About Us

My photo
Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Westhorpe Bird of the Week

 A couple of pictures that I took this morning of a male Hen Harrier that has been working the grassland and margins around the farm over the last couple of days. The other top predators are obviously getting fed up with him being here as shown by the resident Kestrel giving it an ear full! The Hen Harrier is a rare spot for Suffolk probably on the migration route from breeding grounds in north UK and wintering grounds in the South of Europe. A nice spot but not a new spot for the farm as we had one pass through about 3 years ago. BWB

Monday, 1 July 2013

An evening out.


Tom entertaining the crowd.
Light evenings and good weather make June the best time of year for farm walks and there is nothing more that farmers enjoy more than having a good look around other farms. Throughout a  year we host on average 30/40 visits for many different college students, school pupils, history groups, WI groups, farmers and young farmers clubs and other social groups with on average over 600 per year visiting the farm. This June we have only hosted 4 visits, for Chadacre Old Students Association, Horringer WI, Essex and Suffolk Farm Womens Club and Colchester Rotary Club so we have a bit of time to get out on some other farm walks and see what other farms are doing. It was particularly nice to get away on Wednesday evening to visit Barton Hill Farm in Lilley, just outside Luton. It was quite a way to travel for a farm walk but my brother Tom was on the bill and he gave a very good talk to the assembled visitors on where the crops that the farm produces go to and what they are used for

Brian Shaw explaining the difference between a scythe and a combine. 
 Barton Hill Farm is farmed by TC Shaw and Sons, Brian Shaw and his daughter Whizz. (www.shawfarming.com) The walk was Brian’s annual open evening for the villagers of Lilley and local people to see what goes on on the farm and how they integrate modern agriculture with their wildlife and conservation management.

Brian Shaw talked through all aspects of the history or the farm, their farming, machinery and conservation and Whizz’s new enterprise: Mrs Middleton’s Cold Pressed Rape Seed Oil (http://www.shawfarming.com/index.php/mrs-middletons-oil) and of which we of course, purchased a couple of bottles to try.

Viper's Bugloss
The HLS scheme on the farm has been put together very well, taking out of production marginal land as the farm is on chalky land and slopes too steep to farm with modern machinery. The marginal land which has been reverted from arable production to species rich grassland which was full of wildflowers and one grass bank in particular was lined with Common Spotted Orchid, Fragrant Orchid, Pyramid Orchid and Twablade. With all of the wildflowers there is an abundance of insects providing vital chick food at this time of year so the farmland bird, especially Grey Partridges are thriving. The highlight of the evening was seeing their cultivated field margins.
 
 
These margins are an HLS option that targets rare arable flora and is simply created by disturbing the soil around the edge of a field in the spring and leaving to let the seed in the soil germinate. On this farm these field margins are completely dominated by Viper’s Bugloss (Echium Vulgare),
a hairy plant found on sandy and chalky soil with blue flowers. The 4 metre strip of Viper’s Bugloss running across the farm is a sight to behold  and goes to show what can be achieved with some common sense, modern farming thinking. PB

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Another Barker in the news...

Ed, Patrick's youngest brother and Brian's cousin works as the agricultural advisor for the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and has been working hard recently representing the CLA and farmers of England and Wales in lobbying the European Parliament to get the best deal for them in the current round of agricultural policy reforms. In the following interview Ed gives a very good summary of where the negotiations are currently at -
http://www.lincsfm.co.uk/on-air/podcasts/farming-podcast-325173/

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Please take the time to vote..... for us!


We have found out today that we have been nominated for Countryside Magazines Countryside Champion for May and would really appreciate if you were able to take the time to vote and pass this on to anyone else who would be in voting. Please vote by clicking on the link below.

 
http://www.countrysideonline.co.uk/the-magazine/countryside-champions/

 Just to help to you decide given that there is precious little information on the website -
 

We are farming 625ha and have always had the aim of demonstrating that it is possible to farm a profitable, intensive, arable farm and have no impact on the natural environment. We are a LEAF demonstration farm and are in year 7 of an HLS scheme with ever increasing populations of our target species Great Crested Newts and Grey Partridges.
 
All farmland wildlife has benefited with the populations of Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)species and Red list species such as Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Linnet, Harvest Mouse, common toad and many more. In the winter areas of wild bird seed mix are full of hundreds of winter birds and in summer areas of Nectar flower mix are alive with pollinators.
 
We have planted new hedgerows, renovated Great Crested Newt breeding ponds and created new wild flower meadows. We have recorded 95 species of bird, 24 species of butterfly, 16 species of dragonfly and damselfly as well as submitting data to projects run by the RSPB, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, BTO, GWCT, Butterfly Conservation, Waveney Bird Club and the Dragonfly atlas. Bird ringing takes place regularly and we have ringed over 4000 birds on the farm as well as much, much more.
 
I also look after an area of 130 boxes in the Suffolk Community Barn Owl project, am on the committee of the Waveney Bird Club and advisory committee of Suffolk FWAG and a ‘Wild of Wdnesday’ contributor on BBC Radio Suffolk. Both Brian and I give talks to local groups and schools on Farming and Wildlife and in the past 5 years have hosted over 100 visits to the farm from many different schools, colleges and different groups and organisations. We have also just taken on the tenancy of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s Grove Farm at Norton. There is much more going on a daily basis and the best way to see it all is to visit yourself. Keep an eye on the blog for details of farm tours and open evenings coming up this summer.


NFU Countryside is a membership organisation for people who are passionate about rural life.

We celebrate the British countryside from great food, stunning wildlife and places to visit, to what to do with your garden or veg patch, and how to get the most from your equine and canine companions.

We offer members lots of benefits including advice,  information and an award-winning magazine. Plus we run great competitions and offers for members aswell as a huge number of member discounts for companies such as Cottages4you, Bupa, Jewson and Mountain Warehouse.

The website was re-launched in February and has loads more for members and non-members including news, things to do (search by location and interest), a digital version of the magazine, blogs and a member info area. And we are just about to launch a kids activities page called ‘The Welly Club’ with lots of easy (and low cost) ideas to entertain kids!

   

It's all gone quiet!


Sorry for the lack of activity on the blog for a while. Brian and I have been working hard on another project which has taken most of the winter. We have started a company called Three Arches Care Ltd and taken on the running of Westhorpe Hall residential care home. The Hall has always been in the family but always rented out and the opportunity arose to run it ourselves. We are registered to look after elderly people and elderly people with dementia and employ 29 local care, cleaning and catering staff. We took over the running on 1st October and it has been a challenging time but one that we have relished. As the business settles down we will have a bit more to blog about the farm and maybe even a few updates from the care home as well!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Apologies for lack on posts

Dear Bloggers,

Sorry for the lack of posts this year. The farm has been doing really well with the acquisitions of 350 more acres on a contract farming basis. This has meant a lot of time has been taken up with the preparing and taking over of these new contracts. The winter wet weather also made it very dull on the farm and I avoided just passing on my moans about the weather to the Blog as we are all in the same boat!

We have also bought out another company away from the farm, which we are in the process of revitalising and restructuring. This has also taken a resources and our time has been spread very thin but soon we hope to be back writing again about all things farm and beyond.

Many thanks for popping in.

Regards

The Barker Boys