Russell is farm manager for John Sheard Farms and a partner in the family farm of D.J. Tebbit, responsible for a total of 995 hectares (2,457 acres), with land crossing into Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Cropping is split between winter wheat grown for seed, milling and feed, winter barley, winter oilseed rape, spring barley, spring beans and spring oats. Russell is an AHDB monitor farmer and a 2014 Nuffield Scholar.
Harvest looks like an early one, with soaring temperatures really changing things, not necessarily in a good way. We are desiccating oilseed rape at least a week earlier than normal and it looks like harvest will start before I return from my holiday. Best laid plans and all that.
I always think there is a lot to be learned from mistakes made in the past. I certainly made a few as a student, backing into barn doors and various other things, but the greatest error of all is not to learn from them. Having attended the Cereals event this month, if ever there was an example of history repeating, it was here.
It was clear attendance numbers were well down and, at times, along the stands it resembled some remote outpost in the Wild West where there were few people and the only thing missing was a piece of tumbleweed blowing down the avenues.
The history I refer to is the demise of formerly great events, such as Smithfield and the Royal Show, which were once popular, but now consigned to the history books. I fear the same for Cereals. Talking to various tradespeople on the stands, the vibe was not exactly positive, and some were telling me costly fees had put some off.
There were several big names who were not present this year and over the past three to four years, it has been a slow drip-feed of companies withdrawing from the event, as they have looked to other ways of engaging their client base.
There has been an increase in smaller satellite events being put on by companies which have withdrawn from Cereals and who can blame them?
They are generally very good events, lots of technical information is available and is demonstrated to smaller receptive audiences which allows them to target their customer base more effectively.
Cereals has become a good social day out, there is technical information available, but field days and demonstrations are better set up to convey and share information.
It has always been a good place to stock up on stationery, and I always remember overhearing one conversation that someone had ‘come back from there with at least a pen’, when a group of students were grabbing anything free. It is a great shame and, while success should breed success, the event needs a reboot as this golden goose has not just been cooked, it looks a bit overdone.