Reaping the benefits

For James Peck, winning Farmers Weekly’s Young Farmer of the Year award allowed him to step out of his father’s shadow and gain recognition as a farmer in his own right.

Since he launched PX Farms seven years ago, James, 34, has seen his company grow from strength to strength – something he believes winning the Young Farmer of the Year trophy has helped with. The Cambridge-based business now manages 11 farms and 1780ha of land, with 800ha of additional custom farming operations within a 20-mile radius. Specialising in combinable crops, PX Farms offers 26,500t of grain storage, as well as a haulage operation of eight articulated lorries in contract with Wellgrain.

The business is based at Scotland Farm, Dry Drayton – a 325ha plot owned by his father Adrian, who has diversified and converted disused farming buildings into offices and units. James contract-farms Scotland Farm and his father takes a prior charge and a percentage of the profits, which has helped him to pursue his diversification projects.

“Winning the award gave recognition to me and my staff,” James said. Having grown from a staff of four in 2007, James’ team now consists of 12 full-time, two self-employed, two casual and five harvest helpers. “It gave us confidence that we were doing the right thing and encouraged us to look at new ventures.”

He said he had fond memories of the awards night, which was one of the most memorable for PX Farms. “The whole team came along on the night and everyone was there to share in the success,” he said. “The award was not just me – I was just the face of it. Winning was an amazing feeling, which I’ll never forget.

“Plus I got to kiss awards presenter Fiona Bruce. That certainly added to the moment.”

James said being recognised as a winner has given him the confidence to pursue more activities within the business. Last June he purchased 40ha of arable land, he also plans to increase his grain storage capacity to 46,000t, supply a local power station with straw grown on his farms and expand his contract farming.

His fleet has also expanded to include a Claas Lexion combine, two John Deere tractors, two CAT challenger crawlers, two Vaderstad drills, a Horsch drill and a Bateman RB25-36m sprayer.

Upgrading his machinery has allowed James to expand his contract area while cutting costs and lifting yields.

His main crop rotation is wheat/wheat/oilseed rape, but some farms he manages have blackgrass problems on heavy land, which he is taking steps to combat.

“We’re looking at growing different crops to try and change the chemicals that we use and the timing,” he said.

“This year, we have replaced beans in our rotation with potatoes, as beans are not stacking up in the rotation.”

James said winning the award has also provided him with new opportunities.

He is vice-chairman of the Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire area of the Countryside and Land Association (CLA) and last year he won a Nuffield Scholarship to research controlled traffic farming, precision agriculture and weed management.

The scholarship has seen him travel to countries including Australia, New Zealand, China, Brazil, Argentina, India and the USA.

“Winning the award gave me the confidence to apply for the Nuffield scholarship,” he said.

“That’s what great about winning it – it has inspired me to achieve more.”

Famous in Australia

On my return yesterday from India, Julian Burman who had been working in Australia at another scholars farm bought back an article in the farming press of my time with the Canadian group looking at controlled traffic farming in Australia. I’ll put the article on the PX website under the news section if anyone wants to read it.
I’ve had a message from Kevin that they are going great guns in India and are planning to go to the Taj Mahal, lucky devils.
On another note we have had some theft with 4 batteries being stolen which run our electric netting, im sure a caravan somewhere has power again. I won’t report to the police as its not a speeding fine so they wont be interested and id rather poke myself in the eye than waste my time on hold.

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Camping in the mountains

Kevin and I shared a tent with a bolt on bathroom for two nights. It’s been a long time since I’ve been camping. We all had a wonderful experience on this trip and learnt a great deal travelling around India and discovering what it must have been like for Englishmen 150 years ago as I believe little has changed in some areas. I would like to thank michael, Rona, Kevin and Tony for being great company and a special thank you to Tony for organising the trip.

On arriving at Delhi the others went off for more adventures and I went to the imperial hotel for high tea and luxury. Nuffield changes your life.

Camel pooh paper

I didn’t realise you could make paper out of pooh. Camel manure is milled and added to cotton fibres, pressed and left to dry. We where well looked after for two days and learnt about camels and had a local evening meal. Five of us went 7 km in a tuc tuc which was a slow and bumpy journey but worth the experience. We where returned in a Indian new build Suzuki 4wd. Tony I suspect will be the new importer to the Uk.

Never thought I’d see the day.

On arriving at the field where camels where grazing we where given turbans to wear. This was an honour to be presented and fitted by a warrior.
The camels where in a large group. The arrangement for the travelling camel farmers was they where allowed to graze the fields before cultivation so that manure was spread over the land. The camel farmers made us camel tea which I tried to avoid. I managed to down the tea, but little did I know Tony was enquiring about the camels milk so before I had time to wonder off to inspect a neighbouring wheat field my cup was filled with milk. I must report, it wasn’t bad. There was another pot on the boil with lumpy milk and if that was next to be served they wouldn’t have caught me on a camel.

Location:Somewhere with camels

Indian sheep farming

Indian sheep farming at it’s best. Villagers work together to shear the sheep. Average farmer would have 52 sheep, this village had 120 each. Shearing with old fashioned shears would need to be paid on piece work as one sheep wasn’t completed after 1.5 hours. I can’t see the world shearing contest happening here. The sheep are taken up the hills at sun rise and the shepherd stays with them and they return at night fall. When you look around its amazing to see that they find something to eat, these sheep seem to enjoy sticks. The connection with livestock was fantastic. All the animals where well handled and where relaxed around humans, A perfect harmony. The Hindi people are vegetarians so the sheep are sold to a dealer who sells to the Muslim population which is about 10% of the 1.2 billion population. Another matter which interested me is that people all seemed to have mobile phones tucked away.

Golden hands

Tony booked us in for two nights in a farm stay in deep roots a 30 acre wheat, rice and mangoes. He accidentally found the stay by researching mutton and it was on the menu.
Kanwal kindly looked after us well and organised us trips to two dairy farms, one being a dairy and processor on one site, which will be farming by 2012 20,000 milking cows plus replacements and a 2 mw bio digester. The chicken farm opposite the retreat was a three storey building which was unusual.
Labour is king over mechanisation, labour cost is £ 3 a day. Land values £60,000 an acre. Four Maize crops can be grown per year. 6 months wheat, 6 months rice in the same year is standard in this area. A scary fact is water in 1947 was 10 ft down, in 1962 was 40 ft and 2010 was 500 ft down. 44% of india’s rice is grown in the Punjab region on 2% of india’s agricultural land.
Kanwal father looked at our hands,my left hand showed I was going to have a happy and long marriage which is handy as I marry in June. I wonder what I would have done if it was in reverse. My right hand he called a golden hand which he hadn’t seen before. Deep line from the bottom to the top which shows success and wealth and a happy destiny. Hail the golden boy.

Location:Chandigarh india.


I’ve arrived in india, after arriving in Delhi I meet up with michael, Tony, Kevin and rona. We took another plane to Chandigarh which was one hours ride. Kingfisher airlines managed to lose my bag, but thank goodness it turned up 4 hours later. The hotel Tony booked into has blood on the bathroom Walls and Kevin had a wet bed. I slept with one eye open. We have been for a stroll around the town. India is as I imagined. So far an exciting place with new smells and sounds. It looks like I’m going to lose weight as I’m too scared to eat anything and get the Delhi belly.