With the profit margin being squeezed ever more for the products that farmers produce and the costly bureaucratic red tape ever increasing, we are always on the lookout for other streams of income to sustain the core farming business.
Our new venture is into solar panels, which sit happily on our Moo Motel (cow barn) roof. We can now tick the “green” box, as we should produce as much electricity annually from the panels as we use each year. Better still, these panels are the easiest enterprise on the farm as they don’t require any feeding or constant 24-hour care, unlike the cattle that live directly below them. They will also bring in a not insignificant guaranteed income for the next 20 years, which again can’t be said for the other products we produce.
Farmers on Romney Marsh have embraced the new green revolution of sustainable energy. Like it or loathe it, the marsh has the largest onshore wind farm, a massive solar farm at Old Romney and is soon to have its first anaerobic digester built at Brookland. These all help to supply the country’s electricity needs, but compare insignificantly to the production from the nuclear power station at Dungeness.
On the rest of the farm, the sheep are returning from their winter holiday, have been pregnancy scanned and will soon be lambing. The cattle are calving and once they have endured their annual TB test will hopefully soon be back outside grazing on some spring grass. The crops are just starting to grow from their winter dormant state and, with some fertilizer applied, should soon motor on rapidly. Last year’s crops are still sitting unsold in rented storage, while we hope for the price to increase. In a very fluctuating world, market prices are watched daily in the hope that we can catch the trade right, making the difference between a profit margin or not.
So while we get to another period of serious sleep deprivation in the farming calendar, we do sometimes wonder if the effort is worth the reward . . . but, there again, we soon realise that it is a great deal more fun than just watching the solar panel meter tick over!
Simon Wright is a livestock farmer at East Guldeford, where he and his wife Anne run holiday cottages. Visit their website here.
Photo: Tony Nunn