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Belford
NE70 7DT

 

Tel : 01668 213 568
Fax : 01668 213 609

Email: graeme@coastal-grains.co.uk

Director in the Spotlight


DIRECTOR IN THE SPOTLIGHT



Vice Chairman  -   Pip Robson


PIp Interview Pic


Pip was interviewed at Coastal Grains Ltd. after attending a Health & Safety Meeting in the Boardroom on 14th February 2014.

Pip owns, rents & farmshares 1200 acres in the Chathill area of Northumberland.


How long have you been farming?

I started farming as soon as I left school…I suppose you could say I have been farming for life. I became a tenant farmer at Lowick in the Mid 1990s and took over the reins of our family farm at Chathill in 2010.


What type of farming do you specialise in?

Mixed arable farming


Where has your farming career taken you?

After school I spent a little time at Cirencester Agricultural College from where I moved on to a 2year Internship at the Ohio State University. It was there that I gained life experience and saw examples of arable farming systems in a large scale.


Who has been the biggest influence on your career so far? Why?

I don’t think I’ve ever had one main influence/mentor but I would say that my travels connected with farming have opened my eyes to the wider world and allowed me to make connections with people involved in agriculture.


What do you feel has been your greatest achievement/ high point of your career?

My greatest achievement would definitely have to be when my Aberdeen Angus Stock Bull -Balmachie Keystone won Spring Champion 2009 at The Royal Highland Show, Ingliston.

This achievement has undoubtedly raised the profile of my Aberdeen Angus Herd.

 

In contrast what has been the lowest point of your career?

It would have to be 2001 when DEFRA’s Foot & Mouth Policy destroyed my Father’s Aberdeen Angus Herd- ultimately losing years of breeding.


In 2011 Pip Robson was Runner-Up in the final of the Milling Wheat Grower Challenge by milling association NABIM and UK Cereals Authority HGCA.   We asked him:


-How did you become part of this competition?

I completed the entry Questionnaire (because Terence told me to) which is open to all growers countrywide. I had to describe what varieties of wheat I grow and why, demonstrate my understanding of the quality needed to satisfy the end user markets as well as explain the precision farming technology I use.


-What was the main criteria for qualifying for this competition?

Growing Group 3 Milling Wheat (e.g. Invicta ,Target)


-What aspect of your farming practices secured your place within the final?

By choosing wheat varieties carefully according to the climate and local markets, by being able to respond swiftly using high capacity equipment to ensure wheat is harvested within the short weather window on the Northumberland Coast and making full use of the grain drying, storage and marketing services provided through Coastal Grains Ltd., Belford.


-What has the recognition of being the Runner-Up finalist achieved for you?

It has been great to be recognised as a finalist, but ultimately I am pleased that the profile of Group 3 Milling Wheat has been raised in this area with end user market confidence being increased as a result.


-Would you recommend to other farmers to enter into Best Practice competitions for the experience?

Yes absolutely! It not only raises their own profiles as farmers, but promotes the local area and encourages others to follow best practice and you get a slap up meal in the Ritz Hotel, London if you become a finalist!


You have managed to diversify your business in a few different directions. Can you describe how you have done this and what made you decide to diversify?

Diversification of our business was primarily aimed at enhancing what we already had.

We have diversified by building up our Chathill Aberdeen Angus Herd, acquiring haulage wagons to transport our grain from farm to store quicker and by hiring out plant machinery/contracting services in the local area. These have been necessary to spread the cost of our skilled staff and as a means of retaining staff all year round.


Chathill Aberdeen Angus Cattle – this is a continuation of our family farming operation. We have over 70 pedigree cattle. Our aim is to breed strong healthy modern commercial stock bulls – with top rankings and good eye appeal. We grow our own oats which we store at Coastal Grains and then get them back bruised on demand for cattle feed in the Winter.


Haulage Services- We have our own bulk articulated wagon for hauling grain and straw at harvest time. It is a fully TASCC assured wagon which works for Coastal Grains when it is not required by the farm to haul our own crops into Coastal Grains.


Plant Hire/contracting services- Machinery consisting of mini diggers, 360 earth movers, tractor & trailers, combine harvesters and a 20T chaser bin are hired out (with operators) in the local area to perform all farming operations during off peak times in the farming calendar/ once all my crops are in store.


How many people do you employ in your businesses?

We currently employ 4 permanent and 4 part/time (harvest time) staff.


What associations / companies do you make connections with through your businesses?  

TASCC  (Trade Assurance Scheme for Combinable Crops)  - www.aictradeassurance.org.uk

Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society –  www.aberdeen-angus.co.uk


What agricultural business websites do you regularly visit? Are there any that you would recommend to CG Members?

Home Grown Cereal Authority - www.hgca.com

National Association of British and Irish Millers – www.nabim.org.uk

WeatherWeb (farming weather by Simon Keeling) – www.weatherweb.net


Pip has been a Director on the Board at Coastal Grains for 10 years now and his roles include Vice-Chairman of the Board and Health & Safety Director. We asked him:


What duties do you feel these roles require you to fulfil?

My main role as Vice-Chairman is to support our Chairman and talk with current and prospective Coastal Grains Members.

As Health & Safety Director my role is to support the Coastal Grains staff in complying with the Health and Safety rules and regulations and attend Health & Safety Meetings.

 

What strengths do you feel you bring to the Board?

I have lived and worked in the area all my life. I have a good local knowledge and have met many people from the farming community.


Do you think the Board as a whole is a good representation of our Coastal Grains Members?

Yes I think we have managed to achieve a balance of ages and a good geographical spread (North & South of the Border).


As Health & Safety Director, how do you feel Coastal Grains compares with other work sites with respect to policies and procedures?

Coastal Grains Ltd is certainly ‘on top of the job’ and ‘up to date’ with practices and takes their Health and Safety duties seriously.


As Vice-Chairman – how do you feel Coastal Grains will progress over the next 10 years and how do you see us getting there?

Principally, I see Coastal Grains Ltd as a drying and storage system for farmer Members. Coastal Grains is here to add value to the farmer’s crops through the benefit of variety segregation, traceability, marketing etc. Over the next 10 years I would hope that Coastal Grains continues to improve the systems it already has in place.


What do you think Coastal Grains is NOT doing that it should be doing or looking into?

I think Coastal Grains should concentrate on what we do best…and continually improve the basic services we offer not branch out into other enterprises.


What are the main advantages of being a Member Farm of Coastal Grains for your business?

Cost efficiency, convenience, segregation of product. Basically there is no way I could do what Coastal Grains can do on my own farm.


If you had not become a farmer…what would you have liked to be?

Oh definitely a pilot in the Air force and then perhaps a Commercial Pilot or even better a Rally Driver!

 

 

Many thanks to Pip for answering all our questions

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