A former Grenadier and Andersons farm business consultant, arable farmer Tim Breitmeyer is well equipped for his new role as president of the CLA.
Olivia Midgley went to meet him at his Cambridgeshire estate.
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer’s Cambridgeshire estate is a truly diverse farming enterprise.
Alongside the 648- hectare (1,600-acre) arable operation, Bartlow Estate contracts in a further 1,295ha (3,200 acres), runs a sugarbeet harvesting and delivery operation, rents out 5,500 square feet of office space, lets seven farm cottages and hosts a farm shoot.
A keen environmentalist, Mr Breitmeyer, whose family bought the estate in the 1960s, is in the higher tier Countryside Stewardship scheme and powers his grain store with a roof-mounted 100kW solar system – believed to be the first array of its kind in the country.
“While the growing side of the business is central to what we do, it is a part of a range of enterprises and is not the most profitable,” said Mr Breitmeyer, who today (November 9) took on the CLA presidency for a two-year term.
“We have seven key income streams which are all important and complement each other.”
He said this notion of looking at the farm as separate assets was something farmers struggled with, but was imperative to future-proofing agricultural businesses as the industry prepared for Brexit.
“There are other uses for land other than food production and we need to look at how we use all our land to the greatest economic return in a sustainable fashion,” said Mr Breitmeyer.
“It is about looking around the farm and every patch of land and thinking, ‘what can I use that for?’ I have a space behind the grain store that I might store some containers on. Those containers get me a better return on capital than my tractor.
“The top of my roof is earning me money [with solar]. My cart shed has been converted into a house for my farm manager, but it could be giving me a far superior return on the capital if I was renting it out.”
He said post-war and then with the formation of the Common Agricultural Policy, Britain’s focus was purely on food production, but this had now shifted to producing more and better food from less land while producing wider environmental and public benefits.
“There has to be a change of mindset. This will produce more resilient businesses and the more we can collaborate inter-business the better,” said Mr Breitmeyer.
The CLA are delighted to announce Cambridgeshire #farmer Tim Breitmeyer as our new President for the next two years, becoming the 53rd president in our 110-year history t.co/nv3stzxjfo pic.twitter.com/CfqoGp3FS9— CLA (@CLAtweets)
“We need to make better use of our resources, capital expenditure and skills. Some people may be good at milking and others better at rearing youngstock. There is no reason why every farm has to do all of it.”
Mr Breitmeyer, who spent 18 years at Andersons Farm Business Consultants, said for farmers to be able to seek opportunities outside the core farming business, they needed the right signals from Government.
Coherent, consistent planning policy which did not stifle rural development and infrastructure which was ‘fit for purpose’ was also essential, he added.
“Our challenge in the CLA and alongside other industry and other non-governmental organisations is to deliver a Brexit deal which delivers for farming and the countryside.
“It should be an overarching policy that benefits, food, farming, forestry and the environment but above all else builds resilience in our businesses for the long term. Above everything we have to produce more profitable agriculture.”
Mr Breitmeyer succeeds Monmouthshire landowner Ross Murray for the next two years, becoming the 53rd president in the Association’s 110-year history.
Mark Bridgeman, from Northumberland has been appointed the CLA’s deputy president, while Mark Tufnell, from Gloucestershire, has become vice-president.