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A day in the life of an Arable Farmer

PUBLISHED: 18:30 05 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:30 20 February 2013

A day in the life of an Arable Farmer

A day in the life of an Arable Farmer

Continuing our series 'down on the farm', we meet arable farmer Bill Harbour to learn all about his typical working day

Name: William (Bill) Henry Harbour
Job title: Farm manager
Where: Gosmere Farm Partnership, Sheldwich near Faversham, part of the Lees Court Estate


What sort of farm is it?
Gosmere is one of several farms on the Lees Court Estate, which has been in the Sondes family for more than 700 years. Since the death of her husband, Henry George Herbert, The Fifth Earl Sondes in 1996, the estate has been central to the life of The Countess Sondes. Gosmere is, in effect, the home farm and is almost entirely arable.


At what age did you start?
I was so young I cant remember not being involved in the family farm.
I was brought up in Kent on a traditional mixed farm at Hoath and Chislet near Canterbury.


How long have you been in the farming industry?
I am 63 now and I cannot remember a time when I wasnt involved in farming, in some way, from when I was a very tiny child.

What training did you have?
I studied agriculture at what is now Hadlow College. I am a member of the Cantagrians, the college alumni society, and so I keep up with the college and with old friends.


What arable crops do you grow?
Gosmere is one of several farms on the estate. It consists of 950 acres and we primarily grow wheat, rapeseed, peas, Echium and linseed and also trial other crops. We concentrate on quality for example, all the wheat is used in bread. The Hard Red Wheat we produce is used by Rank Hovis in its traditional Hovis loaf. The Echium is mainly used in the pharmaceutical industries.

Describe your working day
I am out on the farm at 7am having had breakfast first. No two days are the same and everything really depends on the time of year and, of course, the weather. I might be drilling, fertilising, cultivating or simply loading up a trailer or lorry. There is always a lot to do, but the busiest time of the year at Gosmere is during harvesting and immediately afterwards when we begin the sowing. We sow the rapeseed in August or September and the wheat a bit later.


Tell us about the farm
Lady Sondes is very interested in the environment, conservation and sustainable management. We have planted a lot of mixed hedges and the headlands around the fields, which are wider than is usual, are only mown once a year. In 2008 the Estate was highly commended in the Most Beautiful Farm, Eastern Region awards run by Farm Business magazine. We trial and grow crops for the Seeds Project, which aims to attack poverty, and the Estate has also been involved in a joint research project with the Game Conservancy Trust and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE).


Do you compete at shows?
We dont do much, but we won the class for the Best Sample of Milling Wheat at the East Kent Ploughing Match Show in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009. There was no show in 2007 because of foot and mouth.


Do you have children following in your footsteps?
None of my four children is involved in farming, but my two younger daughters are closely associated with land and the countryside. Ruth works for the Environment Agency and Jenny has begun a career with Natural England after completing a degree in Environmental Sciences.

Marks out of 10 for job satisfaction?
I have absolutely no hesitation in awarding a 10. For me, it is the perfect job. I cannot imagine anything which would give me greater satisfaction.

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