Farming at Marston Grange
Marston Grange is a 406 acre (163 Hectare) arable farm which has been owned and run by the Smakman family as R Smakman Ltd since 1942. The farm is part of the Farm Assurance scheme and Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and crops grown include Wheat, Barley, Oats, Oil Seed Rape, Beans and Peas. Potatoes and Maize are grown on land which we rent out to other local farmers.
The farming calendar starts when everyone else is just winding down. As schools close for summer and families head for the beaches the crops begin to ripen and farmers begin checking over their machinery and preparing themselves for long summer days.
The first crop for us is the grass – cut to make hay and the greener, more nutrient rich haylage, for use as food or bedding for the animals of other local farmers.
The next crop for us is the oil seed rape. By July the smelly yellow flowers, on which the bees will have been feasting, will have faded and withered to green pods full of oily black seeds ,and once these are ripe they will be harvested and crushed for their oil.
Harvesting is then in full swing and will continue as each field ripens with wheat and barley brought in on the trailers to then be dried and stored in our grain bins ready for delivery throughout the rest of the year.
But it doesn't stop there. Whilst one crop is coming in we then have to prepare the land ready for the following crop. So the tractors will be out working the land as soon as the crops come in so that the weather has time to break down the earth clods and we can apply lime and manures to condition the soil and improve its fertility for the next crop.
In addition to this work we also have our margins, hedgerows and environmental areas to look after to keep them healthy and weed free so that they do their job in providing wildlife corridors and providing protective barriers for our water courses throughout the year.
Farming and the Environment at Marston Grange
Marston Grange is part of the agri-environment scheme set up by the Government known as Entry Level Stewardship. This means that we are committed to looking after our wildlife, the landscape, historic features and natural resources, such as soil and water, in return for which we receive a financial incentive.
You can find out more about ELS by going to the Natural England website.
Our crops are grown in sympathy with the environment by leaving around 7% of the land in low input grassland, rush pasture or pollen and nectar mix. We also provide other support for wildlife habitat by only cutting some of our hedgerows every other year and by putting up nest boxes, leaving open barns to be used by owls, bats and swallows.
There are also wild colonies of bees on site and two hives in the pollen and nectar meadow adjacent to the house and garden.