Comment: Robert Barker

Richard Pennock works at Sir Ken Morrison's farm. Picture: Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
Richard Pennock works at Sir Ken Morrison's farm. Picture: Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
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As an agronomist, I walk a diverse range of crops in North and East Yorkshire and have a passion for every aspect of crop production stemming from my involvement in running the family farm at Cundall, near Boroughbridge.

It is a traditional mixed family farm where we grow cereals and run a sheep enterprise. Our farm has a Grade II listed Georgian House, where my mother runs her successful Farmstay business, and buildings constructed over 200 years ago.

We are bordered on one side by the River Swale which brings its own challenges. During the winter of 2012, 60 per cent of the farm was under water.

Thankfully this season, crops look at lot more promising, however in the lead up to harvest we are still at the mercy of the weather. Rain earlier this week brings back memories of harvest 2012. Timely T3 fungicides will be a crucial part of the success of almost all wheat crops. Not wanting to count any chickens before they hatch, let’s pray for sunshine, bumper crops and better commodity prices.

I have been involved in Future Farmers of Yorkshire from the outset and I thoroughly enjoy the meetings. We hear from some inspirational speakers, such as Guy Poskitt, Angus Wielkopolski and James Potter and the meetings provide an opportunity to meet friends and colleagues and make new contacts in a relaxed environment – the supper and the beer are always good too!

Last week the group had the rare opportunity to visit Sir Ken Morrison’s farm at Myton on Swale. The group was given a fantastic tour of the beef unit by managers, Brian Swinbank and Richard Pennock. They shared the challenges of making a profit from fattening cattle, which was of much interest and some comfort to the group.

Richard is a Nuffield Scholar, supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and we look forward to hearing from him again after his scholarship travels looking at beef production around the world; hopefully he will have some pointers for the rest of us.

We are holding our annual breakfast meeting at the Great Yorkshire Show this year and I have the honour of chairing the event, held at the NFU stand on Wednesday, July 9. I will be introducing two Future Farmers of Yorkshire, working in different areas of the industry, but with the same enthusiastic attitude to agriculture, Tamara Hall and Kate Morgan.

Both Tamara and Kate will be telling us about their farming operations and their own Nuffield Scholarship travels. Our third speaker is Sir Lockwood Smith, the High Commissioner of New Zealand to the UK. Sir Lockwood served as a senior New Zealand government minister, with portfolios which included agriculture, education and trade. He also served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 2008 to 2013 and, alongside all that, he is a trained opera singer and still runs an award-winning beef farming operation with his wife.

I am sure he will be a fascinating speaker and I look forward to hearing his views on world trade and the New Zealand farming system.

Robert Barker is an agronomist for crop production specialists, Hutchinsons and a member of the Future Farmers of Yorkshire group.

Anyone interested in attending the Future Farmers breakfast meeting at the Great Yorkshire Show should email futurefarmersofyorkshire@yas.co.uk for more details.