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."
"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."
"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."