Serving the Farming Industry across East Anglia for 35 Years
The next few years will be crucial for British agriculture – and there will be winners and losers. To put it bluntly, those who... Fast-paced changes prompt fresh furrow future for farming

The next few years will be crucial for British agriculture – and there will be winners and losers. To put it bluntly, those who win will be the ones that adapt quickly and read the changing market.

With the Basic Payment Scheme now worth 50% of what it was worth four years ago – and costs higher than ever – the pressure on farm business to make a profit has never been greater.

The rapid pace of change sweeping through farming and land management is potentially the most influential since the immediate post-war era. It is certainly faster and more complex than any time since farm management company Sentry was founded in 1972.

Today, Sentry works with clients who range from traditional farming businesses to foreign investors.

Some clients are looking for help at times of generational change – such as retirement – or when there are big costs on the horizon such as a new grain store or combine. Others, such as foreign investors simply want to buy land and get a professional company in to sort everything.

Optimising margins

Investments in kit and technology can be hugely expensive – encouraging more farmers to reduce costs and optimise margins by embracing the expertise and economies of scale offered by a farm management company.

This can range from the buying of fuel, machinery and crop inputs to the centralisation of farm accounts. Available staff and skills can include general farm workers through to administrative staff, specialist farm business consultants and land agents.

Some farms join Sentry as an interim arrangement. Typical examples include the ill-health of a key member of staff, such as a farm manger, or because the younger generation of a family is unable or unavailable to take over the reins.

Some want to carry on growing the crops but want someone to take all the management and technical compliance stresses away. Others hand everything over. A good farm management company can provide help and support – lifting the weight of worry from its clients’ shoulders.

Adapt to thrive

Adapting to change is  key. Many people have heard of Sentry, but not all the services offered. We are hands-on farmers, looking after over 20,000ha, but we also bring a fresh pair of eyes to every aspect of a farming business.

Sentry was founded in 1972 by an American insurance company, becoming an employee-owned business in 1999 through a management buy-out. More recently, we have seen a huge shift towards people buying land with the focus of farming it from an environmental point of view.

Our clients mindsets are changing. Now we are just as likely to be questioned on the CO2 impact per kg of product as we are about yield.

There are plenty of new-to-farming people buying land too. We might think land prices are high but for those from other countries, such as the Dutch, UK land is cheaper than in their own country.

John Barrett is a director of farm management company Sentry. For details, visit www.sentry.co.uk