Pain & Sons
Witley Court, Worcester
Potatoes, mixed arable, cattle
5th generation family
Richard Pain farms 2000 acres, surrounded by Witley Court - a historic 17th century English Heritage property that was sadly gutted by fire in 1937. It's beautiful facade still stands though and dominates the land as you walk through the Pain family farm.
The Pain's farm between 400 and 600 acres of potatoes a year along with some cattle and mixed arable. Their potatoes are the pride and joy though, and are destined for chip shops up and down the country.
Richard is the 5th generation of the family to farm this land. He originally trained up as a vet, but moved back to farm with his father Alan and brother Ashley.
As ever, a new generation brings different thinking and they are set on ensuring the farm moves with the times. 'There is an increasing appreciation of the importance of things like soil health, and the role that biodiversity play in the farming world. We need to ensure we don't get left behind, and invest the time and energy needed into looking after the farm for the future' comments Richard.
This was one of the reasons that they were keen to get involved with Exchange. The Pain's were approached by Lloyds to pilot Exchange on their farm.
'It felt like the right program, at the right time. We've done a few environmental surveys before, but this was the first time that someone had tried to tie it all together, and take into account the impact on the farm business at the same time'.
The Exchange team visited the farm to conduct a days worth of in field surveys. A farm advisor then went through the farm operation and carbon calculator in the office. The office based interview took about half a day
'This was the first contact we had had with the Soil Association. Our advisor Karen was very knowledgeable and made the whole process very easy'.
Once they had their results, they spent some time running through the report with Karen. They were pleasantly surprised by the results, but could see there were some improvements that could be made in biodiversity and water in particular.
'This is when it started to make sense for us - Karen managed to see some opportunities for us to improve practices on the farm. She focused on where we could link these to payments. So we are now looking at Countryside Stewardship Plus/SFI funding, when that comes out. Plus there is an opportunity for spray washdown sheds through Severn Trent Water - which came out of the back of some high results in the water tests'
Farming into a new generation
Karen was keen to recommend Severn Trent funding, which is through their STEPS programme (Find out about the scheme here.) The Pain farm was in the eligible zone, and Severn Trent see this kind of funding as key to their preventative measures. It should cover up to 50% of the cost of the washdown area, up to £30,000. 40% of the pesticide contamination that Severn Trent sees in its water is from handling pesticides, and so these kinds of infrastructure investments have a big impact on reducing contamination.
Karen comments that "These facilities are amazing at reducing impact of accidental contamination. The wash is captured and sent to a dedicated biofilter or biobeds. These filter out the pesticides, normally through a mixture of compost, soil and straw. After a year of composting this can normally be safely spread back onto the land."
The higher nitrate result in the water testing has pointed the Pains to government funding for Soils. SAM1 - Assess soil, test soil organic matter and produce a soil management plan, SAM2 -Multispecies winter cover crops and SAM3 - Herbal Leys are all options for Richard under SFI and have different payment rates/hectare. You can read the full handbook for SFI here.
'Thinking about how we can naturally lock in the nitrates in Richard's soils, points us to think about cover crops and herbal leys in some areas, and there is easily accessed for this through SFI. continues Karen. 'We also discussed hedgerow funding in SFI, which helps pay for both a plan, and the ongoing maintenance. Reducing cutting to a 2-3 year cycle, instead of every year will help give a break to some of the hedgerows and allow them to grow back up - in turn serving their purpose of sheltering the field, and any livestock present. Of course as well as supporting biodiversity.
Lastly, reducing the reliance on insecticide would benefits Richards bottom line as well as the environment. There is SFI funding for integrated pest management, and putting in flower strips or companion crops should see a double benefit to the farm. Per hectare funding is available through IPM2 and 3 in SFI, as well as larger funding for the creation of the plan itself (IPM1).
The important thing will be coming back in a couple of years and seeing how things have been going - where things have worked and improved the land, and what impact it has had on the bottom line says Karen