EnvCast: Environmental Professionals in Conversation

In Conversation with Will Oliver CEnv

July 05, 2023 Society for the Environment Episode 42
EnvCast: Environmental Professionals in Conversation
In Conversation with Will Oliver CEnv
Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever heard a farmer be an environmentalist? Meet Will Oliver CEnv, the only chartered environmentalist to call himself a farmer, Will gained his Chartered Environmentalist registration via Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM).

In this episode of EnvCast, Will sheds light on the critical role of sustainable farming. He discusses arable farming, what it's like to be leading the way in the agricultural sector, crop rotations and much more about farming life and the environment. 
Will tells us his view on the net zero targets and offers his advice on how to be environmental without focusing too much on carbon emissions and net zero. 

Whether you're looking to gain industry insights or advance your professional development, Will's episode and others from the EnvCast series are a must-watch for anyone interested in environmental management and sustainability. Tune in now to learn more!

About IAgrM
The Institute of Agricultural Management (IAgrM) is the professional body for farmers, farm managers and others engaged in the management of land and associated rural businesses. Membership is also open to those associated with management in agriculture in its widest sense, such as consultants, advisers, academics and research workers.

IAgrM acts as a focal point for those who work in agricultural management and promote farm and land management as a profession. IAgrM organise conferences, training, workshops and farm visits. IAgrM have an active network of local branches and use these to encourage local discussion and contact.

Chartered Environmentalist status is growing within IAgrM with the increasing awareness of the importance of the environment within those working in farm and land management and the rural sectors.

Professional registration:

Registered status as a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv), Registered Environmental Practitioner (REnvP) or Registered Environmental Technician (REnvTech) are available through IAgrM. To find out more about our registrations visit: https://socenv.org.uk/professional-registration/

Will Oliver CEnv is interviewed by  Phil Underwood, Engagement Manager, here at Society for the Environment (SocEnv).

Check out our other platforms:

// Twitter: @SocEnv_HQ // YouTube: Society for the Environment //
socenv.org.uk // LinkedIn: society-for-the-environment

Check out our other platforms:

YouTube: Society for the Environment //
socenv.org.uk // LinkedIn: society-for-the-environment // Twitter: @SocEnv_HQ

00:00:09 Speaker 1  

Hello, I'm Phil from the Society of the environment and welcome to this month's EnvCast episode, a very special episode because I'm not sat in my spare bedroom chatting to someone on the screen. I'm actually sitting opposite.  

00:00:20 Speaker 1  

Someone which is our guest today on a farm in the middle of the Leicestershire countryside. Yeah, pretty close to Warwickshire. That's why I would ask, to make sure.  

00:00:29 Speaker 1  

If you don't believe me, check out the YouTube version of this episode. It's all true and it makes me very.  

00:00:36 Speaker 1  

Very happy to be outside. Very different surroundings.  

00:00:39 Speaker 1  

Our special guest today gained their charter environmentalist registration in recent months via the membership of the Institute of Agricultural Management.  

00:00:48 Speaker 1  

And as recently as yesterday.  

00:00:50 Speaker 1  

They won an award at the 2023 SocEnv Awards which we have on the table right here, so I'm very pleased to welcome Will Oliver to EnvCast.  

00:01:02 Speaker 1  

Thank you very much for joining us today and and allowing us to be on your farm. Not a problem at all. 

00:01:07 Speaker 1  

Thanks for it. Nice to be here, it's very nice to be here. As always on EnvCast.  

00:01:11 Speaker 1  

I'm going to start proceedings by handing over to our guest to give us a bit of a flavour of what you currently doing your job, and so I'm going to hand over microphone to you.  

00:01:19 Speaker 2  

Thank you very much. So yeah, I'm Will Oliver. I'm an arable farmer from Leicestershire, Yorkshire, like you said, came home to the family business after graduating from Harper Adams in 2011.  

00:01:29 Speaker 2  

we were very much an all arable high input, high-output system and we've diversified, diversified a little bit into self store well units and commercial lettings.  

00:01:42 Speaker 2  

But it was very clear that we needed to diversify further, so we've gone into in recent years we've gone into glamping.  

00:01:50 Speaker 2  

We've got poultry now which works hand really well with the arrival system that we've got. We've also got a storage company we rent out, fishing lakes, and we've got a quarry that we rent out. 

00:02:00 Speaker 2  

So we've got lots of things going on.  

00:02:02 Speaker 2  

And it's just, it just helps to spread.  

00:02:04 Speaker 2  

That risk so in.  

00:02:06 Speaker 2  

My day-to-day job, really.  

00:02:07 Speaker 2  

Is with our.  

00:02:08 Speaker 2  

With the family is to manage all that.  

00:02:10 Speaker 2  

So we manage everything in house. We very rarely use agents and things like that. So that's why I like to really work on my CPD and just progress my, my knowledge and my contacts.  

00:02:21 Speaker 2  

In the industry.  

00:02:22 Speaker 2  

So yeah, generally I'm probably a bit of a File Manager, but a master of well, I do a lot of things.  

00:02:29 Speaker 2  

I'm not very good at or any of them.  

00:02:31 Speaker 1  

But I do them all OK. Jack of all trades. Yeah, that's the one. But you are a Chartered Environmentalist.  

00:02:36 Speaker 1  

So you got a lot of knowledge when it comes to the Environmental aspects of your work, which is good to see.  

00:02:42 Speaker 1  

So that your job that you've just mentioned explains where we are, which is always useful. So this is, as you said, it's family fun.  

00:02:48 Speaker 2  

I'm from our 4th generation. Yep. So where we're actually sat we bought in 2011. The main farm is about 10 miles from here in the village of Upton.  

00:02:50 Speaker 1  


00:02:57 Speaker 1  

Ah, I see. OK.  

00:03:00 Speaker 1  

Interesting so.  

00:03:04 Speaker 1  

So, I'm told a lot that agriculture is massively important to the environment, which is true, and yet you are the only chartered environmentalist on our register of nearly 8000 chartered environmentalists that calls themself a farmer. Why do you think that is? 

00:03:22 Speaker 2  

First answer is maybe it's awareness of it. I'm not sure, but also I would.  

00:03:28 Speaker 2  

Probably hazard a guess.  

00:03:29 Speaker 2  

There are farmers who are chartered environmentalists, but they might label themselves different.  

00:03:33 Speaker 2  

They might label themselves as an estate manager or farm manager. Yeah, I'm sure there is links with agriculture, but certainly I think we need to be doing more as an industry.  

00:03:45 Speaker 2  

To just to.  

00:03:47 Speaker 2  

Build that bridge between agriculture.  

00:03:48 Speaker 2  

And the environment, because we we are custodians.  

00:03:52 Speaker 2  

Of the land.  

00:03:53 Speaker 2  

Like I say, we're 4th generation. I want this farm to be here and I want it to be in a better, better place than it is future generations. And and I think the environment is absolutely paramount to that.  

00:04:04 Speaker 1  

I think you're probably right when it comes to whether the agricultural professionals call themselves farmers or I guess.  

00:04:11 Speaker 1  

The other some of them might be the agents that you mentioned as well so.  

00:04:14 Speaker 2  

Yeah, exactly who are linked to agriculture, yeah.  

00:04:16 Speaker 1  

Do a lot of farmers use those agents rather than having that expertise in House?  

00:04:20 Speaker 2  

Yes, and a lot of people are.  

00:04:23 Speaker 2  

Probably scared to put themselves out of their comfort zone, whereas I quite like to put myself out of the comfort zone.  

00:04:28 Speaker 2  

And generally some things are easier than you may possibly think they are, and you might pay a lot of someone a lot of money to do it.  

00:04:35 Speaker 2  

I'm not saying some things aren't. Sometimes you have to get people in, but sometimes you just gotta put yourself out of your comfort zone, and you'd be surprised. 

00:04:39 Speaker 1  

I take it there's a couple of things that haven't worked as well.  

00:04:44 Speaker 2  

Yeah, yeah, we make mistakes.  

00:04:46 Speaker 1  

It’s all part of the journey. 

00:04:47 Speaker 1  

Yeah. So, you're not only the only Chartered Environmentalist farmer, but you're also an award-winning Chartered Environmentalist farmer, not just the Society of Environment awards. I haven't got the other ones listed, but.  

00:05:01 Speaker 1  

At our annual awards yesterday, you won the 2023 Registrant Newcomer of the Year award, which celebrates those who have really hit the ground running since recently achieving an environmental professional registration.  

00:05:14 Speaker 1  

What went through your mind when your name was announced?  

00:05:19 Speaker 2  

It was just shock, really. I wasn't expecting it, right? So it was like I'm not gonna win this. I'm out. I'm out of my depth. And then suddenly, well, I could the words that they said I was like, hang on this could be me. And then they mentioned agriculture because I wasn't aware of what other people's links were with agriculture directly and I thought this could be me, actually I think I've won so yeah. And over the moon.  

00:05:40 Speaker 1  

Yeah. It's fair to say that there's quite a variety of jobs and disciplines and areas of expertise when it comes to the Society for the Environment’s registered database, so Chartered Environmentalist, REnvP and REnvTechs. So for someone who directly works in agriculture that's got to be seen as pretty useful for the agricultural sector to look at and think, huh?  

00:06:04 Speaker 2  

Yeah, I think, yeah, I think a lot of people might say, ohh chartered environmentalists. Well, I had a message yesterday actually from someone who wants to do a lot of work with sustainable agriculture and he messaged me saying what's this chartered environmentalist like? How do I get into that? And I've had quite a few people mention that, so it does build awareness of it, and then suddenly that that will help the credibility that comes with it.  

00:06:24 Speaker 1  

I hope, yeah. Did you find out about the CEnv registration through your membership with Institute of Agricultural Management? Yeah. I see so.  

00:06:34 Speaker 1  

Let's, well, Let's talk about the farm. Because you said it's grown because you are based in Upton, were you?  

00:06:42 Speaker 2  

Yeah. Yeah, so we've grown about 1000 acres in the last 10 years.  

00:06:45 Speaker 1  

OK, what does that mean for the whole farm? What? What? What acreage are we talking? 

00:06:47 Speaker 2  

2000 acres. 

00:06:48 Speaker 1 

2000 acres and for someone who doesn't know much agriculture, how does that, so you’re arable, right?  

00:06:54 Speaker 2  

Yeah, we're predominantly arable. We were historically beef and dairy in the past like before I came home, but now we are predominantly arable like so we got a broiler unit broiler unit which is poultry. So we get them up from that to use as fertile.  

00:07:09 Speaker 2  

And then we've got lots of other little businesses going on in the background, which are all equally as important as each other. But yeah, that's what we're doing.  

00:07:15 Speaker 1 

So, You’re essentially producing your own fertiliser. 

00:07:20 Speaker 2  

Yes, yes. And we can grow wheat to feed the chicks as well chicken as well. So.  

00:07:24 Speaker 1  

I see, which I believe on Jeremy Clarkson's farm, he was doing a relatively similar thing with his chickens.  

00:07:30 Speaker 2  

Yeah, ours is a bit more commercial scale, but it's still so commercial poultry there's a there's a negative stigma to that, but actually we're hearing we've got 250 kilowatts of solar panels. We're heating the sheds with ground source heat pumps. It's really efficient.  

00:07:47 Speaker 2  

People want food, cheap food, and that's what farmers do it essentially, we've got to provide what the consumer wants and that's what we do.  

00:07:56 Speaker 1  

Has the recent change in the economy essentially and people's spending habits has that changed you as a farmer?  

00:08:04 Speaker 2  

Yeah. Yeah, I mean the whole economy situation is having an effect on everybody. We appreciate farmers appreciate that food, food prices. If they went up too much, people would have an issue with that, affordability wise, but at the same time our prices have gone up and and it sometimes it feels like we don't get that back and the supermarkets or the middlemen or whoever it may be is probably taking a big chunk of that cut.  

00:08:35 Speaker 2  

But like our agri-flation, whatever you want to call it has gone up 35% in some cases with some of our costs, right. 

00:08:44 Speaker 2  

Fertilisers doubled in some cases. So yeah, our costs are doubling, it's quite scary.  

00:08:50 Speaker 1  

That's pretty extreme, isn't it? And I'm not going to talk about Jimmy Carson again, but I will do this time because he's publicised it pretty well with things like fertiliser costs and that kind of thing. Is is a worrying time if that continues to rise, is it starting to stabilise or?  

00:09:06 Speaker 2  

It is, volatility is never good for anybody. If we if we know these prices. Before, when we used to discuss our electricity contracts. For example. It was barely even a conversation. If you made the wrong decision. You were wrong by 10 or 20 quid, sort of thing.  

00:09:22 Speaker 2  

Whereas now if you make the wrong decision, if you make a couple of wrong decisions, it can be absolutely catastrophic to your business. 

00:09:30 Speaker 1  

Well, we're going to move away from doom and gloom of financial situations. You mentioned a few things about things like solar panels on the farm, that kind of thing, so clearly first you're a farmer, right? So, you're also a chartered environmentalist which fits into that quite well, what does a chartered environmentalist farmer do day-to-day?  

00:09:50 Speaker 2  

So we have a small team of staff I have to manage them. So got Paul, who drives, who's our main farm worker, our main farm worker.  

00:10:00 Speaker 2  

He's been with us for 35 years so and then we've got George, who's been with us for five years, and they make my life very easy.  

00:10:10 Speaker 2  

Communication is key. But yeah, they really, really good. So man management is really important, and it is with any business when you're dealing with people, man management is key. So I've done a lot of training on that side of things.  

00:10:25 Speaker 2  

And then generally I do all the agronomy on the farm, so that takes a lot of my time. So I'm field walking, getting prices for inputs, doing things for the soil, trying to learn as much as I possibly can about the soil as well as simple tasks such as reading meters of the tenants that we've got, so we've got solar panels on some, some industrial units where we sell the electric to the tenants and then we've also got a spring, so they're using water from the spring so everything always comes back to the environment at the end of the day, yeah, but it's just baby steps. Sometimes these things are baby steps and.  

00:10:59 Speaker 2  

It's like the net zero thing that's going on at the minute that's in the front of everyone's mind, but I actually think being net zero push that to the back. It's about being efficient and if we become more efficient then net zero is a byproduct of that, and that's what I think that we need to be focusing on at the minute.  

00:11:19 Speaker 1  

Yeah, I think quite around there's there's a lot of efficiency stuff out there that can just be easily tapped into. But if you put a net zero on it, it becomes a really complicated.  

00:11:28 Speaker 2  

When there was a slide yesterday, which was really good and I'll try and describe it of the ladders and there was basically.  

00:11:34 Speaker 2  

I can't remember the exact words, but it's basically if you put net zero line, you're struggling to reach that line and you can't quite get to it.  

00:11:40 Speaker 2  

But if you put reducing amount of plastic usage within our business, that's one step, reduce our energy usage that's the next step.  

00:11:47 Speaker 2  

And then before you know it, you're up that ladder way higher than you would have been if you just trying to reach that net zero one. So I thought that was really good slide 

00:11:54 Speaker 1  

Was that on the society environment Awards and Lectures? Yes. OK. There you go. There's a hint for everyone to have a look at that. It isn't online yet, but it will do and by the time this goes out, we'll put a link on the description of the podcast and you'll be able to have a look at the presentation on that so.  

00:12:12 Speaker 1  

That was all about plastic packaging, plastic waste and that kind of thing. But it moved on to things like how that fits into net zero, that kind of thing.  

00:12:21 Speaker 1  

One of the things you mentioned just then I thought was very interesting, which also is part of the barriers to net zero and that kind of thing is people think it costs money, but now obviously putting solar panels on you've cost money. But you said that you are then essentially producing that energy for your tenants, who then pay for that energy. So that's got to be a way of turning things around? 

00:12:46 Speaker 2  

It doesn't take someone in the press to say we need to be net zero by 2040. I agree with what they're saying to focus the mind. But when electricity prices get as high as 60p per kilowatt, that focuses the mind.  

00:12:58 Speaker 2  

When we're filling up at the petrol pumps that focuses the mind that that's when it hits people in real life, in real situations. If that doesn't focus how you change then I don't think anything will really that it's that bottom line where it hits people in their pockets at A at a personal level, that's what really makes a difference.  

00:13:17 Speaker 1  

Yeah, especially now. Yeah, definitely. You could do anything in that sense and if it's, if you can do it from a with an environmental spin on it, then fantastic.  

00:13:24 Speaker 2  

But we live in a world as well when I've got my grandmother, she's 92, and when she was my age, most of her income would have gone on to buy food, whereas now people have got Netflix, they've got sky, they've got Amazon Prime they've got phone book like how we want to spend our money. It's completely changed and as a country, food probably has got too cheap. We've been spoilt for choice, I think maybe as environmentalists, we should be focusing on pushing or encouraging people to eat seasonally, because that's what we that's what we did during the pandemic.  

00:13:57 Speaker 2  

People went back to their farm shops and they realised I could buy a sack of spuds and that's going to last me 3 weeks and we can have different meal every night. 

00:14:04 Speaker 2  

And like food banks and things actually be having potatoes in and veg seasonal veg, because that's what is part of a healthy diet and that it links it links to helping the environment but it also links to our health. And also it helps your pocket at the end of the day. So it's a win win for everybody.  

00:14:19 Speaker 1  

Yeah, I'm very pleased that you brought up the argument of what we're spending our money on because I have the exact same conversation with my wife a few weeks ago of what did our grandparents spend the money on because food was a lot more. Well, yeah, it was a huge part of your wage packet. Essentially, was going on food and you know being healthy and eating. So things have changed a bit.  

00:14:42 Speaker 2  

The world's a lot smaller now, isn't it? Because you can get anywhere. You can communicate with everybody. And I remember when my grandma used to ring her daughter in New Zealand and she used to be scared of how long that conversation was gonna be because it was costing her a fortune. Whereas now we can zoom for free like we live in a different world, don't we? 

00:15:00 Speaker 1  

So what other things across the farm have you implemented or what kind of practises are in place that are giving an environmentally positive impact?  

00:15:11 Speaker 2  

So we did the poultry sites in 2019, December 2019, that opened and I did that with the view of increasing that organic matter in our soils by having the poultry. But I never dreamt that fertiliser would double in price so suddenly that value of that manure became increasingly valuable to us. Now, yeah.  

00:15:31 Speaker 1  

Then there's like action there. Excellent.  

00:15:34 Speaker 2  

And then we're getting incentivised now to test our soils in improve our organic matter so that this all links together and then it sends me on this journey of soil health.  

00:15:45 Speaker 2  

So I want to improve soil health, so we're we're doing less tillage, we're doing less intensive tillage, we don't grow oil seed rape anymore because it was getting too challenging and too high risk. So I'd grow maize for grain, which is really.  

00:15:59 Speaker 2  

It is a niche crop really, although maze has grown all over the country, not for the grain, so I don't mind doing things a bit outside my comfort zone. Taking risks, we've invested heavily in machinery because it needs different machinery, but it's really exciting. We've got a marker on our doorstep at Shepshed with GW feeds and we grow maze for them and it's working really well. It's doing wonders for our soils, so yeah.  

00:16:25 Speaker 1  

So, you've mentioned oil seed rape, is that why we're seeing less yellow fields each year?  

00:16:29 Speaker 2  

Yeah, yeah, this year, I think there's actually more yellow fields than probably was the last couple of years, but yeah, definitely rapes a real challenge, the seed dressing, the Neonicotinoid seed dressing that was banned several years ago has made it very, very difficult to grow it. It's not just the seed dressing, there's all sort of issues with oil seed rape that we have to combat. We've probably grown it too often. So historically we were wheat rape, wheat rape, wheat rape because it was the most profitable rotation. Whereas now we're growing things like winter beans, they're not very profitable but they're really good for our soil and when we're planting wheat after beans, it's like, oh, this is lovely, the soil’s in great condition and you forget that you've just grown a crop that probably hasn't been the most profitable, but it's bringing a lot more to the rotation. It's not all about money in that essence anymore.  

00:17:20 Speaker 1  

So you mentioned the crop selection that you're growing these days, the UK isn't in the most climate affected region of the world currently, but things are changing. Is that something you think about with your crop rotations?  

00:17:32 Speaker 2  

Yeah, all the time. So maze, I've just touched on it needs warm weather to grow. There's a line across the country from Bristol to Norfolk and they always say you can't grow maze above that line. Not very well anyway. That lines moving up all the time. 

00:17:45 Speaker 2  

We're getting warmer and warmer and also we're getting extremes. It seems to be like we're breaking records all the time, like the warmest the top 10 warmest summers have all been in a 2000 and something. So it's we obviously are in a climate that is getting warmer and we can benefit from that. But it could have been catastrophic for other parts of the world.  

00:18:06 Speaker 1  

Yeah, well, things sticking to the topic of climate has been a different kind of way. The changes in the economies that you work in, that kind of thing and the big shifts that we've had due to big global events or slightly more localised events with Brexit I suppose. But has things like Brexit and COVID impacted the way in which you work? 

00:18:28 Speaker 2  

Yeah, Brexit COVID the war in Russia. I think they're all they all interlink in in ways that we can blame everything on on those things we we it's very easy to blame things on Brexit. I voted remain personally. But that morning when we woke up and turned the telly on you thought right? That's what we voted. Now let's ,ove on and get on with it.  

00:18:51 Speaker 2  

And and yeah, it does create challenges things with legislation which which have really frustrating things that we can't do much about. So for example, at the minute they're on about, we haven't got the legislation in place for parallel imports of chemistry that we use and it's really frustrating because there's no environmental link to these rules and regulations. It's just a legislation thing that some paperwork's not been done because probably Brexit and COVID has all been a smokescreen and stuff, hasn't been going on as it should be. 

That it should be, I don't know, but yeah, legislation and rule changes just for the sake of it, is really frustrating when farmers, this field here, for example, I want the best for that field. I don't wanna do anything that's gonna do any harm to that field because yeah, I've got a young daughter I want her to be able to farm, if she wants to. I want her to farm this field and then I want her kid. So, if I have other children to farm this field. And I want it to be in the family for generations, so the image of farmers ruining the environment really doesn't sit well with me really.  

00:19:56 Speaker 1  

No. No, they might not be doing as much as you, but there's certainly different images of farmers that we potentially need to take with a pinch of salt or a pinch of corn. Who knows? So is there anything that's come out of those big events that has been useful from an environmental perspective?  


Good question.  

00:20:19 Speaker 1  

Or has it all been challenging?  

00:20:21 Speaker 2  

I think it's very easy to look at all the negatives when when people talk about Brexit COVID, I mean, there are elements of COVID which just absolutely brilliant, like the roads were quiet.  

00:20:31 Speaker 1  

Yeah, much quieter. 

00:20:31 Speaker 2  

So I felt like we went back 50 years or and there were elements of of it that I know it was a real tough time for everybody, but they were, as farmers, we were very privileged and lucky to be able to carry on working. And I think maybe people's appreciation for farmers changed during COVID. Like I said, they the people queuing at farm shops, realising actually where their foods come from, seeing supermarket shelves empty.  

00:20:56 Speaker 1  

We must make you worker, surely.  

00:21:01 Speaker 2  

And now I almost feel like a lot of that work's been undone and I feel like hypothetically, you could say, well, we need a pandemic now for people to realise where their food comes from and we've just had that and people are very short sighted.  

00:21:15 Speaker 2  

At our local farm shop, they do various array of meats and lamb and things like this, eggs and they had a sign and we went there one day and there was a huge queue during COVID huge queue, everyone social distancing wearing masks and there was a sign and it said please don't forget us when this is all up and when everything gets back to normal and I'm sure they might have a 5% or a 10% increase on what their normal thing was. But generally, a lot of them people have just gone back to the supermarkets cause we're all convenience. We all do it. We all go to the supermarket, and you get everything there. Tesco Ashford. Brilliant. You have it all 

00:21:52 Speaker 1  

And the supermarkets are even more convenient now because of COVID and the deliveries and that's kind of nice. Interesting. Well, I still got my milk from a from a local farm and my potatoes.  

00:22:02 Speaker 2  

We get milk from a vending machine and yeah, and we we've got a glamping business and we get all our milk from the vending machine.  

00:22:08 Speaker 1  

Awesome. Yeah, there you go.  

00:22:10 Speaker 1  

So let's we won't talk about pandemics and that kind of thing again, I don't think so. Let's talk about skills and qualifications that you needed.  

00:22:19 Speaker 1  

Now it's family business. Yeah. Yeah, you still need to write skills. You still need the training and that kind of thing to, to be especially environmentally proficient when it comes to being a farmer. What did your journey?  

00:22:33 Speaker 2  

When I came home in 2011, we employed an agronomist at the time, and he was what we call an independent agronomist. So, he didn't work for a big company or anything he was independent, and he decided to take the move to Agri at the time and he knew that because we were quite a small family business, so we quite like the independent side of things that we wouldn't have. We wouldn't move with him. So I took on the opportunity to do the qualifications required, so I did my basis did my facts, I took on the agronomy of the whole farm and a farmer doesn't need to do bases and facts, but they do need to have a basis and facts qualified person advising them so I made the decision to do that myself. So then that creates savings. We were spending 1215 grand a year on an economist, whereas now that's got and I can spend use my time, utilise my evenings and things like that. Yeah, so it works really well.  

00:23:33 Speaker 1  

So talk about your CPD then. Am I right in saying that you worked in New Zealand for a bit?  

00:23:38 Speaker 2  

Yes. So as part of my placement year, I worked in Colchester on an onion farm. And they did a lot of packaging onions. So rather than pay us all winter to do wet day job, so to speak, they paid for us for three of us to go and work in New Zealand for three months. So we did a onion harvest over in New Zealand.  

00:23:54 Speaker 1  

Wow. So did they own a farm in New Zealand as well?  

00:23:58 Speaker 2  

No, it's got contacts out there and it. Yeah, and it worked really well, so we sort of did. We did harvest in England and then we went over and did another harvest in New Zealand then we're back in time for planning in the spring. But so it worked really well.  

Speaker 1 

So that just essentially give you an extra bit of a chunk of time to learn a bit of kind of downtime in the uk.  

00:24:18 Speaker 2  

Yeah, it was a different environment. It was a steep learning curve going away from home and things like that. I grew up a lot in that those few months and placement is invaluable. It's especially on a family farm to go and work for somebody else was really it was really important, yeah.  

00:24:35 Speaker 1  

I can imagine so. And you now picking up on other things you've said throughout our chat you mentioned about the clamping side of things in, in the on the farm, which is something that came on board recently?  

00:24:48 Speaker 2  

Yeah, 2020. We bought up 151 acres and that came with a glamping business, yeah.  

00:24:52 Speaker 1  

OK. And how does that fit into the mix of the farm and your plans for the future that kind of thing? 

00:24:59 Speaker 2  

Really, really good actually, because we've got a menagerie of animals. We get young kids come and we do 2 farm walks a week and it gives us a chance to educate what I would call the future consumers.  

00:25:10 Speaker 1  


00:25:11 Speaker 2  

And their parents. A lot of them are from London, Manchester, Big Cities, basically and they. They it's not through any fault of their own, but they don't always necessarily know about things, and it's quite nice for them to learn a bit about agriculture and if they take one thing away and that might live in their memory for the rest of their life, then I feel like it's all worthwhile.  

00:25:31 Speaker 1  

Yeah, so you do farm walks for the guests?  

00:25:34 Speaker 2  

Yeah. Yeah. Just for the guests. So we have an honesty shop on site. They have the full glamping experience. And then on a Wednesday morning and a Saturday morning, they can come up and we do like pony petting, we can collect the eggs. We feed the animals and talk about crops generally and and when you when you tell these people that you're a chartered environmentalist it the word chartered really hits home with them and it sort of adds a bit of value. So they have faith in what I'm telling them sort of thing really.  

00:26:03 Speaker 1  

So beyond being an environmentalist, having that charted element is something that sticks out for you 

00:26:06 Speaker 2  

Yeah. Yeah, I think so, yeah.  

00:26:08 Speaker 1  

Excellent. That's good for me to hear.  

00:26:11 Speaker 1  

And when I guess you know doing farm work with kids and that kind of thing, we hear a lot in the news and through our circles that the kids are the ones who know more about the environment than the adults, so they're able to then, you know, upwards educate to the older people and their family to make a bit of a difference. It's gotta be good? 

00:26:29 Speaker 2  

And they're growing up with it, like kids today. I mean, I'm not very old myself, but like kids today are growing up with bags for life, it's just something simple like that. It's quite a new thing really. And whereas like my daughter, she's going to grow up with bags for life. And whereas we were quite wasteful with our usage of plastic bags, weren't we like, that was the sort of thing you'd see in the hedgerows and things like that.  

00:26:56 Speaker 2  

So that's another thing. I'm really passionate about with the environment is litter. Yeah. So I I campaigned with an NGO Clean Up Britain. More from a farming point of view. It's more the fly tipping aspect, but generally just as a whole you go to any other country in the world it feels very clean, doesn't it? Like and whereas here, it's definitely not clean. So changing that means. Changing that mentality about the guests that we have, they appreciate the countryside that they live in, hopefully it will make the conutryside a better place in the long run. 

00:27:38 Speaker 1  

Yeah, I wonder if that kind of thing sticks out more for people who, you know, generally used to urban environments and they come to the countryside as much as it might be nice to live on a massive farm. You also got a lot of hedges that catch a lot of litter and and that's you know might become quite apparent to people were staying on your farm. That ohh was litter here too and that odd. And some of that litter could well have come from urban environments, it might not have done, that's for sure, because fly tipping. And you know rubbish gets blown everywhere, but it still might open people’s eyes. Interesting, interesting perspectives. I don't often think about good and so.  

A slightly more straightforward question, possibly, what's your favourite part about being a farmer?  

00:28:19 Speaker 2  

I'm just doing something different everyday, I love the fact with the seasons and with the variability we've got in our business, things change. You might be doing something such as reading the meters for the tenants. One day you're field walking, the next you've got the harvest to bring. Which is heavily heavily dictated by the weather and then at the same time on a wet Wednesday afternoon, if I want to come home and see my daughter. I can. And it's that work life balance is really changing I think from previous generations it used to be very trendy and and the in thing was to work every hour under the somewhere, so I think hoping that that's changing a little bit now.  

00:28:59 Speaker 1  

The next question is about do you think you make a difference and I think in terms of your farm, I think you think you know you make a difference, but in terms of the wider farming community, whether it's locally or beyond that, do you feel like you're able to make a difference?  

00:29:20 Speaker 2  

So I'm on an FU crops board, so I feel like I'm representing my area of interest are the people that I speak to when I go on crops board. So yeah, I would like to think I'm having an impact, but then also if I do articles in the press, people might take on board what I'm saying or at least have a. So what I'm saying and whether they take that on board or not like I said to you earlier, if I'll keep saying yes if people keep asking me to do stuff because one day they’ll stop asking.  

And people might criticise things like the NFU or different organisations, but don't sit back and criticise it. Just get involved and put your because all the NF viewers as the people that represent it. So if you want to, if you want to put your mark on things or have an impact so then get involved, that’s what I say. 

00:30:12 Speaker 1  

Don’t be a grumpy farmer.  

00:30:12 Speaker 2  

That's it, but well.  

00:30:14 Speaker 2  

We will be a little bit grumpy.  

00:30:17 Speaker 1  

Of course, yeah. So talking about groups and so on that you you're part of, is there such thing as a, you know, various local or what the group of a group of farmers who are particularly interested in aspects of environmental or sustainable farming is that a thing? 

00:30:35 Speaker 2  

Yes, yeah, I think generally, any any farmer that's in a discussion group or in a group, they're all generally in the top 10%. I don't know what the exact percentage is, but they're definitely the top 10% all interested in doing things for the environment generally. Yeah, I would say and like I said, linking back to net zero, if we help the environment, it generally reduces our inputs as a whole, whether it's fuel, use fertiliser use chemical usage if we can bring that down, it's going to help our back pocket at the end of the day.  

00:31:10 Speaker 1  

True. Yeah. Yeah. There's got to be additional benefits to it, which is obviously incentivize people to change their habits. Going back to your Chartered Environmentalist registration, what does having that mean to you?  

00:31:25 Speaker 2  

It gives you the confidence to deliver a message. I mean, we live in a world when there's lots of opinions out there, but if I have that behind me it maybe gives my opinion a bit of value, maybe more value than some other people's opinion. And you know, like I said, just the confidence to keep on learning, networking, meeting different people and especially with in the environmentalist side of things it's a different group of people I might see an agricultural event and maybe one day they will get they will merge better, but at the minute there's quite a divide.  

00:32:02 Speaker 1  

So you'd be pretty keen on other agricultural professionals going down the route of chartered environmentalists, whether they're farmers or whether they're agronomists and that kind of thing? 

00:32:12 Speaker 2  

Yeah, definitely. I think I think the industry is gonna become more professional and doing things like this it it opens doors into different contacts, meet new people, linking agriculture with other aspects of Environmental Protection and things like that. And you don't know what opportunities it brings to our business going forward and to other businesses. So I just think Professionalising our industries really important. We're way behind other industries such as construction, things like that, and farmers are resistant to change I guess, but I think my generation probably are open to change, and I think that's that's a good thing.  

00:32:51 Speaker 1  

Do you think it gives that level of trust? 

00:32:53 Speaker 2  

Definitely. So when you speak to people and if you say. I mean, I don't start a conversation with I'm a chartered environment at this but it's nice to be able to have that when you're giving advice, whether it's just within the business or to anyone to have that behind you.  

00:32:59 Speaker 1  

OK. So you wouldn't see other chartered environmentalists as rivals?  

00:33:10 Speaker 2  

No, not at all. No. I think sharing knowledge and networking is extremely valuable.  

00:33:17 Speaker 1  

Do you have many people asking you about it? 

00:33:18 Speaker 2  

Yeah, yeah, get a few messages. So I did, went to Oxford Farming conference, which I got a bursary to go there this year and there were about 16 of us and quite a few of them have asked about it. I've got a guy who was linked to building our poultry sheds and he's gone off with his own business, not directly linked to agriculture but he's asked about it. So yes, there's definitely people asking.  

00:33:41 Speaker 1  

Interesting. That's good to know. I've got a couple of questions left. The first one, I know a little bit about because of the white tent behind us, but what's next for you? 

00:33:51 Speaker 2  

Yeah. So we got married during COVID 15 of us on a Wednesday afternoon. So we're celebrating it this weekend. And we're also getting our daughter christened. So it's a nice, hopefully a lovely weekend to celebrate our marriage, even though we've been married for two years and the christening of our daughter.  

00:34:08 Speaker 1  

So, the lack of rain recently is hopefully can hold on.  

00:34:10 Speaker 2  

Not a problem this weekend, you know. Hopefully it can rain on Sunday, when everyone else is helping tidy up. 

00:34:19 Speaker 1  

But farming wise, what's next?  

00:34:20 Speaker 2  

I'd love to do a Nutfield scholarship where you get a bursary to travel, travel the world and look at different farming techniques. I'd really like to do that on break crops, opportunities that that climate change is going to bring to different break crops in the UK like we touched on earlier, maze is becoming more viable as a break crop, but maybe it can reach out to things like sunflowers and things like that. So I feel like there's a lot of opportunities to come for our industry going forward.  

00:34:47 Speaker 1  

OK. And you mentioned travel, is that a potential in the future?  

00:34:50 Speaker 2  

Yeah, hopefully for Nutfield you have to do about 10 weeks travelling in a year, which does bring its challenges. But everyone always says to me there's never really a good time to do it. So just crack.  

00:35:00 Speaker 1  

On so question into that, you're I suppose you kind of you you've run a lot of things on the farm, you have people working. So are you able to leave the farm and leave them in charge? 

00:35:09 Speaker 2  

Yeah, definitely. And I feel like leaving the farm and passing on responsibilities will only benefit the business further going forward. It means I can put my time elsewhere when I come back, hopefully.  

00:35:20 Speaker 1  

Yeah. And if I suppose, they've obviously worked elsewhere previously and different farms have they have, they had to adapt to to an extent to because of some of the environmental things or sustainability practices you have here.  

00:35:35 Speaker 2  

Yeah, definitely. And having the chartership to your name and writing in the press and farms weekly, things like that, it gives them the confidence to have faith in your ideas doing things like direct drilling and sometimes we try things and they don't always work, but we're learning all the time. We're doing cover crops, spring cropping, producing our black grass levels. Our yields may be compromised sometimes, but our cost productions are hugely improved. So, there's a lot of different things that we've gotta take into account when we're farming now it's not just put it in the ground and grow it. Grow as good as crop as you can. It doesn't matter how much it costs, because it really does matter how much it cost.  

00:36:10 Speaker 1  

Well, from what I've seen you saying it you should be a role model, so it makes sense, now I do have one last question promise, which we ask all of our end of class guests. If you're able to influence world leaders for a day what would you go for?  

00:36:23 Speaker 2  

I would, I would say, to scale down on the targets, I feel like net zero as a target is fairly broad, measuring it is quite difficult in proving quite a challenge to bring baby steps. Maybe everyone becoming more efficient, encouraging people to become more efficient and then net zero will be a byproduct of that, essentially.  

00:36:41 Speaker 1  

So, thank you very much for joining us today, Will, and thank you for having me. It's a nice place to be, a nice place to spend an afternoon. If you want to follow in Will’s footsteps by becoming a chartered environmentalist and showcasing your environmental knowledge, if you go to the Institute of Agricultural Management website whichisigrum.com, IAG, rm.com and we're going to put a direct link on to that particular CEnv page of their website underneath the podcast description for this particular podcast. Just click on that or tap on that.  

We don't actually have a speaker confirmed for next month yet, but I'm pretty sure they're going to be amazing. So don't miss that and we'll see you then. Thanks again, will.  

00:37:25 Speaker 2  

Thank you very much.  

00:37:28 Speaker 3  

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