Monday, July 15, 2019

Farmers from ‘down under’ have lessons for us all

July 2, 2019 by  
Filed under News & Business

To get the best from farming, we often need to go outside of our comfort zone, says Andrew Brown.

There is much to learn from other farmers across the world – but if you think the going is tough here in the UK, try farming in Australia with droughts, floods, wild fires and pest plagues on a truly epic scale.

As a Fellow of the Institute of Agricultural Management, I was lucky enough to receive a funded place to attend the International Farm Management Congress in Launceston, Tasmania, earlier this year.

The 350 delegates came from a variety of southern hemisphere countries with a large number from New Zealand – who were the most positive and commercial of them all. They continually talked about finding solutions and how problems are nothing more than challenges to be overcome.

Agriculture is important to the island state of Tasmania, but only 8% of the land area is used to grow crops. More than 54% is natural forest and 48% of all land is in conservation areas, with the rest native scrub.

Myths and success

Tasmanian agri-business consultant Nichola Morris outlined her belief that governments should provide the bones on which to build a successful farming industry by helping with biosecurity, skills development, export facilitation, resource management and so on.

But it was worrying to learn that many farmers think climate change may not be happening and a lot of myths are perpetuated because many farmers only talk to other farmers. The buzz words I picked up were: attract, stimulate, engage, motivate.

I agree that all farmers should have a strategic plan and go to meetings which are not all about farming. To be successful, we need to attract ideas from outside the industry and get farmers to think in a different way.

The New Zealand delegates were much more hungry for change and new ways of thinking than many of us are in the UK. We need to share our knowledge, create capability and build connections – both inside and outside our own industry.

These connections can only be built by attending meetings and conferences where people from outside our industry can share their experiences and knowhow. The factors driving success are: investment in capital, investment in people and investment in innovation.

Future leaders

We need leaders in agriculture who can drive the industry forward and the Next Generation programme at the conference gave me confidence that those youngsters are out there – but we need to nurture and look after them just as we do our crops and livestock.

As a farmer who has attended several leadership courses, I can vouch for the power of networking. A friend of mine from New Zealand, who I met on the Institute of Agricultural Management Leadership Development Programme, was also a delegate.

After the conference ended, my wife Louise and I visited Kangaroo Island south of Adelaide and stayed with another friend who I met on the Worshipful Company of Farmers Challenge of Rural Leadership Course.

Talking to locals and seeing the agriculture of another country is an invaluable experience – and anyone who gets the opportunity to attend a conference or go on a trip where they do this should grab it with both hands.

Travel really does broaden your horizons.

Andrew Brown is a Rutland farmer, Fellow of the Institute of Agricultural Management and a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of England.

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