Tuesday 26 February 2013

First post

Well here's my first ever blog! And as the title suggests it will largely be covering the next year of my life and my Nuffield Scholarship Studies.

Last year I was awarded a 2013 Nuffield Scholarship studying "long term benefits of direct drilling/no-till" sponsored by HGCA.

I was presented with my award by Peter Kendall at the Nuffield conference last November where I met the rest of the 2013 scholars and heard the 2011 scholars give their reports.

Since then I have been planning my travels and researching the best people and places to visit.

Last week I was fortunate to visit Harper Adams University and Prof Simon Blackmore who spent the day helping a small group of us look at Precision Farming and the benefits it can bring. This was particularly useful as it got me to think "out of the box" and see what is possible as we move forward with technology in agriculture. It was also nice to return to Harper where I spent 2 years of my life 13 years ago! A lot has changed with some amazing new buildings, AstroTurf and two new buildings in construction. If you're an ex Harper student and haven't been back for a while, it's well worth a visit!

This week the early starts continued with a trip on Monday to Stoneleigh and the offices of HGCA. I was shown around by Jonathan Tipples and met some excellent people who took a real interest in my upcoming travels and thoughts surrounding no-till.
I then joined a meeting with Rebecca Geraghty, Susannah Bolton, Anna Farrell, James Holmes, Vicky Foster and Jonathan Tipples. They all listened to my thoughts and initial plans and helped with some thoughts and suggestions including contacts and helping to organise some visits to Rothamstead and the James Hutton Institute later in the year. Having been a bit nervous of embarking on my Nuffield, the enthusiasm and support that the staff at HGCA showed  me left me feeling like I had an army supporting me as I embark on my travels. For those of you that view HGCA as a "recommended list" or sending out a few publications now and again really need to see what goes on at Stoneleigh. I was amazed at the depth of research, quality staff and enthusiasm in our industry that these lovely people showed.

Today was back to reality, out of shirt and tie and back to shirt and overalls, loading and delivering haylage and a bit of tree "pruning"!

So what next?

Well on Thursday this week I'm off (again!) back to Stoneleigh (yes twice in one week!) for the first BASE UK meeting and AGM. For those that haven't heard of BASE it stands for Biodiversity, Agriculture, Soil and Environment. It's a group that has been established in the UK by Jim Bullock and Steve Townsend and is modelled on the hugely successful group in France of the same name set up by Farmer Frederick Thomas. This group will be very interesting and I am really looking forward to meeting some of the farmers from the farming forums and on twitter in the flesh and finding out more about cover crops, no-till, rotations and all aspects of conservation agriculture.

Then next week our Nuffield travels kick off with 2 days in London with a visit to the House of Lords before flying out, with the rest of the 2013 scholars for 10 days in Guelph, Canada. This is known as the CSC (Contemporary Scholars Conference) where we will all meet up with scholars from around the world for fun, lectures, visits and is a great opportunity to meet with people from many different countries. Should be able to be able to get a  few good contacts for my travels!

On return my wife Sarah is expected to give birth to our 4th child in early April, so this is a year I will not forget in a hurry.

I'm hoping this blog will be linked to our website www.sewellfarms.co.uk and also the HGCA site where there is already a blog running for me!  I'm also embracing social media and prefer twitter ( even though I got hacked today! ) if you want to follow me or the Nuffield group I'm @tandssewell. The Nuffield 2013 group is #nuffield13

Until next time!

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