Celebrating 38 Years of Richard Cartwright's Leadership
This month, CCC’s long-standing Managing Director, Richard Cartwright, steps into the well-deserved chapter of retirement after almost 40 years at the helm.
From the early days with only a small group of farms, to steering the business through many seasons of growth and development, it is under Richard’s stewardship that CCC is what it is today.
Richard’s passion for agriculture, unwavering commitment and steady hand have left an indelible mark on a business that is now one of the leading independent agronomy services in the region.
To mark the occasion, we sat down with Richard to look back on his time as Managing Director and reflect on what has been both an impressive and inspiring career.
Richard, looking back to the beginning of your career, what initially drew you to agronomy?
I was always going to go into crop production following my degree at Wye University. Initially I worked for ADAS and this gave me a great grounding but was frustrating as quite often you were discussing agronomy principles in a group meeting. It was always easy for someone else to undermine your advice which was not always backed up in writing or product supply. I then did a stint at Bartholomew’s which helped me learn how the commercial side of the industry worked, but I wasn’t a salesman!
Providing independent advice for CCC gave me the opportunity to provide specific advice and organise competitive product supply. I had found my niche and never looked back!
What were some of the early challenges faced by the business?
Local merchants appeared somewhat unhappy (as would have been expected) with the setup of CCC and a local buying group didn’t think CCC would last so they weren’t very helpful either!
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self when you first formed CCC?
Communication and follow-through are key – always ring or see your client after being on farm and do what you say you are going to do.
Be proactive not reactive. Earn your clients’ trust and become an integral part of their business. Avoid complacency!
Looking back over your career, what would you say was a career highlight?
One of the most fulfilling aspects has been the opportunity to build our team of agronomists. Jonathan James and Brett Pointing joined Peter Cowlrick and me as trainees in 2016 and both remain integral parts of the business. More recently, Simon Roberts joined CCC in 2021 as a senior agronomist and will be taking over the role of Managing Director. And Oliver Pilbeam, who has joined the business as a consultant from CLM.
I’m confident that with Simon’s background, expertise and management experience, CCC will continue to grow and develop!
We’re sure there have a been a few, but any close calls whilst on farm?
Twice losing my car keys in a field. Once I retraced my steps and amazingly found them, the other time I was not so lucky.
Various difficult experiences with farm dogs, but the worst was being chased around the farm when on a quad bike by a massive Alsatian in hot pursuit! I thought my agronomy career would be cut short that day!
I also had a very close shave with a stallion who reared up on its back legs kicking and trying to bite me, I made a very swift exit into the riding school area next to the field!
What is the best part about being an agronomist and what advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Being an agronomist is the best job in the world. When the sun is shining and you’re in the countryside, any stresses disappear very quickly. The worst part is in the summer when the wheat is close to being in ear, the crop is wet and you have to wear two pairs of leggings in an attempt to stay dry. It’s a very sweaty experience!
As for advice for someone new in the industry—only worry about things you can control, and the weather is not one of them!
What are the main things you have seen change or develop over the past 40 years in farming and in your opinion, what are the best ways to manage these changes as a business?
There have been many changes in the industry during my career. In the beginning, there were always new products coming on the market. Agronomy was exciting as we were able to control pest weeds and diseases more easily. Trials were plentiful and the government invested heavily in the industry with research. Yield advances were great. Direct drilling was in vogue using Gramoxone to control grass and broadleaved weeds. Set aside came and went, prices ebbed and flowed, wheat got down to £60/ton and scaled £300/ton!
Approval of products slowed, and regulation became tighter. Direct drilling was re-invented along with regenerative agriculture. What goes around comes around!
Managing these changes can be difficult in a farmer-agronomist relationship. Major changes often coincide with a son coming into the business or a change in farm manager. In these situations, you have to listen, sometimes bite your tongue, sometimes be challenging and also, be prepared to be challenged.
What are your thoughts on the future of agronomy and the challenges to come?
We are obviously in a period of major change at the moment with the loss of direct subsidies, biodiversity net gain, carbon offsetting and audits, nitrogen net gain schemes and the like.
However, I feel very happy that CCC has the right personnel in place, with a good blend of youth and experience, to deal with the challenges currently facing the industry.
What are you most looking forward to being able to do upon retirement?
Being able to go away in the spring and early summer when its quieter and cheaper to holiday. This will also make my wife Judith very happy!!
As we mark this momentous occasion, everyone at CCC would like to thank Richard for everything he has contributed over the past 38 years and wish him a very happy and long retirement.