Arable & beef
ARABLE & BEEF, STAFFORDSHIRE: Andrew runs a 274-acre (111-hectare) mixed farm with his mother and brother. Cotes Lodge Farm has been rented or owned by his mother’s family for several generations.
The farm is mainly arable, growing winter wheat (for the bread flour market) and spring oats (for porridge) as well as spring peas and winter barley for animal feed. Andrew grows oilseed rape for oil too.
Keen to move the farm towards being carbon negative and environmentally sustainable, Andrew direct drills his crops rather than ploughing to avoid disturbing the soil structure and minimise the amount of carbon released into the air. Green manures are sown between his main crops to improve the soil and keep weeds at bay. In addition, Andrew finishes cattle on a grass diet, using the farm’s permanent pasture for forage. The beef is sold to a major supermarket.
Farming runs in Andrew’s veins. From the age of 12, when his grandmother died, he spent school holidays and weekends helping his uncle, who taught him much of what he knows. He later studied agricultural engineering at Harper Adams and during his sandwich year worked for a company testing and developing prototype tractors (so as a self-confessed tractor geek he’s super excited about the recent launch of methane-powered tractors!)
On graduating he returned to the family farm. “Despite many attempts at moving away from farming I just kept coming back.” he says. “I love the variety of the work in farming, the fresh air and the ever increasing levels of science. It’s an exciting time to be involved with agriculture in the UK.”
The farm lies in a ground water catchment zone, from which Severn Trent Water extracts water by borehole, so the water company is working closely with Andrew to ensure that water drained from the fields is as pure as possible. The water company funds environmental schemes, such as the planting of cover crops to improve soil structure and fertility, and precision spraying of pesticides to avoid overuse.
Andrew is also carrying out his own experimental planting to make the farm less dependent on pesticides. For example, he’s been sowing mustard around one of his oilseed rape fields to monitor its effect on slugs moving in from field margins. He hopes this could potentially remove the need for slug pellets.
“We’re learning more and more about the contribution to global warming by carbon emissions from the soil. The science is only just beginning to scratch the surface, and yet there’s already pressure to get farmers to change their ways, whether through the Government’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme or the development of carbon credit markets. This dictates our choices of crops, methods, weed control and use of pesticides and fertilisers, and these in turn affect our income. For me, this emerging knowledge is exciting and I believe it’s important we utilise it to combat global warming. But it’s vitally important that farmers are helped to make the necessary changes, as at present the costs are unviable.”
Member of National Farmers Union. Member of the Farmers Club U35s Committee in Whitehall, sits on the council of the Institute of Agricultural Engineers. Member of working groups with organisations including Society for the Environment, LEAF and Cool Farm Alliance.
Brief articles for Farmers Club Journal