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IAgrM Thames Valley Branch En Masse & On Tour

Date Published: 14/06/2019

John Giles, FIAgrM Promar International

The Thames Valley branch have always been one of the stalwart branches of the IAGRM and prides itself on running an interesting and diverse programme of events across the year.  The latest of these was their annual farm walk. This year, this was to the Beeswax Dyson farm on the site of the old Compton Animal Health R & D centre in Berkshire and then the adjacent Churn Farm Estate – once famed for being where parts of Fiddler on the Roof was filmed, as the producers looked for a location that resembled the bleak Russian steppes !

The pre visit promotion promised the TV branch members, friends and colleagues:

“This 1,000 hectare recently purchased estate promises to be a fascinating visit.  Beeswax Dyson aims to implement a simple, clear approach to learn from the past and ensure core assets such as soils are protected and improved. They believe innovation to be a key element in the development of the business including collaboration with manufacturers to improve the efficiency and safety of farm machinery in areas such as Kinematic Farming, drones, band spraying and strip cat technology”.

-          well, we got all that and whole load more.  Over 50 of us first listened to James Dawson, the Estate Surveyor and Ed Hall, the Farm Manager, give us a great introductory presentation, before we boarded a trailer for a full tour of the farm.

A few things really struck me as we went around the farm:

·         the business is trying to run itself without the aid of subsidies, in preparation for what might be to come at some stage in the future and any such income is invested in to infrastructural and environmental projects

·         the sense of involvement in supporting the local community – the local playing fields have been gifted back to the village, the Scout Hut is rented back to them at the sum of £1 per annum and 600 tonnes of old tyres have been recovered from local land

·         employment creation - old barns are being converted to offices for local businesses which will help create some 60 jobs

·         key priorities for the farming business seem to be a combination of health and safety, as well as environmental enhancement in all they do. Of particular interest was interest the impact on the farm in Oxfordshire from using the CTF system in the Berkshire farm and how it’s significantly reduced carbon (fuel & wear),soil erosion, increased organic matter, worms etc

·         despite all the commercial property business development, this is still first and foremost a farming business

·         there is an active programme of school and student visits in place as well as other local farming groups

·         the equine and stable complex is all powered by bio mass

All in all   - a great evening out – and we managed to avoid the rain too - bonus! This is a highly impressive farming business and you could not possibly go away feeling unimpressed. Thanks very much to James and his team for hosting us. Personally, I went away with the sensing strongly that a few more farms like this would see UK agriculture and farming in a better place, all round. It is clear that James and his team are proud of what they have achieved to date and what they plan for the future - and quite rightly so.

As well as the annual branch farm walk, the TVB also held its AGM at the nearby West Berkshire Brewery (no jokes about a lack of organisational skills, please!) where we also marked the fact that Giles Martin and Geoff Adams, our Joint Secretaries, had decided to both stand down from these roles.

Giles and Geoff have played a massive part in the functioning of the TV branch over a long period of time and therefore to my mind, the very well being of the national organisation per se. What on earth will we do without them?  Their input, support, dedication to the role(s) and sheer enthusiasm, as well as a lot of hard work, often “behind the scenes and unsung” in its nature, was noted in the traditional way by Tom Cackett, the current branch Chair. These two gents are the sort that make the IAGRM tick on a day to day, week by week, month by month and year by year basis and are in many ways, the life blood of the organisation. Thanks Giles and Geoff for all you have done for us, individually and collectively.