Under 30s Buckinghamshire farm walk
Members of the U30s headed to Wendover in Buckinghamshire for the Autumn Farm Walk, where the weekend began with dinner and drinks, meeting new members and catching up with old friends, write U30s Chairman Mary Bell and U30s Committee Member Bradley Etchell.
Bright and early on Saturday morning we set off for Arla in Aylesbury, where we were hosted by Graham Wilkinson, Arla’s senior director of member relations (owners of the business). He had travelled down from the North East just to host us on a Saturday morning – we felt very honoured.
We were intrigued to learn Arla is the fifth largest global dairy, with a membership of over 12,700 farmers. It is a co-operative farmer-owned business and farmer’s income is shared evenly. One in four British dairy farmers is an Arla member, providing the UK’s largest milk pool, producing over 3 billion liters of milk per annum.
Arlagarden sustainable principles sit above Red Tractor standards, and all Arla members must meet them. A number of supermarkets have their own higher set of standards, which Arla also adheres to.
It was very promising to hear Arla has a specific team focusing on Brexit, to monitor and assess the effect on the business, how this will affect the market, agricultural policy, labour and future generation schemes. Graham envisions further consolidation in the sector, which could lead to dairy farms getting bigger.
Perhaps the most fascinating, and rather out of this world, part of the milk production process was the unit where milk is transferred to crates for loading onto lorries. This entire warehouse had a maximum of three people working in it. Robots moved every container of milk, knew where each crate of milk needed to be, and if there was a spill knew to stop and wait in ‘charging areas’, all as part of their job!
A big ‘thank you’ to Graham and his colleagues for hosting the U30s and also to Alan Wilkinson for introducing us to his Arla contacts.
We headed to Tring in the afternoon for a tour and tasting around Tring Brewery, followed by a Tapas Banquet in Wendover that evening.
Sunday morning saw the group take a short drive to Waddesdon Estate, home of Lord and Lady Rothschild. Waddesdon Manor, a nineteenth century Neo-Renaissance masterpiece, is now managed by the Rothchild foundation on behalf of the National Trust and attracts over 400,000 visitors each year.
The group was given an introduction to this multifaceted estate by manager Edward Parsons, followed by an overview of in-hand farming by the farm manager, who manages just over 4,000 acres and 1,200 ewes. There was a clear emphasis on renewable energy, with biomass boilers and solar panels featuring in the farmyard.
We also had an insight into Waddesdon’s well-known stud yard, which has created some of the country’s most famous race horse winners, and Windmill Hill Archive, a very modern addition, indulging Lord Rothschild’s passion for modern art and architecture, which provides office and conference space with very fine views.
A convivial pub lunch followed before everyone went their separate ways.