influential group of over 600 scholars in the UK and over 1,000 worldwide, all of whom have travelled internationally and explored subjects and issues in a global context far beyond their back yards.

“A Nuffield Scholarship can open doors and provides opportunities for both life-long learning and self-improvement,” points out John Stones. “For many a Scholarship experience has changed their lives. It has opened their eyes, ears and their minds to the wider world, giving them the confidence to develop their management and business skills, to pursue their personal goals, as well as to become active leaders within UK agriculture.

“Again this year, our selection panel for new Scholars was impressed with the quality of the applications, and it is reassuring to see the enthusiasm and drive of so many younger people in the industry.

“The standard of candidates was very high and to succeed in winning an award has been a real achievement. Those who did not succeed will undoubtedly be disappointed, but will be encouraged to apply again.”

Information on Nuffield Farming Scholarship Awards – and how to apply – can be found at Individuals interested in applying, but requiring further information, are also invited to contact the NFST Director, John Stones, on Tel. 01858 555544 (Email.

Applications for the 2011Nuffield Farming Scholarship programme will be taken up to the 15th November 2010 (latest), with shortlisted candidates being invited to attend an interview in London in late January 2011.


A summary of the 2010 Nuffield Scholarship winners follows below




Rona Amiss (Crockernwell, Exeter)

Kevin Beaty (Carlisle, Cumbria)

Marnie Dobson (Tarporley, Cheshire)

Clare Greener (Much Wenlock, Shropshire)

Chris Falconer (Bideford, Devon)

Malcolm Fewster (Gomersal, Cleckheaton)

George Finch (Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire)

Helen Houghton (Towcester, Northants)

Scott Kirby (Newport, Shropshire)

Jo Paterson (Buntingford, Herts)

James Peck (Dry Drayton, Cambridge)

Tim Powell (Bridgnorth, Shropshire)

Caroline Stocks (Vauxhall, London)

Helen Thoday (Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire)

Adam West (Ledbury, Herefordshire)



Michael Blanche (Methven, Perth)

Jim Baird (Kirkfieldbank, Lanark)

Andrew Scarlett (Meigle, Perthshire)



Tony Davies (Rhayader, Powys)

Arwyn Owen (Beddgelert, Gwynedd)

Rhys Williams (Pwllheli, Gwynedd)


Source: Nuffield Farming Scholarships

Movers & Shakers

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Dry Drayton farmer James Peck goes to Washington next week on the first part of a world study tour of the major areas of arable production. He has been awarded one of the 21 Nuffield Farming Scholarships made this year and will be investigating constraints on water and the increasing demand for fuel.

James, 33, is vice-chairman of Cambridgeshire Country Land & Business Association. He said, “We are at a crucial point for food production. We farmers are going to have to provide vastly more food for a rapidly growing world population and we shall have to do so under the restrictions of climate change.”


Should all farmers retire at 60?

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Yes says James Peck.

This year’s Oxford Farming Conference will debate the motion “This House believes that all farmers should retire at 60”. James Peck explains why he is in favour of the motion.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of the word retire is from the French retirer – to draw back. Therefore, I would rather propose the motion that farmers should “draw back” at 60 and so I’ve taken the liberty of putting inverted commas round “retire”.

The target of our efforts should probably not be the age when farmers retire (since people are living longer anyway and the retirement age is rumoured to rise), but how they can be encouraged to welcome the younger generation into the industry and work together with them moving forward.

Ideally we need to make sure that family farming businesses continue to grow by retaining the knowledge and skills from the past, while nurturing new and enthusiastic talent which can look towards the future and maximise long term growth and income.

If this transition cannot be successfully achieved, the risk is of the farm becoming stagnant or failing. This can be down to the loss of historical skills and knowledge from the older generation and/or the lack of young people willing to wait their turn to join the industry when there are so many opportunities now available both here in the UK and abroad.

We all know of stories of young farmers in their 30s leaving the family farm because the grandfather in his 80s still holds the purse strings.

My father is now only one year away from the golden age of 60, and yet every time I ask him if he is ready to stand down his answer is “no”.

This would mean that the estate would be handed over to me only on the event of my father’s death, which hopefully is a good few years away.

Estimating that this could be 30 years in the future, this would mean I would only take over control after I am 63. So I would have to hand it over to the next generation, missing me out completely or worse keep it until they are 60 plus.

Young farmers should be regarded as an asset for any prudent older farmer to capitalise on.

The prudent “retired” farmer might, for example, consider contracting out but staying involved and then look to using his wisdom and experience not only at home, but for the good of others, by getting more involved in organisations such as NFU or CLA.

In our family we have addressed the handover in a different way to achieve maximum benefit for all. Father has retained security and control of the farm and its assets, while making more time available for advising industry related groups.

In 2003, I started my own business using the farm site as a base. I deal with the day-to-day farming of the land on a contract basis, and also provide this service for other local landowners.

I have also diversified into grain haulage and grain storage. The background support from my father, both by him allowing me to use the strength of the estate’s assets, and by providing advice and guidance when I request it, has helped me to achieve my goals.

It is probably fair to say that individuals who won’t stand aside for the next generation will never be convinced to do so regardless of the retirement age.

But what are the reasons? Is this caused by competitive instinct and the fear that the next generation will be more successful? Or the fear that instead of retiring to enjoy their later years they will simply go to seed?

James Peck is a former Farmers Weekly Young Farmer of the Year and runs his own farming company PX Farms which is based at Dry Drayton in Cambridgeshire.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

Succession – In at the deep end

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For James Peck, Firestone Young Farmer of the Year in 2006, the chance to run the show came early. After graduating from Writtle at 23, James headed back to the family’s arable farm in Cambridgeshire with a clear sense that he wanted to farm, but never imagining he would be running his own business by his mid-twenties.

James Peck

It was his father Adrian’s decision to devote himself to his diversification into property development that provided the trigger. James remembers the moment well. “I was 26 and my father brought me into the office and said he wanted to put the farm out on contract. I was shocked, really shocked. Either I took the plunge or had to face the idea of someone else managing the farm.” James took the plunge, along with plenty of professional advice, and set up P.X. Farms, a limited company that he owns in full.

James has never looked back and the business now farms some 5,000 acres through a variety of agreement types. By forging innovative partnerships with other operators, it has recently expanded into grain storage and haulage.

“I’m all for having a business plan, but you never know what opportunities the next year will bring and you have to run with them. I honestly never envisaged I’d be running a grain store alongside the contract farming.”

Mulling over why things have worked out so well, James is the first to admit that his father has been a key factor. “Father was my agricultural bible. I couldn’t have done it without him. At the same time, it was important that he was free to get on with his own thing and didn’t have to carry the risks of my business.”

Keeping cool’s key…

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…to 26,000t grain store’s success.

PX Farms’ gleaming new grain store faced a baptism of fire in harvest 2008, having to cope with drying as much as 95% of the incoming crop. It passed with flying colours, says James Peck of PX Farms.

James Peck

“The combined capacity of the drier and wet bin means we can hold over 250t in the drying queue at any one time, or tip on the concrete pad and bucket the grain in when there’s space,” says Mr Peck. “It never caused any bottleneck in tipping or delay in harvesting – and hopefully we won’t get another year like that.”

Leased to merchant Wellgrain, the store contains not only the substantial output of the host farm’s crops but also that of 30 local growers. It has an intake rate of more than 150t/hr using on-floor tipping and a 120t/hr central overhead conveyor.

This has a “travellator” that moves forward in 1m steps to form a neat 60m-long pile, 14.5m deep at its centre and almost 7m at the edges. The store

has clearly been built for capacity and efficiency.

But of equal importance in the specification is the monitoring and cooling systems designed to combat potential insect pest infestation.

Gary Milner of Robydome checks the computerised control and monitoring set-up for the ventilation/cooling and drying systems.

With such a huge amount of grain in one heap – and the responsibility that comes with managing the output of the 30 local farms, let alone PX Farm’s own in-hand and contract farming operations – outstanding store management is imperative to maintain quality and operating throughput.

The process begins with accurate monitoring of incoming grain moisture, then drying as necessary to 15% moisture content. Each load is rigorously sampled and recorded on the intake office computer.

“While moisture content is important, we also recognise how crucial it is to get the grain cool enough to store in good condition and free from insect pests,” says Mr Peck. “That means getting the temperature down from a typical 32ºC at intake to the target store temperature of 6ºC as quickly as possible.”

The ventilation system is designed to cool the grain rapidly to less than 10C, at which point the insects will not breed; at single figures they will die.

As the 30m wide store is loaded, six rows of ventilation ducts are laid and ratchet-strapped to fixings on the floor. They start at 900mm diameter, then step down to 750mm, 600mm and finally 450mm to give the even air flow calculated by Silsoe-based independent grain storage engineer, David Bartlett.

Mr Peck emphasises the need to get the air flow right: “There is a temptation in most farm grain stores to over-engineer and over-specify,” he says. “But that risks over-drying the grain; when a 1% loss on a store this size equates to over £20,000, it pays to get the sums done and get the right air flow.”

The ventilation system operates in three zones, each with a pair of high-capacity, two-stage fans and ducting.

In the central zone, seven Robydome probes, fixed to the ducting tie-downs and incorporating three monitoring points each, check grain temperature throughout the depth of the pile and feed the results to a central computer.

Two zones down either side have 13 single-point probes each. These are suspended from the roof so they can be pushed into the grain as the store is filled but, more importantly, can be removed and safely coiled back up to the roof as the store is unloaded.

“We wanted to avoid mobile probes that involve walking across the grain or that could be left in the grain and possibly lost or damaged as the store is emptied,” explains Gary Milner of Robydome.

The large scale of the PX Farms store called for a custom design of monitoring probes but the principle can be scaled down to any on-farm store, from individual bins to small on-floor storage.

“The computerised controller for differential cooling is equally applicable to any storage situation, bringing about the same benefits in energy and automation efficiency and assuring the quality of the grain,” Mr Milner adds. “It can be incorporated into any existing system or new store build.”

Once grain starts pouring into the store, the cooling fans are run intensively to equalise the heap to a common temperature. Then a sophisticated differential cooling programme in the control system kicks in to bring the temperature down to the required levels.

The Robydome monitoring and control programme continuously tracks grain temperatures throughout the store and compares it with the outside air temperature and humidity. The fans are set to come on when ambient temperature is 2C below that of the stored grain and relative humidity is below 65; any rise above these parameters automatically switches the fans off.

Having sufficient ventilation capacity to rapidly cool grain via floor ducting for effective quality and insect pest control was given a high priority in the store’s specification.

Automatic control ensures air carrying excess moisture is not pushed through the grain – otherwise it will be wetted rather than dried and a build-up of caked fusty grain alongside the ventilation ducts will interfere with air flow and cooling performance.

“The parameters are selected to give the most efficient possible cooling whilst ensuring the optimum humidity is maintained for good storage,” says Mr Peck. “The record of fans switching on and off throughout the day and night clearly shows it would be impossible to achieve this level of accuracy and efficiency with manual operation.”

Given the volume of air being pumped into the store, it is important to think about extraction capacity. After all, as Mr Peck points out, moist air condensing on a cool roof will drip moisture back onto the grain and create a crust of damp material highly conducive to insect activity.

“You need to take out an equivalent volume of air that’s gone through the grain as quickly as it’s blown into the pile,” he emphasises. “The eight large extractor fans in the roof automatically start up with the ventilation fans – but we can also switch them on manually to keep the working environment clean and virtually dust free when filling the store and out-loading lorries.”

With bespoke administration software recording grain movements and linked to Wellgrain’s own system, growers renting space on a stored volume basis know precisely how much grain they have to sell – and do not have the responsibility of managing stored crop at a busy time of year.

“From experience, most grain storage problems occur in October and November, once the grain is believed to be safely in the store but when most farmers are too busy with field work to regularly monitor and manage the store,” Mr Peck points out. “For growers using our facility through Wellgrain, all risks and concerns are removed; they can concentrate on the new crop in the ground.”

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

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