Friday, 16 September 2016

Mummy and Daddy dare to do...

...what Granny or the Child Minder decide not to.

Out in the woods on a crisp January day, a child clamours to be allowed to cross the stream, walking on the trunk of a fallen tree.
The surface of the tree trunk glistens with frost.
(The parent thinks ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’)
“All right Jamie, be careful”.
('Good balance….. doing nicely…..')  
* Splash! *
“OK Jamie, I’ve got you. Now let’s run home and put you in a hot bath.”

This small story depicts how a parent might allow certain risks for their own child. 
However there are often others involved in the care of the child, and they will have to take a different stance in their considerations. 

Granny might like to say yes to Jamie, but is unsure of her daughter/son-in-law’s attitude to children learning by their mistakes. The Child Minder has to be mindful of Social Services.

There is a broader message behind this story that applies as much to farming and is simply that: 

Your attitude to risk depends on your position. 

A fact of life highlighted by a group of Procam agronomists in discussions at their first visit to a SPot Farm on 8 September at James Daw's (SPot Farm West).



Energetic discussions

Group members had their own views and experiences to share and conversation was lively.



To demonstrate the level of engagement and interaction better than a single image could, click above to see Richard Crayston from Cumbria discussing seed chronological age with Phil Burgess, and Phil Garton-Pope from Cheshire who had questions for Mark Stalham on cultivation. (Sorry - a visual demonstration only. No audio)


Approaches to change

Christina Lankford has considerable experience as an agronomist working out of Procam’s Colchester office, mainly in Essex and Cambridgeshire.

In her work she sometimes recommends that growers make changes, for example on cultivation depth, cover crops, applications of poultry manure and nitrogen, based on experience or the knowledge arising from research. 


Any change from established practice carries an element of risk. 

She finds that when she’s talking to the owner he can make an immediate decision while other staff often hesitate, conscious of potential risk.

Business owners should consider this ‘ownership of risk’ aspect of decision making. 

It can hold back adoption of new technologies and ultimately, hold back the business.


More effort = A better job?

We have a natural tendency to feel that if someone is trying really hard they are doing a better job than if it looks easy.

Mark Stalham told the Procam group a story about how machine operators react when he enters a field. 


When looking at cultivations before planting he often visited the work in progress to check depth, using a white cane as a probe.
He found the whole field had been cultivated to a regular depth, except the most recent section, which was deeper.
The operators had seen him with his probe and assumed that making a greater effort was a good thing, so they went lower.
In doing so however they were bringing up wetter soil and often creating more clods. 

Some conversation and dialogue ensues and now the operators see him coming and still there is a change in depth... 

But now its up rather than down!

A finding from the SPot Farm demonstrations at the Daw's site - that cultivating shallower can be better in terms of savings in work rates and fuel, without negative consequences for yield and quality.


Opportunity to discuss trial results while the crop is still green

On September 22, in the morning, the final crop walk at SPot Farm West will be examining the demonstrations that have been up for discussion at previous events (chitting, cultivations, nutrition/cover crops and seed age/numbers), but this time we will have the results from sample digs and so hard data will be available in the context of seeing what the crop looks like -  an enriching experience all round.

I look forward to seeing you there (click here to register to attend - spaces limited).


Plan your own visit! Tailored group agendas invited

This visit was arranged by Procam with us in a way that supported their in-house training and development programme. CPD points were available, but perhaps even more valuable - participants could discuss specific issues in confidence. 

If you are involved in a group that you feel would benefit from this kind of bespoke visit to a SPot Farm then please contact philip.burgess@ahdb.org.uk or any of the bloggers on this site.

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