Lincolnshire Pride


On The Farm with Andrew Ward

This month a brand new feature and expert commentary on the farming industry, courtesy of Andrew Ward, Leadenham Farmer and star of the YouTube channel Wardy’s Waffle

After harvest has been completed, and after preparing their land for next year’s crops, farmers breathe a bit of a sigh of relief but remain busy in the run up to Christmas. Lately we’ve been lifting sugar beet, seeing that beet off to British Sugar at Newark and getting cereals off to grain merchants.

I’ll definitely fall short of saying we’re not busy, because as we all know there’s no such thing as a farmer with nothing to do. But the winter months do at least provide an opportunity to service machinery well into the new year, tidy up the yard, cut back hedges and attend events like Newark’s recent Midlands Machinery Show.

Unfortunately for many Lincolnshire farmers, though, those tasks have all been overshadowed somewhat by a bigger problem. Sadly, one that was all too avoidable. Storm Babet brought October’s rainfall to about 160mm (about 100mm over the monthly average). October 20th saw two months of rain in just one day falling on some parts of the county.

This wrought havoc to areas like Bardney and Horncastle, ruining freshly-planted wheat and barley, plus sugar beet and potatoes. Seed, sprays and fertilisers will already have been purchased and applied so losses of up to £100/acre will be incurred with no chance of compensation from the Environment Agency, Defra or from insurance policies. The farmer, ultimately, will be the one to foot the bill.

Whilst Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) tend to enjoy a good working relationship with farmers, it’s a frustration that the EA could have helped to mitigate flooding by allowing a more proactive management of watercourses and drains. More than a third of Lincolnshire is below sea level, and much of that land is used to help Lincolnshire produce 27% of the country’s vegetables.

If those waterways had been cleaned out – trees, bushes and weeds removed – water could have flowed better and the Environment Agency should bear that in mind and work with farmers, showing better communication and using us to mitigate such occurrences of flooding in the future.

Farmers have the equipment, the knowledge and a real desire to help manage the waterways around their land, but they’re prevented from doing so. Perhaps in the future, with support from the EA, farmers can be part of a working relationship which will look after watercourses, providing resilience against future flooding.

On a positive note, many farmers have prepared their land for spring crops. We use a Sleaford-made Simba Solo pulled with a John Deere 8RX rather than a plough, which we’ve found is ideal in heavier clay soils, leaving a level surface whilst proving more fuel-efficient too. For lighter cultivation, we’ve a Simba Express which works 2-3 inches deep, just mixing the surface of the soil.

Some impressive machinery was also on display in Newark, where I met George, a local farmer who reckons the Witham near him was last cleaned out in 1972. That, he says, has had an adverse effect on the presence of fish and other creatures in the food chain, which rather contradicts any environmentalist who reckons it’s bad to clear watercourses.

Checking the soil around the farm recently also gave me the chance to inspect the 20 or so wild bird feeding stations in the areas of our land under stewardship schemes – field margins of 8-16 metres, for example – the value to wildlife of these can’t be overstated.

It’s rewarding to see songbirds and the population of coveys of English partridge thriving. This also goes to show what a valuable (and often unrecognised) role that farmers play in the conservation of the countryside.

Watch Wardy’s Waffle: Our farming correspondent Andrew Ward farms 1,600 acres in Lincolnshire, growing wheat, barley, oil seed rape, sugar beet, beans and oats. Andrews has his own YouTube channel, Wardy’s Waffle, which is enjoyed by over 13,000 subscribers. Watch his updates Wednesday evenings from 7pm and Sunday mornings at 8am. Search YouTube for @WardysWaffleAndrewWard.