Harvest Festival

As a school teacher and a farmer’s wife, I often have to contemplate the meaning of harvest festival, as the Autumn approaches. The scary thing I have found is that children (at the school I work in at least!) do not understand the meaning of harvest, despite having a harvest festival every year. So I pose the question;
What do you think the true meaning of harvest festival is?
Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts about the true meaning of harvest festival.

Click on the image below to visit Amazon.co.uk to find out more about this book or visit one of the Farming Friends Bookshops.

Harvest Festival (Why Is This Day Special)

 

 

 

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Morning Livestock Duties In Autumn And Winter

When a farm has livestock there are certain jobs that have to be done at certain times of the day and certain times of the year.

The Farming Friends livestock consists of;

  • Poultry – white leghorn hen and guinea fowl.
  • Fattening beef cattle.
  • Breeding beef cattle.
  • British saddleback pigs.

Each morning the following jobs need to be done;

Poultry Jobs

  • Let poultry out of their huts so that they can free range for the day.
  • Fill up poultry feeders with layers pellets.
  • Change or fill up the poultry drinkers with fresh water.

Fattening Beef Cattle Jobs

  • Bed up the heifer barn/fold yard with fresh straw.
  • Feed the cattle barley and silage.

Breeding Beef Cattle Jobs

  • Bed up the fold yard with fresh straw.
  • Feed the cattle barley and silage.

British Saddleback Pigs Jobs

  • Feed the pigs the pig concentrate and barley mix.
  • Empty water trough and refill with fresh water.
  • Add extra bedding straw if needed.
  • Shovel up pig muck and remove from the pig stye.

Although this doesn’t look like a long list of jobs, if it is done by one person it will take about an 1 hour.

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Year Of Food And Farming

The Year Of Food And Farming Logo

Today marks the start of the Year Of Food And Farming in the UK. As the Year Of Food And Farming website states, the Year Of Food And Farming is, “An exciting campaign to help children find out more about the countryside and where their food comes from through memorable, first-hand learning experiences!

The Year runs from September 2007 to July 2008 and during that time, there’ll be exciting opportunities for children to:

  • follow the story from ‘field to fork’
  • explore the importance of food
  • make informed decisions about food and healthy nutrition
  • watch what happens on a real-life farm
  • experience what the countryside can offer
  • learn more about environmental issues linked to food and the countryside.”
  • The Farming Friends website can help to deliver these opportunities to children and schools and this is why Farming Friends has registered it’s support of the campaign and now features on the Year Of Food And Farming Megamap. The Megamap will build up a picture of all the activity that is happening during the Year of Food and Farming. If you are involved in teaching, farming, catering, food production, or horticulture, then you may be able to offer support. So register your support today and help children and schools learn about food and farming.

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    Seasonal Food For September

    Seasonal food for September as recommended by FARMA includes:

    Apples
    Blackberries
    Beetroot
    Broccoli
    Cabbages
    Carrots
    Cauliflowers
    Courgettes
    Cucumbers
    French Beans
    Kohl Rabi
    Mange Tout
    Marrows
    Onions
    Peas
    Plums
    Potatoes
    Raspberries
    Runner Beans
    Spinach
    Strawberries
    Sugar Snaps
    Sweetcorn
    Turnips

    FARMA is the UK’s National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association. It “is a co-operative of farmers, producers selling on a local scale and farmers’ markets organisers.”

     

    Click on the image below to go to Amazon.co.uk for more information about this book or visit the Farming Friends Book Shop to go to Amazon.com.

    Seasonal Food: A Guide to What's in Season, When and Why

     

     

     

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    Seasonal Food For August

    Seasonal food for August as recommended by FARMA includes:

    Asparagus
    Beetroot
    Blackberries
    Broad beans
    Broccoli
    Carrots
    Cauliflower
    Celeriac
    Cucumber
    Elderflower
    Green cabbage
    Leeks
    Onions
    Parsnips
    New potatoes
    Purple sprouting broccoli
    Red Cabbage
    Rhubarb
    Radish

    Spinach
    Spring greens
    Spring onions
    Strawberries
    Tomatoes
    Watercress

    FARMA is the UK’s National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association. It “is a co-operative of farmers, producers selling on a local scale and farmers’ markets organisers.”

    Click on the image below to go to Amazon.co.uk for more information about this book or visit the Farming Friends Book Shop to go to Amazon.com.

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating

     

     

     

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    The Economics Of Farming

    I received an email on Friday (from Chris) querying why I had not mentioned words like money, profit, C.A.P. and subsidy on the website. My honest response to this was that because I am a relatively new to farming, farmer’s wife, I am yet to fully understand the economics of farming. Following this response Chris emailed me again with lots of questions that I myself have often wondered;

    1) What would a farmer expect to sell the wheat from an acre of land for? 

    2) How much of that would be his costs of production (i.e. seed, diesel, wages, fertilizer, capital depreciation on his machinery, rent, etc) before he calculates his profit? 

    3) What is a trailer load of grain worth?

    4) What is land and machinery worth to the farmer?

    I showed my husband the emails I received and he was very keen to provide some information, so over to Steve @ Farming Friends:

    The first thing to say is that no two farms are alike.  First of all, output (and potential profit) is relative to the size of the farm.  A farmer who grows 200 acres of wheat obviously has twice as much grain to sell as a farmer who only has 100 acres. The cost of the inputs (seed, fertiliser, pesticides etc) on the two farms will be broadly the same per acre and so the Gross Margin/acre will be similar.  The 200 acre farm may be able to buy his inputs at a slight discount as he is buying in larger volumes.  Unfortunately for the chap with 100 acres, some of his costs are fixed at the same rate as the 200 acre man eg. the accountants fees will be similar for both businesses).  Also the larger farm will be able to spread his fixed costs over the greater area so (for example) he may need a 100hp tractor to farm his land which may cost £24,000, whereas the 100 acre farmer may only need a 50hp tractor but this may cost £18,000 (which is more than half of the 200 acre farmers fixed cost for his tractor).  I guess these economies of scale are the same for any type of business.

    Some farmers own their land, whereas others are tenants.  The 100 acre man could own his farm and not have any outstanding mortgage on the land.  If the 200 acre man rents his land then this rent will obviously be deducted from his profit. If a farm is on an old style agricultural tenancy then the rent may typically be £60/acre (often been owned by large estates – Lords, Earls, The Church, The Crown).  If and when these landowners are able to bring these old style tenancies to an end (eg. if the farmer has no family to carry on after him), then the land is let on a Farm Business Tenancy and a typical rent would be £110/acre.

    The value of productive arable farm land has been in the region of £2,500 -£3,000 per acre over the past 10 years.  Unfortunately, the price of grain has been very low (£60 – £80 per tonne).  A tractor and trailer will contain 10 tonnes of grain.  The yield of grain per acre varies due to the soil fertility and the weather patterns for a particular season, but farmers get about 2.75 tonnes per acre of barley (range from 1 tonne to 3.5 tonnes) and about 3.6 tonnes per acre of wheat (range from 2.5 tonnes to 5 tonnes).  Lets say that the farmer averages 3 tonnes of grain/acre and sells it for £80/tonne, therefore his sales are £240/acre.  Fertiliser, pesticides and seed will cost approximately £100/acre, thereby leaving £140/acre Gross Margin. The cost of owning and operating machinery (combine harvester, tractors, trailers, fertiliser spreader, crop sprayer, plough, cultivators, fuel bowsers, grain dryers, forklifts) is about £100/acre, thus leaving £40/acre.  Over the past 12 months the price of grain has risen to about £100/tonne and so this will add another £60/acre onto this figure – so now this year we are left with about £100/acre profit.  If the farmer owns his land then £100/acre is the profit.  If the land is rented or the farmer has mortgage and interest payments then as you can see his profit will be approximately zero.  Consider that if the farmer bought his land for £3,000 per acre and borrowed £1,500 per acre from the bank then the annual interest (at 7%) will be £105/acre plus he will need to pay off the £1,500.

    Then comes the subsidy.  Many changes have been made to the Common Agricultural Policy since 2005 and each farmer receives a different amount of subsidy per acre depending on what crops and livestock they have kept in previous years. The whole subsidy system is horrendously complex, but soon each arable farmer in England will receive the same payment per acre.  This will be about £70/acre.

    So the farmers’ profit is about £70/acre for someone who either rents their land or has a mortgage on their land, or about £170/acre if the farmer owns his land outright.  I guess that in simple terms that many farms would be uneconomic if it were not for the subsidy payments.

    You may have seen press reports over the past year or so about potential food shortages in coming years because of rising world populations, dietary changes in India and China (more meat eaten which requires more land than crop production for food) and land being used for biofuel production. (Visit PeakFood for more information about this.) This is what has driven the price of grain upwards and it is also driving the price of farmland upwards.  It is now typically selling for £3,000 – £4,000 per acre. Therefore a good sized modern commercial farm of 700 acres is worth about £2 million for the land alone, plus the value of the farmhouse.  Such a farm would require 2 people to work the land and the profit may be in the region of £70,000+.  Of course if the farm was sold and the £2million was in the bank it would earn £80,000 a year in interest at 4%.  It is probably fair to say that many farmers who own their farms are asset rich but cash poor.  The average size farm in England is about 250 acres.  Obviously the average farmer earns much less money than the farmer who owns a very large farm.

    An arable farmer may typically pay £40,000 for a 160hp tractor and between £100,000 and £200,000 for a combine harvester.  This is why some smaller farms use contractors or hire their machinery.

    Steve @ Farming Friends

    Thanks Steve for your detailed view of the economics of modern farming.

    I would also like to thank Chris for his interest in farming and taking the time to ask lots of questions about farming which stimulated much discussion in the Farming Friends household and finally resulted in this article.

    If you are interested in the economics of farming or indeed any aspect of farming life then please feel free to leave a comment or fill out the contact form below.

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    Seasonal Food For June

    Seasonal food for June as recommended by FARMA includes:

    • First strawberries
    • Asparagus
    • Broccoli
    • Carrots
    • Celeriac
    • Earliest tomatoes
    • Elderflower
    • Green cabbage
    • Leeks
    • Onions
    • Parsnips
    • New potatoes
    • Purple sprouting broccoli
    • Red Cabbage
    • Rhubarb
    • Radish
    • Spring onions
    • Earliest cucumber
    • Earliest beetroot
    • Cauliflower
    • Spring greens
    • Spinach  
    • Earliest broad beans
    • Watercress

    FARMA is the UK’s National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association. It “is a co-operative of farmers, producers selling on a local scale and farmers’ markets organisers.”

    Click on the image below to go to Amazon.co.uk for more information about this book or visit the Farming Friends Book Shop to go to Amazon.com.

    Growers Market: Cooking with Seasonal Produce

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    The Farming Year – May

    Jobs on a cattle and arable farm in May can include;
    • Feeding poultry twice daily.
    • Letting poultry out to free range in a morning.
    • Locking up the poultry huts on a night.
    • Cleaning out the poultry huts.
    • Check cattle in field twice daily.
    • Give cattle in the field mineral supplement.
    • Feed store cattle twice daily.
    • Milling and mixing animal feed.
    • Bedding up store cattle.
    • Calving cows.
    • Disbudding (dehorning) calves.
    • Selling cattle.
    • Take cows to the “Ings” for Summer grazing at the end of the month.
    • Service the irrigation equipment.
    • Lay concrete floor in the new grain shed.
    • Cut grass to make silage.
    • Turn grass for silage.
    • Bale the silage.
    • Wrap bales.
    • Put nitrogen fertiliser on grass field to make the grass grow again.
    • Apply blight spray to potato crops at the end of the month depending on the weather.

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    The Year Of Food And Farming Website Launched

    The Year Of Food And Farming is a national initiative and is to be launched in September 2007 in the UK. It aims to give children an increased awareness of where their food comes from and give them the opportunities to become more involved in food preparation and production. It also aims to provide opportunities for learning more about the countryside and farming.

    Today saw the launch of The Year Of Food And Farming website which states that, “The Year of Food and Farming is a campaign to promote healthy living by giving young people direct experience of countryside, farming and food. During the Year, children will have the opportunity to:

    • follow the story from ‘field to fork’
    • explore the importance of food
    • make informed decisions about food and healthy nutrition
    • watch what happens on a real-life farm
    • experience what the countryside can offer
    • learn more about environmental issues linked to food and the countryside.

    The year runs from September 2007 to July 2008. The full site will go live in September.”

    The Year Of Food And Farming scheme is looking for individuals or organisations to give their support. If you are involved in teaching, farming, catering, food production, or horticulture, then you may be able to offer support. I have already registered the support that I will give via Farming Friends and I have registered the school that I work in. I aim to give my support and hope that you can too.

    The Year Of Food And Farming Logo

     

     

     

     

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    The Farming Year – April

    Jobs on a cattle and arable farm in April can include;

    • Bedding up cattle once a day.
    • Feeding cattle twice a daily.
    • Milling and mixing animal feed.
    • Calving cows.
    • Disbudding (dehorning) calves.
    • Selling cattle.
    • Electric fences put up around grass fields.
    • Cattle turned out to grass during the last few days of the month.
    • Feeding poultry twice daily.
    • Letting poultry out to free range in a morning.
    • Locking up the poultry huts on a night.
    • Cleaning out the poultry huts.
    • Nitrogen fertilizer applied to Winter wheat and Winter barley.
    • Start crop spraying on cereals.
    • Apply fungicide and insecticide to oilseed rape.
    • Apply manganese to Spring barley.
    • Apply herbicide to late drilled Winter wheat.
    • Apply fungicide to Winter wheat and Winter barley.
    • Drilling fodder beet and cover crop.
    • Apply first herbicide to fodder beet.
    • Building grain store.

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