Earning a living from farming on the Isle of Wight is not the idyllic lifestyle that many would take for granted.
True, the island is visually stunning, but it's separation from the mainland presents a number of logistical and commercial challenges.
Islander Bun Symes runs a substantial farming and contracting operation on 3000 acres from Werrar Farm, near the town of Newport. The business is a combination of contracting, share farming and rented land. All of it is based on arable production– mostly on heavy land – supplying wheat and oilseed rape to the local grain group. In addition, maize and wholecrop rye is grown for two anaerobic digester plants, one of which has Bun as a director and shareholder.
Not long ago, the company's firepower received a shot in the arm when a Massey Ferguson 8740 S tractor was added to the already sizeable machinery fleet. Bun reports that the new arrival is already making a difference, in the capable hands of its full-time operator, Paul Furnell. The machine initially came to Werrar Farm as a demonstrator from the island's C & O Tractors dealership and Paul soon discovered that it performed to his liking. The decision to purchase was arrived at soon afterwards.
"There are several areas of operation where it really stands out," he reports. "One example is on silage clamp work, which we do a lot of. Other tractors that we've had often had difficulty performing on the steep clamp gradient, but the 8740 just takes it in its stride, thanks mainly to a very positive drive."
Attention to detail on the big Massey has also not gone unnoticed. "It's the smaller, individual things like the ease of filling the AdBlue tank, oil check access and the location of the air filter that make a difference", Paul comments. "Another beneficial feature is the air vents around the cab roof that keep all the windows clear, not just the front screen." Cab access, too, comes in for praise, thanks to the amenable step design.
He also approves of the cab environment: "All the key controls are on the armrest and the all-round cab suspension provides a really comfortable work environment for the operator," he states, adding that the positioning of the electrical sockets above the spool valves eliminates the possibility of hydraulic oil seepage into them.
Already established in Dorset, Wiltshire and West Sussex, C & O's Isle of Wight operation was awarded the Massey Ferguson franchise in Spring 2017. Lee Priddle is Depot & Sales Manager there. "In our first 15 months with MF we sold more than 15 tractors," he states. "And, I must say, the back -up we've received from Massey has been excellent."
"The MF 8740 S is physically smaller than the Fendt, John Deere and New Holland equivalents – in fact, it's smaller than the NH and JD at 300hp – while our machine pushes 405hp."
Lee describes Paul Furnell as one of – if not the most – respected farm machinery operators on the island. "Paul did not want to like the 8740, as he was an avid NH fan. However, he has grown to love it!"
Going back to the bigger picture, Bun Symes feels that farming on the island can be very challenging. "For instance, if we lose a contract for some reason, we can't just carry on driving until that contract is replaced. And you have to knock £10 a tonne off the crop sale price because of the transport involved. It's difficult to think of many positives, to be honest, but one of them would now have to be the 8740!"
"Paul did not want to like the 8740, as he was an avid NH fan. However, he has grown to love it!"
"It's the smaller, individual things like the ease of filling the AdBlue tank, oil check access and the location of the air filter that make a difference."