Packing Up The Farm: A Long Goodbye

After spending three decades pulling all manner of life out of the ground, Tom Barrett felt that it was time to put an end to his farming career.

A farmer’s life is by no means simple, or easy. Regardless of the produce that is cultivated, the nurturing and reaping of the Earth’s natural fruits is never a straight forward task and there are a huge number of variables that can wreak havoc on the best laid plans of even the most experienced farmer. Tom’s business was an arable one, dedicated to transforming acres of land around his little farmhouse into fertile land that would supply reams of corn throughout the Spring and Summer, followed by traditional root vegetables in the colder months.

Like many farmers of a certain age, Tom learned his trade from his father who he was lucky enough to inherit his land from. Whenever he was asked about his key to success Tom would always say that it was the knowledge his Father ingrained in him as a boy that has seen him straight through the years. Tom’s Father had started the farm from a small vegetable patch in their garden and was able to slowly expand his acreage over the course of three decades, leaving a sizeable holding for his son and the building blocks of an even larger empire which Tom would go on to create in his own lifetime.

Whilst Tom had been prepared for the agricultural pitfalls that laid in his path, he hadn’t been prepared for the pitfalls that threatened his own health. Now packing his belongings up into wooden crates, Tom tells us about his decision to leave his farm and how health affected this major decision:

“I’m happy with the work that I’ve done here, the land has certainly changed a lot since I was a lad and I’m sure my Dad would be proud to see how the farm’s output has grown. I can confidently say that I’ve achieved my goals here on the farm, I just wish that I had more time to keep it going.”

As Tom’s belongings, and that of his family, are packed away into boxes and shunted away on pallets he describes how his drive and focus on his farm led to him ignoring crucial signs regarding his health which has led to his early retirement.

“The farming life is constant. I often hear that city-dwellers have got it the hardest with their long commutes and working hours, but the hours that I put in on this farm far easily eclipse the busiest of stock-exchange workers. I’m lucky if I get 3 or 4 hours a sleep a night, I take a nap during the day if I’m lucky and weekends are a concept that doesn’t exist in my schedule. I lived every day for this farm since I left school at 16, and whilst its repaid me with wealth and prosperity, it has led to me not considering my health a top priority”

Whilst Tom’s illness could hardly have been avoided, if he had paid closer attention to his own body then he might well have been able to continue farming his land for much longer…

Misty-eyed: An Island Sheep Farmer

The UK might well be one of the richest, most developed countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean that we as a country don’t still struggle with our health.

Despite the NHS being one of the largest organisations in the world, employing some 1.3 million people, there are still many isolated, rural parts of the country, where our healthcare system can’t quite reach.

Since 2010, there has been an agreement in place between the Isle of Man Health Service and the National Health Service granting reciprocal, free healthcare to all residents that fall ill whilst visiting the other’s country.

Before this time, healthcare was a little more limited on the island.

Until 1907, there was only one hospital on the entire island. At the time, with 56,000 people living on the island, the need for a separate facility in the Northern section of the island was desperate, however the island required substantial funds to make this a reality.

These funds would eventually be found, but in rather tragic circumstances. The Ramsey Cottage Hospital, consisting of 10 beds and 2 cots, opened in 1907 funded with money from the Trustees of HB Nobel’s Estate after the death of a four-year old child, who died from appendicitis whilst making the trip to the Southern Noble’s Hospital from Ballaugh – a 15 mile distance, no doubt made more more difficult without the use of automobiles. Even with both hospitals modernised and complete, inhabitants of the Isle of Man still struggle to reach the healthcare services that they need today.

Jeffrey Folkestone is a dairy farmer on the Isle of Man, where he grazes his micro-herd of 30 Ayrshire cattle over 50-acres of rugged, yet fertile, land.

Jeffrey (or Jeff to his mates down The Railway Inn) has been living on the Isle of Man since he was a baby. An evacuee from the bombings of World War II, both of his parents were lost during the conflict, making the Isle of Man the only home that he has ever known. Raised by foster parents (the dairy farmers who he inherited the land from), Jeff hasn’t left the island since he was brought there by ferry in the hectic midst of 1944, as such he’s become something of a local legend.

Around 83,000 people call the Isle of Man home today, a number that was a lot smaller when Jeff first made his dramatic entrance to what has been his home for over 70 years:

“Back then, things were a lot different. Island life was much more rural and idyllic as it is today. Tourists visiting today always say how ‘traditional’ everything feels, if only they could have seen how we were living back in the 60s!”

Although Jeff has spent the entirety of his life on the Isle of Man, he’s going to have to leave this year for the first time if he wants to continue to work and live independently. For the last 20 years, Jeff has been living with cataracts. What he assumed was a perfectly natural degeneration of his eyesight, was found by his GP to be two cataract. The progressive clouding of his eye has left him with severely limited eyesight, which has impacted his capabilities as a dairy farmer. Although his family argue that, at the age of 73, he is too old to be working anyway – Jeff has spent his whole life working and wishes to continue.

With his cataract surgery booked in at a private hospital in Liverpool, all the costs that Jeff accrues on the trip over and back will be covered by the Isle of Man government – a token of thanks in return for a lifetime of contributions to the island’s economy.

Agricultural News Round Up – 28/07/17

Sheep Shearers Are Cutting Time Off Records and Police Use Future-Tech To Track Criminals

As we hurtle straight on through Summer, the agricultural county shows in the UK are all coming in to full swing. We’ve been keeping an eye on the noteworthy winners and have cherry picked some of our favourites to share with you, along with a couple of other note worthy news stories that have been making the headlines in the trade papers this week.

Police Tracking Devices Hamper Farm Thefts

Many farmers reading this will no doubt be aware of the rise in rural crime that is currently sweeping through the country. Rural areas were one considered safe zones, in terms of incidents that were reported on a daily basis. Folks living in the country once felt free to leave their doors unlocked and wouldn’t think twice of leaving their keys in the ignition if they were popping into a shop for 15 minutes. With the recent spate of farm yard thefts and break-ins, however, these farmers are taking more precautions to protect their land and their goods.

With the help of the Police, land owners in Warwickshire are fitting their high-value equipment with advanced tracking devices that have already been utilised to recover three vehicles and arrest three individuals. The publicising of these tracking devices are proving to be enough to deter would-be criminals already, with crime figures already dropping since the introduction of the tech in March.

The NFU have made a statement, suggesting that farmers should no longer be see as a ‘soft target’ to thieves.

Kiwi Farmer Keeps Record Breaking Shearing In Family

Farming is famously a family tradition, with generations of children lining up to pick up the farm work from their parents, once they’re ready to retire that is. As young boys and girls grow up on their farms, they pick up valuable skills that they will end up refining and practicing for the rest of their lives. By the time these kids are fully grown, their decades old skills are quite formidable, so it’s only natural that competitions and rivalries should arise.

One such rivalry exists between two sheep farmers from New Zealand, who have both been setting World Records for their lightning-fast sheep shearing skills. Back in July of last year, Matt Smith, a farmer and writer for Farmers Weekly no less, set the family off to a flying start by setting the World Record for the most sheep shorn in a 12 hours period. The Kiwi farmer smashed the record of 721 set in 2007 by fellow countryman Rodney Sutton by 10 extra sheep.

This year, his brother Rowland (who works at Trefranck Farm in Cornwall) followed in his footsteps by shearing an incredible 644 sheep in a 10 hour period, successfully shearing each sheep in less than 47 seconds.

12-Year Old Samara is Pig Showing Champ

Although the world of animal showing is by no means reserved strictly for adults, it’s nevertheless an area that is rarely graced by young people. Young Samara Radcliffe, who lives just outside Banbridge in County Down, has been bucking the trend by cleaning up at Agricultural Shows for the last 6 years. The proud owner of four saddleback pigs, she doesn’t come from a farming family and had to plead with her parents to buy her her first pigs.

This year Samara has picked up numerous awards, most recently taking home Best Young Handler and Show Champion at the Castlewellan Show.

Despite admitting to being bullied at certain times in her life, her resilience and perseverance suggests that a bright future lies ahead of her in the world of Agriculture.  

Make Money By Generating Your Own Power

You’ve Got Your Own Source of Power – Now What?

Earlier on in the month, we talked about the benefits that you could see from installing your own renewable power source. The fine points of getting money back on your investment can often be confusing – so we’re going to attempt to clear the air…

There are 5 renewable energy types that are eligible for the Feed-in Tarrifs scheme:

Solar photovoltaic


You’ll have to make sure that your panels are installed by a certified fitter – the eligibility period lasts for a total of 20 years. 



Although you may have to have a difficult conversation with your neighbours, home wind power is becoming a more prominent choice. 

Micro Combined Heat and Power


You might need to invest in a decent AC/DC Power Converter (and have some extra space to spare) but these machines provide a great deal of energy. However, you can only make use of this FIT scheme for 10 years.



Farmers in particular, with access to a large amount of free running water, will want to make the most of this particular form of power production. The size of your site, as well as the capacity of your energy production, will affect your tariff rate – so it’s best to do your research before installing a large system.

Anaerobic digestion


Another form of energy production that is specifically tailored for the farmer (especially those with large scale setups), fostering the development of microorganisms – methane gas can be produced and transformed into electricity.

As long as your new installation has been fitted by a certified professional – you can apply through the Energy Saving Trust.

Regardless of the type of power you’re producing, your tariff will be based on a number of factors related to the system you have in place, these include:

  • Tariff Date – Your payments should begin from the start date of eligibility, lengths of eligibility vary depending on your power source.
  • Technology Type – Once more certain power sources are more efficient than others, this is reflected in your tariff price.
  • Capacity – You’ll be eligible for either the Microgeneration Certificate Scheme or ROO-FIT accreditation, depending on the capacity of your power production.
  • Energy Efficiency Of Your Home – It’s always a good idea to have your home assessed and adapted, to make sure that you don’t lose out on a better tariff rate.

Although the Government guarantees payments to producers of renewable energy – these tariff rates are subject to change.

In the early parts of 2016 (between 15 January and 7 February) the acceptance of new applications were temporarily suspended, as the government chose to reassess certain details of the FIT scheme.

When the scheme was once more open for new applications on the 8th February, new measures had been put in place to ensure that new installations were built to environmental specifications – new deployment caps were also put in place for all technologies (with the exception of micro-CHP).

If you’re seriously considering in investing in a large scale energy production installation – then click through here to make sure that you’re in line with all the Governmental requirements.


Struggling To Keep Warm? Gas Not An Option?

2 in 5 homes in Rural Areas are not on the gas grid, Government figures show

In hard to reach, remote areas of England, many people do not have the option of utilising gas to heat their water or homes. Alternative fuels, such as oil, can cost a fortune, not to mention the upkeep of the machinery that supports it. So what other alternatives do these people have? 

Luckily, there are a few environmentally  methods that can pay the owner back in dividends.

The Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive opened in April 2014, since then thousands of people from rural areas have joined the scheme and have been benefiting from payouts from the government, equivalent to the amount of renewable energy that they have produced.

There are four main renewable sources that UK citizens can use to be applicable for the scheme – with a few fair use policies attached to each one:

1) Biomass only boilers and biomass pellet stoves

Bio mass boilers are far and away the cheapest alternative to non-renewable sources. Installation of these burners is simple and the fuel, which you can buy online from vendors such as Liverpool Wood Pellets, is relatively cheap as well.

In order to be applicable for the scheme you must burn the wood pellets to heat space, rather than cook food. If you’re using a boiler, then they must be designed to use solid biomass fuel only.


2) Air source heat pumps

Air source heat pumps function with a small amount of electricity, so that they are not completely sustainable. They can be expensive to install, costing anywhere between £7,000 and £11,000, you’ll also need a fair amount of space (preferably a warm, sunny wall) to place it.

To be eligible for RHI payments, the heat must be sourced from the air and not from an appliance or a building that is already generating heat. The pump must also use a compressor driven by electricity and meet a minimum seasonal performance factor (SPF) of 2.5.


3) Ground source heat pumps

A ground source pump works on the same principal as an air source heat pump. Using a small amount of electricity, the pump is instead laid underground to collect the ambient heat energy from beneath the earth. A large back garden is generally needed to install a system like this – they are, however, a great deal more expensive at a costly £11,000-£15,000.

If you want to receive RHI payments from the government, you’ll need to be able to prove that you’re the only person using the system – you can’t share it with other properties. Once more an SPF of 2.5 is also required.


4) Flat plate and evacuated tube solar thermal panels

Solar panels, often situated on the roofs of homes, are far and away the most popular option for renewable energy installations. They’re relatively cheap to install, with 16 panels (which will provide a good amount of energy, even during the darker winter months) costing as little as £5,000.

The one draw back of using solar panels is that you’re restricted to how use the energy. Electricity harnessed from solar power must only be used for the heating of domestic water, which means that you can’t get money back for heating your outdoor pool or generating domestic electricity for home use.


Agricultural News Round Up – 14/11/16

Brexit Britain’s Move From Subsidies and Killer Hornets On The Rise

A turbulent start to the week brings news of post-Brexit Britain abandoning the use of subsidies, Northern Ireland gets serious about changing it’s land and Giant Asian Hornets are beaten down in Somerset and Gloucestershire.

george-eustice‘Muddled subsidies system’ to go in Post-Brexit Britain

Farm Minister, George Eustice, outlined a variety of supporting measures that could serve to replace the current system of subsidies that he has blasted as being ‘muddled’. Speaking at a DUP breakfast in Belfast on Wednesday, Mr Eustice suggested that an exhaustive re-shaping of the food industry would have to take place, in order for British producers to stay in business.

Throwing out a range of ideas including insurance policies to support farm incomes, as well as the notion that processors and retailers may have to share profits of sales with farmers. All this, however, should be taken with a pinch of salt as the government has agreed to continue pay subsidies to farmers up until 2020.

Mr. Eustice even went as far as to say that a ‘Canadian style insurance system’ could be put in place to give farmers a chance to ‘keep their heads above water’.

Agricultural Report, two years in the making, launches in NI

After two years in gestation, a report has been launched from the government outlining a range of plans and schemes that could see closer attention paid to the environmental impact of farming. A publicly-funded analysis of the soil in Northern Ireland’s farming lands is on top of the agenda – so that farmers can make positive changes to their environment and improve productivity.

Amongst a raft of suggestions made from the reports – the working group, tasked with finding solutions of boosting agri-food whilst also helping the environment, suggested adding lime to acidic soil, whilst only adding the nutrients that are essential to the health of the land.

It was found that an excess of nutrients, especially phosphates, can damage watercourses. Over half of the rivers and lakes in Northern Ireland were found to be well below the European Standards for water quality.

The writers of the report are hoping that concise information and education should help the farmers of Northern Ireland manage their farms better and improve the quality of the land they own.

giant-hornet-2Giant Asian Hornet Invasion stamped out by Bee Unit

After the National Bee Unit confirmed isolated sightings of the yak-killer hornet in areas of both Somerset and Gloucestershire, the NBU has confirmed that their plan to eradicate the Asian and mainland European species has been successful. Nicola Spence, Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health, had this to say:

‘I am pleased our well-established protocol to eradicate Asian hornets has worked so effectively. We remain vigilant, however, and will continue to monitor the situation and encourage people to look out for any Asian hornet nests.’

An aggressive predator of the honey bee, the Asian Hornet is a highly mobile species – capable of spreading 60km a year. There have been fears for a while that this insect, which preys specifically on micro-beasts that are beneficial to the environment, might find it’s ways to the shores of England by either hitching a ride on imported goods or flying across the channel.

Thankfully, now the Winter months have set in, these harmful insects will die off naturally.

If you’re a bee keeper looking to protect their bee hives ahead of next summer, DEFRA have put together instructions on how to create a simple monitoring trap that should combat any future invasions.

6 Recommendations That Lord Cameron Put Forward In His Report

Although his findings were positive on the whole, there were also a string of recommendations that Lord Cameron put forward to the Government.

Lord Cameron noted a ‘renewed emphasis on rural proofing at very senior levels in Government’ however this doesn’t necessarily mean that it was being given the time of day by everyone in policy-making.

As part of his Review, he conducted a investigation into the Impact Assessments made by departments between the years of 2010 and 2014. These assessments are made to add rigour to the development of policies, they are an important first step in appraising the various options and choices that policy maker must choose between early in decision making.

Although some government departments were found to be considering Rural Proofing at this early stage in the process, there were a worryingly large portion of IAs assessed that made no attempt to even consider the impact on Rural Areas at all.

Lord Cameron found that:

  • 51% if all Impact Assessments showed no consideration of rural proofing – even when the policy would directly impact rural areas.

  • Over a a third ‘described rural issues’ but didn’t analyse the policy impact.

  • A paltry 11% provided good evidence on rural proofing and how the evidence had been used to inform the policy in question.

It would appear that a ‘Tick Box’ mentality had been applied, in many cases, to the matter of Rural Proofing – where ministers were acknowledging it, but not referring to it withing the guidance set forward.

In response to this disheartening news, Lord Cameron put forward 6 recommendations to improve the Government’s incorporation of Rural Proofing in policy-making:

1) Defra Ministers should work with Cabinet Office to strengthen and improve rural proofing guidance when the impact of policies is being assessed


By creating more synergy between these two departments, we can ensure that rural policy impacts are given clear and robust attention. Rural proofing must be applied more systematically in Departments and described more openly and transparently.

2) Defra Ministers should establish an Inter-Departmental Rural Oversight group


It would bring together all the main Departments, at a senior level, to discuss particular/topical rural issues and identify where policies or delivery could be adjusted.

3) Defra, with support and input from other government departments, should develop a Rural Proofing Forum.


Working closely with the inter Departmental Rural Oversight Group to share best practice, information and key messages across government.

4) All government departments should adopt the use of Office of National Statistics and government wide urban/rural classifications in their analyses of data and evidence.


With support from Defra on statistical analyses as required. See:

5)  A clear rural proofing stage should be built into the collective agreement processes


Departments will have to explain their rural proofing measures in their policy considerations, taking rural proofing seriously earlier in the policy process if they want to avoid delays in the clearance process.

6) The creation of a permanent forum for discussion of rural proofing, at Cabinet level


This could intervene consistently and at key decision points as policy is being developed and encourage interdepartmental cooperation to assist in the delivery of those policies.

You can find Lord Cameron’s full report on the proliferation of Rural Proofing over at our Government Resources page.