Last year, the farm had a full cross compliance and ELS inspection by the Rural Payments Agency, with the inspector spending two weeks at the farm. “You hear some horror stories about inspections, and it could have been a nerve-wracking experience, but because we were confident everything was in order it was actually a really positive affair,” says Ben.
Across his land he works with four Frontier agronomists; Andrew Huyton, Jon Sanderson, David Frobisher and Fiona Spires. “We’ve been working with Andy, David and Jon for a long time now, Fiona has joined us more recently,” says Ben. “As well as visiting once a week and field walking she also prepares all of our management plans, as part of MyCompliance, Frontier’s farm management advisory service.” And there are a lot of plans to write; crop protection policies, soil management plans, weed plans, rodenticide plans, manure plans, integrated pest management plans, nutrient management plans and soil protection reviews. “Basically all the legal documents that we need to produce for cross compliance.”
Having this assistance releases Ben from the office so that he can spend his time more efficiently and effectively on the farm, but that is not the only benefit. “It does save us a lot of time, but it is the expertise that is invaluable to us,” explains Ben. “Farmers in the UK have to farm under so much red tape, and because it changes all the time it can be difficult to keep abreast of all the legalities, especially when you are out actually growing the crop. Fiona ensures that we are keeping within all the regulations; she keeps us on the straight and narrow.”
Because Fiona is also one of Ben’s team of agronomists, she can use that insight to help her with the report writing and compliance work. “She walks the margins, she sees what chemicals we’re using and in short, she knows what is happening on the farm. When you combine that knowledge with her meticulous attention to detail, you know that when she produces a report it is going to be spot on.”