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John Farrington

John Farrington

West Somerset arable, grass and forestry farmer

The Story So Far

"My parents and I first started working with Miscanthus on Farrington Farms in 1999. The family farm had previously been mixed cereals and beef cattle - but under the increasing threat of BSE, Foot and Mouth and TB we made the decision to look into other income streams."

"Having reduced our workforce and ceased the commercial beef enterprise, we had less manpower and fewer resources available - so the move to a low-input crop like Miscanthus made perfect sense. Initially we focused our efforts on rhizome production, but in 2003 we planted Miscanthus for cane production on a mixture of grassland and arable land. Over the next three years we gradually expanded our planting to 50 hectares."

Why Miscanthus?

"Primarily it made business sense for our farm. Wheat prices at the time were fairly low, and with a reduced team, Miscanthus provided a solution to both of these. Firstly, aside from annual harvesting, there are very few input costs associated with the crop. Secondly, its low-maintenance nature means it needs less attention than other arable crops, allowing us to dedicate our management time to other farm projects, which included converting a large farm building into offices."

"In fact, it's so hands-off that we have deliberately planted some of our crop on hard-to-access outlying fields. With Miscanthus, we only need to send a harvester in once a year, whereas many other crops would call for machinery access ten or more times over the same period."

"Something we have learnt is the importance of keeping baled crop dry. Unfortunately last year a number of bales were ruined by particularly bad weather, even under sheeting. This year, we've built a new multi-purpose shed to house all of our bales until collection, with the added benefit that we can put the shed to other uses for the rest of the year.We certainly see the building as a worthwhile investment, as ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality dry crop means we'll continue to benefit from best prices and best profits."

Working with Terravesta

"When Terravesta launched the business we were among the first to sign up for a growing contract. As Miscanthus specialists, the team has good relationships with end users and a strong presence in a number of markets, so we trust that there will always be a reliable market for all of the crop we produce that's within spec. The fact that the company's ten-year contracts are index-linked also gives us an added sense of security, and we enjoy being part of a nationwide network of growers. We find the grower forums that the team hosts very useful for meeting other Miscanthus farmers from across the country, sharing experiences and discussing best practice."

The Future

"With a stable acreage of the farm now dedicated to Miscanthus, we don't currently have plans to plant any more. We've found a setup that suits us and are pleased that it's working well. In terms of future demand, there is huge potential for Miscanthus as an on-farm biomass resource - and with the right developments, we see it becoming the UK's locally grown, locally burnt fuel source. Although we're not burning Miscanthus pellets ourselves yet (we already have a biomass boiler that utilises our own excess farm timber as a fuel source), we would certainly consider signing up to Terravesta's Grower Fuel Loop (GFL) scheme in the future."

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Farm Facts

Location

Wiveliscombe, West Somerset

Farm Type

Mixed (arable / grass / forestry / renewables)

Farm Size

220 ha

Miscanthus Planted Areas

50 ha

Year Planted

1999 - 2006

Cutting Edge

At Terravesta, our growers are at the core of everything we do. Our team of experts is on hand to offer prospective and existing growers professional, bespoke advice to help them make the most of the Miscanthus opportunity.

Why Miscanthus?

10 Reasons to grow the ‘wonder crop’

1. Best ever price

Miscanthus prices have hit an all-time high, and Terravesta is now offering growers £74/tonne for 2015 contracts. What's more, through its new Barn Bonus scheme, growers whose Miscanthus bales have been stored in a barn and meet the required moisture specification of 16% or less will also be rewarded with up to £2/tonne extra. Don't miss out on the Miscanthus opportunity - sign up now!

2. Guaranteed returns

Boasting low overheads, stable pricing, guaranteed returns and reliable net margins for 20 years or more, Miscanthus offers a degree of financial certainty that almost no other crop can.

3. Reduced planting costs

Terravesta's new on-farm planting techniques and processes have brought down establishment costs significantly. Get in touch today to discuss your options.

4. Minimal maintenance

Once established, Miscanthus is a 'hands-off' crop requiring remarkably low input. It doesn't need fertiliser, chemicals or annual soil cultivation, so you can focus your attentions elsewhere - for enhanced overall production and improved profitability. For everything you need to know about growing Miscanthus, download our Essential Growers' Guide here

5. Maximise marginal land

All farms have less productive areas, but the nature of Miscanthus means it can be grown in poorer quality soil - turning your marginal land into profitable land!

6. Virtually weatherproof

As a moisture demander, Miscanthus flourishes in wet conditions as well as dry. What's more, the leaf mulch it produces suppresses weed growth, acting as a natural weapon against blackgrass

7. Annual growth

Miscanthus is a perennial crop with an annual growing cycle, delivering yearly profits at low inputs. It's also harvested in spring, so it doesn't conflict with other crops

8. Reliable biomass resource

With demand for UK biomass far outstripping its production, the opportunities for Miscanthus as an energy crop are endless. In contrast to the decades newly planted forestry can take to deliver results, Miscanthus produces commercial yields within just three years

9. Grow your own fuel

Any grower with a termed Terravesta contract can buy back Miscanthus pellets as heat on a separate energy supply contract - at a significantly discounted rate - through our Grower Fuel Loop (GFL) scheme. This means making a profit on selling bales, as well as considerable savings on fuel (particularly attractive for on-farm heat requirements)

10. Government backing

As well as pledging to treble investment in clean power generation, the government is actively supporting sustainable heating through schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Demand for biomass is set to increase dramatically as a result, bringing with it an opportunity for Miscanthus growers to reap the rewards now and well into the future

A helping hand

If you have a question about any aspect of Miscanthus growing, get in touch today, or click here to read the Essential Growers' Guide - our ultimate handbook to all things Miscanthus.

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