Mon, 05 Oct 2020
ELEANOR Gilbert would be the first to admit that farming is her passion. She says: “I have lived at Rookery Farm for 10 years now and was introduced to farming by my stepfather Dan, a fifth generation family farmer.”
The former Downs School pupil recently completed two years at Sparsholt College, which, she says, “allowed me to experience various things on a farm including milking, young stock and pig duties”.
Eleanor, who is 18, adds: “I undertook many different tasks from oral drenching a cow, dealing with mastitis, PD [pregnancy diagnosing] pigs, bottle feeding calves and scraping out their muck. I thoroughly enjoyed each task and gave 100 per cent to every one.”
She took her tractor test at 16 and now spends her day on the family farm driving the huge combine harvesters and baling machines.
The young farmer has also played county hockey, representing Berkshire as well as playing for Newbury & Thatcham Hockey Club. She also enjoys a horse ride with younger sister, and fellow hockey enthusiast, Lucy.
Eleanor says: “Farming is not what people imagine and I hope to be able to show how it has become a much more precise operation through satellite imagery, and how technology is helping to feed an ever-growing population.”
Eleanor is just about to start her first year at Harper Adams Agricultural University in Shropshire, studying agriculture and crop management.
“I never imagined I would go to university as I struggle with dyslexia and dyscalculia, so school was never easy, but I found college interesting and the practical side was my kind of learning.
“I am sure my teachers who supported me with my farming interests, Mr Park, Mr Fleming and Mrs Miller-Cook, will be thrilled to hear I am now at uni.”
As well as her course, Eleanor will be making regular trips home to work on the farm. Here is Eleanor’s autumn journey:
“Throughout the summer we have been harvesting the crops and preparing the seed beds for planting. Now we are muck – or compost – spreading to increase the nutrients in the soil. It comes from a garden waste recycling unit in London – a good use of green waste.
“We will be drilling [sowing] bought-in seed so we can change the variety around.
“In addition, a local company comes in to clean some of the seeds we have harvested and dress them with a protective layer ready for planting again. We will plant with variable rate seeding to further the efficiency of planting – in other words the right amount of seeds in the right place in each field.
“Farming is all about efficiency and being able to target our inputs seed, chemical and fertiliser so we can protect the environment and keep costs affordable using the advanced technology that is available through satellite.
“We will spray the crops just after they have been sown to provide them with all the nutrients to give them a firm start in their journey and to prepare them for winter – this is a bit like adding Miracle-Gro to your plants and vegetables at home.
“During autumn, you will see a lot of grain lorries moving around the country taking the wheat, barley, rape seed etc to the mills to be turned into oil, beer, flour or animal feed.
“It will all end up on your supermarket shelves very soon.
“A by-product of the crops are the long stems, which we turn into half tonne bales and send to animal farms across the country. We supply thousands of tonnes of straw to cattle farms in Wales, where they do not have the type of land required to grow crops. You will often see Welsh lorries in the Newbury area.
“You may also notice fields of stubble turnips being grown around the countryside at the moment – these are for the sheep or cattle that will graze the land and be ‘muck spreaders’ on legs to aid the fertility of the soil.
“Soil testing is an important job in the autumn.
“It helps us better target nutrients for crop/soil health and we then apply what the soil needs using yield and soil data collected from the previous harvest through satellite technology linked directly to our tractors and harvesting equipment.
“The big question for all farmers and food producers across the globe is how we address the challenge of providing food in an affordable, cost-effective way to the constantly growing world population, currently standing at 7.8 billion and expecting to rise to 10 billion by 2050.
“I hope you will all watch the crops emerge from the fields, but don’t forget when you eat your bread, drink your beer or cook with your oil it may have just originated from me. Happy farming!”
Follow Eleanor on Twitter @LittleBigFarm and Instagram berkshirefarmgirl