Hugh opens up his farm to the public

EAST Lothian farmer Hugh Broad is opening his farm and his farming to public view on not one but two occasions in the coming week.

Wednesday, 9th June 2010, 2:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th June 2010, 2:29 pm

On Sunday, Woodhead Farm at Gifford will be among those inviting families to come along for Open Farm Sunday and see what crop production is all about.

Then, next Thursday, Hugh will host a visit by other farmers keen to learn about his experience as a "Monitor Farmer" in a self help scheme originally devised in New Zealand.

Open Farm Sunday is a nationwide scheme organised by LEAF (Linking the Environment And Farming) , a UK body which encourages productive agriculture in an environmentally friendly way.

LEAF Farmers all over the country are opening their farms to the public on Sunday to try and answer any questions, explain what their job entails and help consumerS understand where their food comes from.

Hugh Broad has had plenty of experience in answering difficult questions during his three years as an Arable Monitor Farmer.

His farm and his management have been regularly scrutinised by other crop growing farmers in a group which has used Woodhead as a test bed for trying out new ideas.

Helped by facilitator Chris McDonald, a Farm Business Services Consultant with SAC, Hugh and the group have considered growing new crops or new ways to grow old ones and even whether or not he should buy a new tractor.

Monitor Farms were first developed in New Zealand when the Government withdrew all farm subsidies and farmers had to look to their own resources for business development ideas and technological advance.

Scotland now has an extensive network of Monitor farms which cover the whole range including crofting and dairy farming.

The Woodhead open evening is at 6pm on Thursday, June 17, and is designed to interest arable farmers who have not yet joined the group.

It is a chance to review the progress made before Hugh hands over to another volunteer on another monitor farm for the next three year spell.

There will be a tour of the farm looking at all the main crops and specific conservation or "agri-environment" options taken up under the recent Government rural priorities scheme.

Among SAC specialists Dr Fiona Burnett will speak on the disease implications of the crop rotations at Woodhead, including clubroot in oilseed rape and the growing problem of leaf stripe in cereals.

Gavin Dick will discuss how the group has assessed fixed costs on the monitor farm, specifically ways of calculating annual machinery spending.

The evening will also consider nitrogen fertiliser applications, and discuss ongoing trial work measuring soil nitrogen and novel systems of sowing oilseed rape at wider row spacing.

A range of representatives from other organisations and trade stands have been invited to attend. Refreshments will be available, kindly sponsored by Bairds Malt.