How Chris and Clive started The Farming Forum

How Chris and Clive started The Farming Forum


So yeah The Farming Forum started
six years ago now and purely it’s an accidental thing really. It came at a
time when I was making major changes to the way that we farm in our farming
business. We’ve been pursuing the conservation agriculture, direct drilling,
zero till type route for a while and increasingly the best source of
of learning was to learn from other people’s mistakes for me. I came on
board to help effectively just part-time to start with but it grew and it grew
massively. It’s about 350K words a day are added –
which is about seven magazines worth every day. It’s a vocational job farming,
people go home at night and they still want to talk about farming, so really,
actually it’s not necessarily as big a surprise as you imagine to see why it’s
been quite so popular amongst farmers. It gives them the ability to share,
you know, common issues or learn from each other. The whole knowledge transfer I think going forward is gonna be a very powerful
thing in agriculture. I was running a small organic farm down
in Cornwall, but as being in Cornwall that you tend to diversify as much as
possible: so everything was holiday homes camping, we were doing yurts, classic guttle and doing the glamping element which what was great and was a small
profitable farm effectively but very seasonal. Like I said, we grow all combinable crops and so milling wheat which goes a lot of it goes to Dominos and McDonald’s.
It’s a high quality, kind of high-protein wheat quite a diverse range of crops really. And as part of our farming system to
have that maximum diversity – more crops is kind of healthier for soil. So break crop is, you can’t, if you continually grew wheat all the time what you do is you build up kind of
pests and disease issues. You have to farm with the rotation. So you’ll have a cereal type crop, a grassy crop, like wheat or
barley, and then you’ll have a break crop which would be some legumes, like
peas or beans, or Brassica like your seed rape. And then you kind of you have that, this old farming principles which have never really changed of having to
have that break to break those pests and disease cycles. And then you grow better
crops of your main crop. So you can’t just be a wheat
farm, you can’t just be a oil seed rape farm or a bean farm, you have to have
this kind of this rotation. Also spreads workloads – so the harvest time
for oil seed rape will be different to the harvest date for winter wheat or beans,
so spreads your labor and your machinery throughout the year. Another issue where agriculture evolved over a few years, everyone’s trying, when the economics became quite tough
you try to maximize the highest gross margin crop which is the wheat, so some
of the good old-fashioned farming principles of proper rotation start to
be ignored a little bit in pursuit of that higher margin that they need. And
yeah the rotation is important because that stops things problems that
become big issues the farmers, like black grass, slugs, you know aphids. All these
things that they see as big problems actually they’re quite often just a
symptom of poor rotation. We are using a lot of technology here to make the system work. Because we’re not
cultivating the impact on weight of machinery on land can be an issue. Weight hits the land once every 12 meters. You need good IT skills now, the equipment were using, the
cabs are full of screens, so you need to know your way round the computer to be able to get the best out of these machines. I think we’ve had at least one wedding
actually which is, yes, you don’t really expect that when you started it
back when, so but at least one. We had a dating section start up after a farmer famously put an advert up for a wife but written like as machinery
classified advert. Like, you know, low hours, needs little maintenance, those
sort of things and that went round we had lots of signups and that led
into a dating section that’s very popular. Actually within agriculture a
lot of farmers were paying very different prices for the same products, so by giving people the ability to compare, it’s helped them drive
better deals with their suppliers. They’ve been able to go back to their suppliers
and say well actually I’ve seen here that there’s people paying you know X
amount less than I am, why am I paying this, why aren’t I getting the same deal.
That led to a little springer for the forum was a thing called “Farm
Marketplace”. So what we tried to do there with that is almost create like an
Amazon style service that put the suppliers of agricultural products
directly in touch with those their buyers and and with open online
transparent pricing when basically people can use a forum for them to equip
themselves with more information which gives them the power to kind of maybe
change their business because they’ve seen how other people have
successfully made various changes to the way that they grow their livestock or
grow their crops or maybe it’s a change to the way that they’ve been buying or
taking advice or a mechanisation change… But you know those decisions come
from a position of knowledge in the first place so you know the forum is the
source of that knowledge.

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