MARCH 2015

March has arrived in a fairly benevolent fashion this year.  Last week was dry and breezy and, although cold at night, growth is beginning slowly.  The land has dried up enough for us to get the first nitrogen fertiliser on the rape and cereals.  Hopefully the drill will be out to put in spring barley tomorrow which is just about as early as it is safe to do on cold clay soils.  Barley is quite vulnerable if it does not germinate and grow away quickly in the spring.  Rooks love the taste of barley as it germinates and will march up a row pulling up and eating every seedling if they can.  Whether the germinating barley gives them that well known warm fresh malt feeling, so beloved of malt whisky fans, I don’t know, but they can be very persistent in their attacks.  One of our barley fields this year is right beside the rookery at the Old Rectory so I had better apologise in advance if they have to be scared off by artillery.

I have just had the pleasure of taking a tractor into Stonham Aspal Primary to show it to the children and answer questions about farming.  As one would expect, I got the usual ‘how much does it cost?’, ‘how much does it weigh’,  ‘is it easy to drive?’ etc but also some very thoughtful ones aswell.  The initiative came from the Suffolk Agricultural Association who are trying to promote farm/school visits to help children understand more about farming and food production.  I am personally very enthusiastic about this and hope that we will be able to host some visits from the school in the future.  Many of the Stonham children are already familiar with the farm from walking the footpaths with their families.  A greater understanding of how food is produced and moved from field to plate can only be beneficial for both parties.

Charles and I attended another briefing on the new Basic Farm Payment Scheme last week.  New parts of the IT package keep trickling out  and it becomes clearer as time goes on.  The RPA now freely agree that there is no way that everyone will have all the correct documentation in place by the deadline of 15th May.  They are encouraging everyone to submit their claim on time even if it is incorrect as we will have a couple of months to correct mistakes or omissions on line after that date.  They are very worried that, although they have now heard from 95% of farmers in Norfolk and Suffolk, the percentage throughout the whole of the country is a lot lower.  About 30% of farmers nationally have not been in touch at all and they fear that a significant number are not aware that they have to do anything.  It would appear that broadband is not reaching all the parts that other communication has failed to do.  No surprise there!