Ben Dawes – Salle Farms

“From school, I went into hospitality. I trained as a chef and worked my way up for over 15 years– in Norfolk and London – until I was general manager of a 20-room boutique hotel. I wanted to make a change and realised that farming was the only thing I cared about. I spent a month emailing people and getting no response. Then I rang Poul Hoveson in Catalyst Farming and he asked me to come for an interview.

It definitely worked in my favour that I was used to long hours, weekend work and so on. Sure, I did not know loads about farming, but what I brought to the table was a lot of experience in dealing with people and management situations. And that I see things differently to someone who has been brought up only doing farming.

Part of my responsibility is running the grain drier. I was used to managing a pub, staff and people and in some way running the drier is similar. And I love it. My involvement in the spray team has grown. I am one of the relief sprayer drivers. My understanding of agronomy – the inputs we use, why, when and how – is growing and that really interests me. I really enjoy that. It’s interesting.

For someone looking to get into the industry, I understand how hard it is and how easily they could get overlooked but you have just got to persevere. Be relentless with it. If someone turns you down, move on the next. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. People need to go after it. But then also be prepared, regardless of your age and whatever age you are – be prepared to be the boy again, to start at the bottom. Get the rubbish jobs on a broom or a shovel. You’ve got to do those things – whatever industry – it’s a rite of passage.

Definitely, I see it’s good to be working in a business that is part of Catalyst Farming. In terms of practical daily inputs but also in terms of the bigger picture and what’s happening around us. To able to closely compare and be able to speak with other like-minded people gives us all a much better opportunity of succeeding by sharing information, learning from each other and what’s going well and what’s not. The more information you get the better you perform. That’s exactly what CF is doing, providing us with the data and information to make the right judgement.”