Wow! Its been nearly a year since my previous post. That means Quinlan Farming has been in operation for nearly two years, and we’re still here!
As somebody who has returned to farming, what seems like a short time ago, I was thrilled to be invited to the Oxford Farming Conference as part of the emerging leader programme. Although the title made me feel like a massive fraud.
So having fed the cows, I boarded the 8am train for Oxford. The closer I got, the more farmers I could spot. Easily identifiable at the station emblazoned in tweed. Bits of straw in the hair were also a dead giveaway….
I have been to Oxford before but I can only assume I spent that time with my eyes close. I was in awe of the architecture and it provided a spectacular location for a conference. A welcome change from the norm.
I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event. The calibre of the speakers was excellent. Even if they did provide a reality check, at times, to the changing eating habits of the population. Something we as farmers need to be mindful of. We can’t force people to eat meat and drink milk, but we can all promote it in our own way.
Michael Gove also announced that direct payments would continue until 2022. He also raised the point that payments to young people to enter farming are necessary As a result of payments based solely on owning land. As somebody who doesn’t receive any of these payments I’d rather see them phased out sooner but I appreciate others may need time to restructure their business. Other buzz words were “natural capital and “public goods”.
We also heard from people at the cutting edge of technology. With a run through from the hands free hectare manager. A hectare of arable crop planted and harvested by automated machines completely remotely.
As well as hearing from successful farm succession/diversification projects.
James Wong was also on hand with a plethora of statistics. My favourite of which was the price of a bottle of ‘raw’ water in California. Eye watering and probably stomach upsetting too.
I was also privileged to meet Princess Anne. She spoke very passionately about educating children about food and farming and I whole heartedly agreed with her. I used this opportunity to express the negative response I’ve had from M.Ps when discussing similar issues as i imagine she carries far more clout than I.
The conference also had drama. No. Not Matt Naylor wearing his converse trainers. During a sobering talk about health and safety on farm. The speaker produced a large part of his skull, decoratively framed as a reminder of his accident… an audience member collapses.
We were also treated to a comedian. Jim Smith. Hilarious. I’d watch him again in a flash.
Of course there was also access to other farmers and other members of the emerging leader programme. People who been in my position as a new business owner, and they were more than happy to discuss ideas and dispense advice.
So to sum up, if you get the opportunity, see the Oxford Farming Conference for yourself!
We also had drama at home. Our 3 year old has recently announced he doesn’t like cows, he only likes horses.!! No. The real drama was the beast from the east. A certain brand of newspaper reporters all high fiving each other. If you predict the same thing year on year. You’re bound to be right once!
We got away much more lightly than others. It was just a case of trying to keep water flowing to the animals. We didnt have the huge snow drifts to contend with. Just bitter cold.
2018 is the year we look to grow further. Planning permission has been granted for our guest accommodation. Meaning we’re able to make use of a redundant space above our garage. Targeting people on business in the area as guests. Providing an alternative to Travelodge life. So watch this space.
My wife has also made some tentative enquiries about care farming. Giving her the opportunity to combine her on farm role and also her day job as an occupational therapist.
We have also been able to add another 35 acres of rented land. 80 dairy beef weanlings are set to arrive at the beginning of april. Similarly to what we do with the dairy heifers, we will contract rear the animals. It requires little investment and we are able to have a keen idea how much we will make from the land. The plan is to cell graze. Achieving as much growth from grass as we can. Or as much as my grassland management skills will allow…..
We’re always keeping our eyes open for other opportunities to expand the business. So do get in touch with any weird and wonderful ideas.
As always you can keep up to date at @neilquinlan on Twitter.