Farming’s entrepreneurs take control

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Entrepreneurs are people with guts, ambition and commitment, according to key speakers from The Future’s In Your Hands event.

Matthew Naylor, who grows potatoes and flowers for major retailers in south Lincolnshire, told delegates: “The difference between a businessman and an entrepreneur is all about control. Business people analyse the status quo and try and profit from it. Entrepreneurs take control of the situation and try and make things happen on their own terms.”

“I have made loads of mistakes over the years, all with my own money. Some people will try something and fail. It’s about dusting yourself down, deciding where you went wrong and trying again.”

Ian Kenny, head of agricultural policy at NatWest added: “Cash, capital and character are what the banks are looking for with start-ups but character is key. Have you got the flair, the fire and passion to make it work?”

“There is no rule book. If you have a hunch simply go and do it. It’s the only way you will learn,” said Will Chase, founder of Tyrrells Crisps.

“My advice is: be enthusiastic and passionate, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do your research, have a ten-year plan, and work hard.” – James Peck, managing director, P.X. Farms, and 2006 FW Young Farmer of the Year.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

James Peck is named…

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…the Firestone Young Farmer of the Year at the Farmers Weekly Awards 2006

James, Peck, the Managing Director of P.X. Farms Ltd., has been named as the Firestone Young Farmer of the Year 2006 at an awards ceremony in London.

Why he won:

James Peck is a young man on a mission. His goal is as simple as it is ambitious: To increase his contracted farmed area to 2500ha (6175 acres) within seven years.

James Peck

Three years after launching his own farming company PX Farms, 30-year-old James is well on course to achieving his goal. He has built a business which includes contract farming over 890ha(2190 acres) for eight landowners plus contract field work for 32 customers over a further 809ha (1998 acres). That is in addition to running the home unit of Scotland Farm, Dry Drayton.

It is an expansion fuelled by his intuitive understanding of machinery management, commitment to recruiting and retaining the best people and his almost compulsive desire to cut the best deals possible.

“The right machinery, staff management, communication with customers and reliability are crucial to running a successful contracting business,” says James. So when he took over the family’s Scotland Farm, after his father decided to pursue interests outside farming, he began with a machinery sale. James is a man brimming not just with enthusiasm for machinery, but a passion to run it at maximum efficiency and minimum cost. “The sale allowed us to cut down on duplicated machinery and raise much needed capital for the new business of PX Farms,” says James.

His fleet today includes a Claas Lexion combine, Claas 55 tracklayer, Vaderstad Rapid drill and a Bateman RB25-36m sprayer

It is impressive firepower that has allowed James to expand his contract area while cutting costs and lifting yields.

Growing only first wheats with a break crop of oilseed rape has helped to improve blackgrass control and cut herbicide bills. Growing costs have been cut to £54/t for wheat and £132/t on oilseed rape, while average yields have climbed to 10.5t/ha and 3.65t/ha, respectively, supported by his use of large-scale machinery.

But any machine is only as good as the person who operates it – a fact recognised in the attention to detail James pays to staff selection and management. “I couldn’t manage without self motivated, first-class staff.”

Conservation as well as curbing costs feature in James’ farming approach. As part of the entry-level stewardship scheme, buffer strips have been installed on all headlands near water. Grass strips allow hedge cutting and ditch maintenance to be carried out on a two-year cycle which makes effective use of farm machinery and encourages biodiversity.

James is keen to support the local community by hosting school visits to Scotland Farm. And his can-do attitude has impressed Anglia TV producers, who regularly ask him to comment on farming topics.

Runner up:

Andrew Mahon, Charlton Farms, Oxfordshire – a young man with responsibilities, management acumen, and attitude that belie his 30 years.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

Young entrepreneurs bullish…

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…about future of agriculture.

The younger generation that will bring about the big changes in farming is ambitious, willing to take risks and already thinking outside the box.

That was the confident message from 80 young men and women at The Future’s In Your Hands conference, held at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, on 1 May. 

The event was organised by the Red Meat Industry Forum and supported by Farmers Weekly in a bid to kick start a stronger focus on young entrepreneurs nationally.

All of the delegates were starting out or already running businesses. Two striking differences between young and older farmers was the keenness of the former to operate without subsidies and to share their good and bad experiences warts and all.

Farmers Weekly columnist and speaker, Matthew Naylor, who has a expanding flower and potato business, began farming when aged 15 and admitted that he had made lots of mistakes with his own money. “The difference between an entrepreneur and a businessman is all about control,” he said. “Business skills can be taught – it’s a science. Entrepreneurialism is an art, it’s about passion, it’s not about following the rule book. You need, confidence, courage and conviction.”

James Peck, FW’s 2006 Young Farmer of the Year, runs a successful contracting and grain storage business. He explained why his employees benefit from BUPA healthcare, a pension scheme, performance-related bonuses and 30 days holiday a year. Employees are one of your biggest assets. You have to choose the right staff and invest in them,” he said.

And Will Chase, founder of Tyrells Crisps, spoke of his long journey to profitability and urged young farmers to be their own person. Tyrells is looking for young people to join the business which in future may include producing potato vodka as well as crisps. Finding people with character is important. We are always looking for managers who will go the whole nine yards and can see the bigger picture,” he said. “If you have a good idea for a new business, think cash, capital and character. These are the three attributes the banks will be looking for when investing in start up,” he added.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

Best of British farming…

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…celebrated in the Farmers Weekly Awards 2006

Hertfordshire grower Robert Law is the 2006 Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year. At a glittering ceremony last night (30 November) at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London, over 500 people saw Robert, along with ten other category winners collect their awards which recognise the very best in British agriculture.

Commenting on his achievement, Farmers Weekly editor Jane King said: “He’s truly a determined farmer who combines a thriving business with a passion for the countryside and promoting farming to the public.” Presenting Robert with his trophy, government farming adviser Sir Don Curry added: “Robert is a man who is the face of modern farming – a highly skilled business manager with a talent to make new ideas fly. This is a committed environmental manager, who appreciates the value of communication.”


If you ever doubt the optimism in British farming, look no further than the fantastic line-up of winners and runners up in the 2006 Farmers Weekly Awards.

This year’s scheme has delivered a showcase of British agriculture at its best, with farmers who are forward-looking, entrepreneurial, adaptable and, most importantly, profitable.


  • Asda Beef Farmer of the Year – Robert Neill
  • McCormick Farm manager of the Year – Adrian Cannon
  • Kleber Contractor of the Year – Daniel, Gareth and Edward James
  • Environment Agency Countryside Farmer of the Year – David Felce
  • Firestone Young Farmer of the Year – James Peck
  • Cepravin Dairy Farmer of the Year – Henry Lewis
  • Farmplan Sheep Farmer of the Year – David MacTaggart
  • Poultry World Poultry Farmer of the Year – Tony Burgess
  • HSE Alternative Enterprise of the Year – Heather Gorringe
  • NFU Farming Champion of the Year – Ian Pigott


winners pic


Here’s why Robert won:

Farming has a future and it is a profitable future, provided farmers respond to public calls for wildlife stewardship, countryside access and farm products tailored to their needs.

That’s the mantra of Hertfordshire farmer Robert Law, this year’s Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year. It has served him well, taking him from zero to hero in 25 years.

With no prior farming history to influence his thinking Robert has created a profitable arable and sheep enterprise just outside Royston almost from a standing start.

Hard work and an ability to make the most of opportunities as they arise have seen him use a combination of share-farming, partnerships, renting and buying to convert £15,000 of his own capital into a business that now spans 1200ha in Hertfordshire and a further 500ha in Nottinghamshire.

“Applying outside thinking is important,” he admits. “Being a first generation farmer makes me more of a risk taker, with no older generation to talk down proposed changes.”

Innovation has been a cornerstone of his farm plan. “It’s not about running a Quad-trac and trying to grow wheat and rape as cheaply as possible.” Instead, Conservation Grade grain for local breakfast cereal and snack maker Jordans earns him premiums of £5-8/t, more than offsetting higher production costs.

What’s more, the wildlife management required by Jordans is a revenue stream in its own right, with Countryside Stewardship and ELS adding almost £80,000 to farm income.

Robert’s close involvement in policy through DEFRA and NFU committees means his wildlife areas deliver real benefits, not just a box-ticking opportunity. Counts by RSPB volunteers reveal increased bird numbers, for example.

Superb business skills mean every aspect of Thrift Farm is fully costed, right down to achieving a five-year payback on 2,000t of beet quota bought in 2002. Most of the 4000t of cereals produced each year is harvested by one combine and a significant proportion is grown on multi-year contracts, helping reduce business risk.

Block cropping and prudent planning ensure workloads are spread to cut overheads and inputs are used judiciously, with GPS-guided applications taking account of huge variations in nutrient reserves, for example.
Seizing opportunities to maximise profit is a key theme.

A 2000-ewe flock producing lamb for direct sale locally adds significant value by grazing crop aftermaths, particularly forage crops grown for seed, and local grass, including an SSSI.

Boundless energy, unbridled enthusiasm and a true trust in his staff make the farm a hive of innovation. Everyone is salaried and there are no time sheets. “It is really important – it means they are part of the business and can be left to get on with operations, so I can focus on managing the business. That’s far better use of my time.”

Robert firmly believes everyone in the industry needs to promote farming. He has 10km of signed permissive access, runs regular farm walks, talks to groups ranging from schools to politicians to the WI, and is a regular commentator in the local press, radio and TV.

“I like to keep busy, the busier I am the better,” he notes. That’s just as well. To remain profitable the business will need to change in line with the growing importance of environmental schemes and biofuels, and declining role of conventional food cropping, he predicts.

Farming needs inspirational thinkers with the business drive to generate worthwhile results. Robert is just such an individual, he is the best of British farming.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

Five days to go…

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…until the Farmers Weekly Awards 2006

There are only five days to go before the UK farming industry celebrates the best of the best in British agriculture at London’s Grosvenor House. Today we preview the finalists up for Young Farmer of the Year.

Young Farmer of the Year 2006 – nominees

Andrew MahonAndrew Mahon: A young man with responsibilities,management acumen and attitude that belie his 30 years.
James Peck1James Peck: Managing director and only 30. He’s well on target to achieve a 10-year plan to run a 2500ha. contracting and grain storage business.

Check out FWi tomorrow when we profile the Dairy Farmer of the Year finalists.

Source: Farmers Weekly Interactive

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