I am a joint tenant with my father of Brickyard Farm, Slingsby, near Malton. I am the fourth generation of my family to farm on the Castle Howard Estate and have worked here since 1997, following a spell at college and working away.
Our business has expanded considerably over the years, but the core enterprises of cereals, potatoes, sugar beet, and bed and breakfast pigs remain, alongside road haulage.
The farm encompasses almost 1,000 acres; including contract and share farming, short-term let potato land, owned land and the main tenanted holding.
The largest operation is potatoes, all grown on contract, mostly to McCain for chipping. The scale of the potatoes has grown from a few acres sold in bags in the late seventies to where we are today.
Our crop is delivered from September to May, through a mixture of varieties and available storage, a diversity that matches the variation of land, and helps spread the workload across the year.
With growth comes work, and plenty of it, but the other essential ingredient is passion.
The key to sustainability and success has to be attention to detail, from selecting fields and varieties, to nurturing a crop through the growing season, to the harvest, storage and subsequent delivery to the end customer.
This can only come from having the drive to get out of bed every morning and having the will to succeed, to want to do the best you can, and get the buzz that occurs from a successful day.
The risks are high, the challenges greater, and the pressure to feed the world’s increasing population at a lower price more prevalent than ever before, but the satisfaction of being able to look back over a season and say “I did that” is immeasurable.
The one constant in Yorkshire farming is volatility of markets, prices of inputs, and increasingly, of the weather.
Prices of some commodities have altered by as much as 500 per cent from one season to the next and we have had to adapt our business to be better able to cope with such extremes; a spread of enterprises helps, as does an open and honest dialogue with our customers.
Over the years I have ventured out of the farm gate and involved myself in organisations, most notably the Young Farmers organisation where I held many roles, from club to northern area chairman, and more latterly, involvement in the Future Farmers of Yorkshire.
I have learnt a huge amount from simply communicating with others who share a passion for the many varied parts of our industry.
I am also a governor at our local primary school and encourage healthy eating, wholesome produce, and the education of where food comes from.
One thing missed by many people is the fact that it is actually more cost effective and nutritious to eat well - how many meals are in a bag of potatoes for a fiver for example? - than live from ready meals and takeaways, and it’s a whole lot more satisfying!