Barney Tremaine, Cowdray Farm Manager

‘Alongside developing Cowdray’s future farming strategy, I oversee the strategic and operational management of Cowdray Home Farm. Home Farm encompasses over 1100 hectares which includes arable and forage crops, as well as 315 dairy cows and Aberdeen Angus beef cattle.’

Meet the Team with Barney Tremaine, Cowdray Farm Manager

  1. In a nutshell, can you describe your role as Farm Manager at Cowdray?

Alongside developing Cowdray’s future farming strategy, I oversee the strategic and operational management of Cowdray Home Farm. Home Farm encompasses over 1100 hectares which includes arable and forage crops, as well as 315 dairy cows and Aberdeen Angus beef cattle.

As well as managing the dairy and arable operations, I also look at crop agronomy, which is the science and technology of producing and using agricultural crops for a range of things including food, fuel and land conservation. I am also responsible for engaging with the community and carrying out environmental projects on the Estate.

  1. Can you describe your career path prior to working at Cowdray?

Having studied agriculture at Brinsbury College in Pulborough, I went on to the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester before managing several farms which used a variety of conventional, organic and regenerative farming methods.

Prior to starting at Cowdray, I have had the opportunity to work at a variety of well-regarded businesses over the last 10 years and have the benefit of experiencing first-hand high input arable, organic dairy, conventional dairy, regenerative arable and livestock farming.

  1. Is it different farming on an Estate to an individual farm?

Yes! Being part of a diversified estate creates a much better opportunity to have a greater impact within both the local community and local environment. However, you also need to consider the much wider impact of your operations on the businesses across the Estate.

  1. Is it important at Cowdray to farm in an environmentally friendly way?

For Lord and Lady Cowdray, a key consideration is to look after the environment. This is also reflected in the views of the senior management. My team and I are well supported to transition and monitor farm practices which ensure that at Cowdray we make the best impact on the environment while simultaneously producing high quality food.

  1. Can you describe the principles of regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative or conservation agriculture is the practice of farming while also improving the local environment. This centres around soil health as this directly impacts everything within an environment. It requires a commitment to minimise soil disturbance, armour the soil with residue and retain living roots for as long as possible.

Examples of some of the diverse mix of cover crops that are drilled for the autumn and winter season at Cowdray to help protect and enrich the soil.

  1. How important is it to engage with the local Midhurst community?

I would love to engage more with the public as I think much has been forgotten about how quality food is produced and how important it is to farm the right way. This not only protects the local countryside but enables it to be enjoyed by the local community.

  1. Now is a challenging time in farming, how does the extreme weather affect farming?

Climates are changing, and we are seeing more and more extreme weather patterns. Last year more records were broken than any other. This is a real challenge as everything is affected by the weather. This highlights the requirement to manage land in a way that protects the environment and increases climate resilience. Farming is, after all, best placed to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in soils and cycling through plants.

  1. What other challenges do you face?

Political volatility and the fluctuating economic situations around the world affect us like it does most other businesses. The cost of everything has increased and this must be factored into food production, but at the same time there is also a demand for cheaper food so it is a real juggling act as we would never sacrifice quality.

  1. What is your favourite aspect of the role?

I love walking around the farm, looking at the crops and seeing all the improvements we have done. I also really enjoy planning our next steps – whether that is looking at drainage problems in ditches to thinking about next year’s crops.

  1. What is your vision for farming at Cowdray?

My vision is to put in place carefully thought-out measures which will protect the Estate’s farmland against extreme weather, disease and the many other challenges that will be faced by future generations. To do this regenerative farming is key. This means continuing to improve soil health, integrated pest management, nature friendly farming and protecting the water courses.

I would like to draw on my experience of different types of farming to ensure that at Cowdray we can operate holistically through using the natural resources available on the Estate from crops, livestock and the environment.

Cowdray is home to 315 dairy cows.

  1. Do you have a favourite place on the Estate?

I love standing on top of the hill near the Halfway Bridge and looking back down the valley and seeing the way the land is used so differently from growing crops, grasslands and woodland. My favourite time of day is at sunset.

  1. How do you like to relax when not at work?

With a three-year-old and a 12-week-old, very little time is spent relaxing. I love a quiet dog walk and to read a book as well as building and tinkering with things; I recently made a dining room table.

Wesley often accompanies Barney on his rounds at the Farm.

  1. Where is your favourite place to go on holiday?

Holiday…. what’s that?  I love a staycation; Cornwall has always been very special to me and my family.

14. Do you have a favourite food?

Macaroni cheese and garlic bread.

15. What can’t you live without?

A good sharp penknife.

Written by Matilda Reid.

Harvest on the Estate.

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