“I am Richard Hartley and part of Manor Farms LLP, a joint venture comprised of two companies one of which is Richard Hartley Limited is one and the other is Seven Lands which is owned by Antony and Richard Pearce. Richard Hartley Limited is a farm in Burford in the Cotswolds. We are an arable farm and we have a large pig unit, rental property and holiday cottages as well.

Why take your business into a joint venture?

Antony Pearce and Richard Hartley have a joint venture farming business together

Richard Hartley has a joint venture farming business with Antony Pearce (left)

The two farms came together in a joint venture because we both wanted to ensure we are making the right decisions. It definitely helps us to formulate decisions when it comes to, for example, buying machinery or adopting best practice.

Why benchmark your joint venture with JVFG?

Several times a year we get the latest benchmarked report for us to analyse. It’s  important. We seem to be on slightly different ground to other people. We are on a thin sort of soil so we perform a little differently to other JVFG members: our ground takes a lot less working and does not yield the same returns. However certainly in terms of observing what other businesses in the group are doing we do follow trends if we see a way for us to reduce costs.

Still improving or have you stalled?

I wouldn’t say we have stalled, no.  At the end of the day it is all about improving yields, trying different techniques. We are now direct drilling so we are going to be able to evaluate that shift.
We are trying ideas to try to minimise costs in whatever way we can.

Two thirds British farming businesses are operating without knowing costs, says DEFRA

Two thirds of UK farmers run their businesses without plan or idea of cashflow, says DEFRA

Two thirds of UK farmers run their businesses without plan or idea of cashflow, says DEFRA

I can believe that! I am relieved to be a business that is operating with tight grip on costs. It helps you to make the right management decisions. Yes, there are too many people with their head in the sand thinking “I have some money in the bank account so I must be alright”. But you need to know what it has come from and what your cost of production is. That’s what it is all about. The danger is that your cost of production is not far off what you get per tonne. It is tight out there.

Have you a particular top takeaway from the latest JVFG analysis and discussion?

I think I take away the cost of combining on our farm, I have to say. I have got to keep that monitored in 2018, keeping an eye on those costs.
To be here in person to hear your results and how you measure up against others it certainly does hit the messages home. It’s not good to stay at home and not take up an opportunity like this. Definitely you take away ideas, techniques to put into practice to keep your finger on the pulse.

I read the farming press. Talking with farmer friends is important too but the JVFG meeting and analysis is a really crucial part of our business planning.

Should more farmers benchmark to this level?

A lot of my friends are not aware of what there decisions and operations in machinery choice and labour is costing them. As a farmer we need this information. We need all the information we can get and JVFG is how I get what I need for my business.”