Duncan Farrington: Work never stops on farm

The main project on the farm this winter is clearing out the pond, says Duncan
The main project on the farm this winter is clearing out the pond, says Duncan

Winter jobs are well and truly under way; and as always the list is long and never seems to be quite completed.

This year’s priorities include a little hedge planting; some hedge cutting; digging out ditches to reduce wet muddy soils in the fields; and the main project this December, to clean out a pond.

We have several ponds around the farm.

Over the years leaf litter and silt build up. By removing this, it gives the pond a new lease of life, creating a fresh water environment for everything from bugs and newts to dragonflies, and drinking holes for passing birds and mammals.

When cleaning ponds, it is important to create different depths of water, creating different habitats in this mini-ecosystem.

It is also ideal to have some of the banks steep, providing shelter for nesting birds, and other areas leading gently to the water’s edge, so mammals can drink.

As the workload slows down for winter, farmers can often be found getting together to exchange ideas.

This is an important part of any industry, although with agriculture most businesses are not in direct competition with each other, which can allow for honest, probing, conversations, where the participants can really gain from others’ experiences.

This year I have been looking at personal development and, in particular, how I can improve my management skills.

Farms tend to be isolated businesses, or a team of two or three people. HR, payroll, marketing or IT departments do not generally exist on the average farm.

As such, farmers cannot easily develop their skills in how to manage staff. Such skills are not something you can read about in a book or learn at college, they are honed over years.

I have realised that successful businesses employ great people, give them clear roles and goals and then give them the tools and encouragement to get on with the job.

I believe a manager’s role is to make work rewarding for their staff.

At a recent team meeting I even suggested work can be fun – but judging by the look on their faces, maybe I was being a little too alternative as they wondered what I was going to say next!

A very happy Christmas from everyone at Bottom Farm.