Christopher Padfield - Post Formal Education - nurturing and growing talent?
I live on work on a 4th generation family farm on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border. It is a mixed farm consisting of a Beef fattening joint venture and growing combinable crops. We have been direct drilling all crops including maize for the last decade. The farm is entered into an HLS scheme which is central to our focus on creating wildlife habitat around the enterprise. We also run some stubble to stubble contracting.
After working abroad in Ghana, Guinea Bissau and France, I worked for a local agricultural college mainly assessing NVQ qualifications. I also achieved qualifications in Internal and External Verification and a PGCE (adult education). I then set up a small training company where we offer training services, mainly LANTRA and City and Guilds qualifications, aimed at the land-based skills sector.
When not working, I love riding motorbikes and drinking whisky. Not a great combination though a recent biking trip to Islay managed to get the best of both worlds.
I would like to thank all those supporting my Nuffield Scholarship, not least the Central Region Farmers Trust for their sponsorship, and my wife and parents for their support and backing.
The degree of cooperation and integration with the neigbouring farmers was interesting and rarely practiced in the UK
9th -11th May - Nordhausen and Friedland
The rise and fall of the iron curtain has interested me ever since the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989 which coincided with studying the post war era at school. Therefore I thought it would be interesting to visit farms in the former East and West Germany. Markus Meyers and his family decided to take the opportunity to rent land in East Germany in 1990, starting with 70ha and now farming 500ha. Markus has over 80 landlords. Each piece of land is divided between the offspring so land ownership is very fractured. However if enough landlords agree then large fields can be built up and his fields ranged from 0.5ha to 50ha. He also was able to rationalise fields by swapping rented areas with another farmer.
A very impressive computer programme marked the land ownership, overlaying it on google earth. A system, mainly in Eastern Germany, had graded the land in 1924 with the best land being given a rank of 100 points and then reducing as the quality of the land decreases. The average of this farm is 70 points. The soil has little clay, mainly sand, as witnessed by the large gravel pits and cement works nearby. Rent is paid per point and can vary from 3.5 to 5 euros, giving average land rent costs of 350 euros / ha. His rotation was mainly two wheats followed by barley and then osr, though maize and sugar beet was also grown. Black grass was a problem but nothing on the scale of that common in the UK. Average yields are around 8.7t/ha. The farm conducted an extensive benchmarking exercise with comparisons with 150 other farms in both Germany , Hungary and Austria.
Two employees were kept on full time, though this was partly to allow management time to develop holiday lets. Employees were salaried, with excess hours built up in the summer taken as holiday in the winter or paid as overtime. After all taxes and insurances the hourly wage was around 8.5 euros net.
Markus focused on keeping himself up to date with agricultural practices by using paid advisers (eg benchmarking), going to organised farmer trips to other regions or countries, using the internet and by carrying out crop trials. Farm staff did not really attend training courses and there was little in the way of statutory requirements for training, though the combine driver had spent two day with Claas when the new lexion arrived last year. Markus acknowledged that increasing farm wages was not a very good motivator and found that spending time clearly communicating with staff, both professionally and socially, was more important.
An hours drive West found a farm in the village of Gross schneen. Ulrich Matthies and his family has farmed there for generations, and now mainly concentrates on arable, though there are still a few pigs kept. This farm is in the former West Germany but actually ran along the border with the iron curtain. Field sizes were much smaller, ranging from 1-18ha though the cropping plans were very similar. The highest land was 330 meters above sea level.
What was interesting about this farm was the degree of cooperation and integration with the neigbouring farmers. The farm was 380h and operated as one arable unit but was actaully made up of 5 farmers working together, most with secondary interests such as dairy, beef, pigs or working for the government. Working together also allowed some rationilisation of field plots. Typically each farmer owned around 50% of his land and rented the rest. Feedstuffs, straw and muck were traded between between farmers though integration of livetock into the arable rotation did not seem to happen. The farm was run on a no-till basis, the plough was sold in 2007. The combine was shared by an addtional 2 farmers running over an area of 800 ha and the sugar beet harvested was shared on an even more extensive network.