Becky Willson  -  Communicating carbon reduction schemes to farmers; busting preconceptions, driving efficiency and profit.

AHDB Beef & Lamb

Although I’m not from a farming background, from an early age I knew that agriculture was the industry that I wanted to be part of.  I’m 33 years old and live on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon, with my husband Tom and two daughters Emma and Chloe.

Currently I split my work time between working as a technical specialist in resource management for Duchy College Rural Business School and a project officer for the Farm Carbon Cutting Toolkit, a farmer led organisation that deals with helping farmers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  Both of these jobs allow me the great privilege of talking to farmers and growers about managing resource and carbon on-farm.  Prior to this I worked for the Rural Business School on the SWARM Hub project looking at resource management and it was as part of this project that we developed the Farm Crap App, an app to help farmers value the nutrients found in their manures and slurries.

I completed my degree in Agriculture from Aberystwyth University in 2005 and before coming over to the dark side of knowledge transfer, I spent three happy years milking cows in Warwickshire and Kent.

At home I am also chair of the local community farm, which involves 60 families growing their own food and rearing their own livestock.  I enjoy running, especially in and around the fantastic Devon countryside, walking the dog and spending time with my family.

I am extremely excited to be beginning my Nuffield journey and am hugely indebted to AHDB Beef and Lamb for sponsoring me through the scholarship.

Global consensus is that climate change is happening due to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) released by human activity.  Farmers and growers can produce quality food, enhance biodiversity and sequester carbon by making management changes to their business, usually with improvements in efficiency and profitability as a result.

Despite this emissions from UK agriculture are now 10%.

The dilemma exists that for the majority of farmers, reducing emissions is not a business priority. So how do we talk to farmers about managing carbon (and methane and nitrous oxide) on their farm and enable effective behavioural change?

The study question is based on two parts. Firstly to look at what I can learn from other countries that are running emissions reductions projects for farmers, to help us to implement an effective programme here in England.  The second part is looking at how we communicate with farmers about carbon to get them interested, engaged and motivated to learn more about how to reduce emissions and achieve business benefits.

I am planning on travelling in Europe, Australia, Mexico, America and China to see existing projects that are talking to farmers about these issues and embracing innovation to drive sustainable change.