Sandringham Farms manage 2400 hectares of farmland ‘in-hand’ and eight tenant farmers rent 4,000 hectares. 108 hectares of the in-hand land are let out to other businesses and this land produces organic potatoes, onions, pigs and poultry.
The home farm is organic and grows a diverse range of crops including a mixture of modern and traditional wheat, barley, beans and oat varieties plus a range of heritage grains. A large scale conservation project has also been undertaken with the aim of enhancing farm scale biodiversity, increasing wildlife habitats and improving flora and fauna.
Sandringham Farms continues to evolve and as it is now organic this brings with it a change to the farming landscape. As part of the organic rotation, an outdoor-lambing sheep flock was established in 2018 to contribute to the farms’ aims of improving soil structure and fertility. A six year rotation now includes two years of a grass, clover, plantain and chicory, which fixes nitrogen in the soil for the following crops and provides a range of protein and mineral sources for finishing lambs.
The organic flock of 2700 Aberfield ewes is mated with Abermax rams. We monitor growth rates and lambing success to select the best replacement ewe lambs to continue the expansion of the flock. Sandringham Farms produces organic, 100% grass fed lamb for the Restaurant and Café, local butchers and a premium retailer from July until March each year.
The organic livestock enterprise is developing further as we have now introduced cattle to the farms. These are a native Shorthorn cross breed and will be housed for calving and fattening but will be grass fed outside for the remainder of the time.
The Estate is committed to continuing to improve its conservation management, and an example of this is the area of arable land that has been converted to agroforestry. Agroforestry is a system of farming which integrates the growing of crops and livestock in woodland or amongst trees. In simple terms this is “farming with trees”.
A variety of trees, including cider apple, perry pear, plum, quince, mulberry and walnut, have been planted in rows with four metre wide wild flower strips running the length of the field. This leaves room between the rows for the arable farming operations to take place. In due course, when the trees have grown, we intend to graze livestock on the whole field which means, in the summer months, they will benefit from the shade of the trees. The cider apples and perry pears harvested from the trees will be used by the Sandringham Apple Juice company.
The benefits of agroforestry in an arable system are that the biodiversity is increased which improves habitat for birds and insects. Soil erosion and runoff is reduced resulting in improved soil nutrients, and soil properties benefit through the tree root structure. This creates a moderate microclimate which improves crop yields.
Farming is at the forefront on many technological advances and Sandringham Farms embraces this with a number of recent developments to ensure our farming practises are safe, efficient and productive. The introduction of satellite navigation for field operations and yield mapping are examples.
After converting the home farm to organic production a number of different tools were required to aid crop husbandry. These include laser guided hoes to remove weeds from between crop rows and a wide row spaced drill for highly accurate crop planting.