James Macleod, 24, is from Dilwyn, Herefordshire, and has recently been involved in the NFU’s Student and Young Ambassador programme, which provides 10 enthusiastic young farmers with an insight into the industry.
Growing up in Oxfordshire I always had the ambition to make my way into the industry.
I graduated from the Royal Agricultural University in 2017 with a BSc (Hons) Agriculture degree, which gave me a good starting point and a broad foundation of knowledge.
The last two years have been particularly busy and exciting as I moved to north Herefordshire to work on a diverse family farming business.
Farming a total of 970 hectares (2,400 acres), the farm comprises combinable crops, processing potatoes, cider apples and an 180,000 bird-broiler unit. Moving to a new area is definitely daunting, but as soon as I was involved in a Young Farmers’ Club the nerves were calmed and it is a great way to meet other like-minded individuals.
As well as the farm being diverse, my role is also varied. Primarily, I spend a significant amount of time in a tractor undertaking a range of jobs including fertiliser spreading, which is a great way to see the farm, and potato harvesting (a lot of controls but very rewarding).
More recently I have been getting stuck into various tasks in the farm office, gaining an understanding of the business side behind the farming operation and also spending time crop walking with the agronomist looking at the agronomic pressures crops are under during the growing season.
It certainly has been a challenging season for the crops, with a very wet autumn in 2019 not only affecting the potato and cider apple harvest, but also the winter drilling period. The wet weather continued into 2020, before moving very quickly into a drought.
While it will not be a bumper harvest by any stretch, the sight and smell of a combine rolling is still enough to put a smile on any arable farmer’s face as the produce of a year’s hard work makes its way off the field and marks a clean slate to start the process all over again.
And as harvest kicks off, so does the NFU’s #YourHarvest social media campaign. This provides a great opportunity for the whole industry to celebrate the arable sector and to show the public and MPs just what we deliver for the country.
The unique circumstances of Covid-19 have highlighted the importance of domestic food production and it would be great to see as many young farmers as possible using their social media channels to get the story of British cereals out to the public this summer.
I have also been fortunate to be involved in the NFU’s Student and Young Farmer Ambassador programme for the past 10 months, which has given a group of 10 of us a fantastic insight into a different side of the industry.
The programme has included being involved in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London, attending the NFU Conference and even a trip to the European Parliament in Brussels.