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Delegates from across the farming sector attended the Larking Gowen Autumn Farming Conference, held on 10 October at Wherstead Park, Suffolk. Organised  in conjunction... Experts address major issues facing region’s farmers

Delegates from across the farming sector attended the Larking Gowen Autumn Farming Conference, held on 10 October at Wherstead Park, Suffolk.

Organised  in conjunction with the Country Land and Business Association, the event provided advice and information on a range of subjects of relevant to eastern region farmers and land owners – as well as other rural businesses.

A straw poll of delegates  saw 40% of attendees saying they were optimistic about of the future of farming – a 10% drop on the same question at last year’s conference. Some 44% chose the “it’s complicated” option (40% in 2022), with 8% “not confident” (10% in 2022).


Larking Gowen partner Bruce Masson said: “The pressures on agriculture have been acute and when combined with a complete lack of clarity from our government it’s fair to say that there’s an awful lot of uncertainty in the sector.”

The conference aimed to demonstrate the direction of travel for the farming industry and how the requirements of the environment and food production can be mutually compatible, added Mr Masson.

The emphasis was on delivering practical information which delegates could use in their own businesses going forward. This included advice relating to core farming enterprises as well as diversifications and other business opportunities.

Matt Ryan, head of farmer relationships at Oxbury bank, said: “Keep it simple and focus on the things that you can control, like the cost of production, risk mitigation and efficiencies within your business. Everything else is influenced by something else or someone else.”


The issue of the environment and sustainability in relation to agriculturewas addressed by Norfolk farmer and independent rural policy advisor Emily Norton, who has a particular interest in natural capital influences on land, food and farming.

She covered the evolution of environmental and sustainability policy as it impacts on customers and supply chains – as well as looking ahead to what this might mean for farming businesses when navigating the choppy waters ahead.

Farm data

Henry Welham, partnership manager for Yagro, which exists to transform the food and farming industry through accessible and advanced analytics, highlighted the increasing importance of more effectively utilising farm data and information.

Emphasising that in many cases this valuable resource is already being heavily recorded on most farms, but often in many non-integrated ways, he demonstrated through case studies how a coordinated approach could add significant value.


With diversification uppermost in the minds of many farmers, the first afternoon presentation was delivered by Ian Evans, who developed Copdock Hall as a events venue alongside a vineyard. He outlined the challenges, vision and determination needed to launch a successful business.

A highlight of the day was the presentations and subsequent interactive discussion focussed on making the best use of water – an increasingly precious resource – through more effective management.

Chairing a panel of experts, John Patrick of Sustainable Water Solutions, was joined by CLA adviser Andrew Marriott, Charlie MacNicol of Stody Estate, Norfolk farmer Sarah Kerkham, and Chris Robinson of Reclaim the Rain.

Coinciding with World Mental Health Day, the event raised £1,630 for charity. It will be split between the Farm Safety Foundation and the YANA (You Are Not Alone) charity which provides mental health support for the farming community.