Christopher Padfield  -  Post Formal Education - nurturing and growing talent?

I live on work on a 4th generation family farm on the Gloucestershire / Worcestershire border.  It is a mixed farm consisting of a Beef fattening joint venture and growing combinable crops.  We have been direct drilling all crops including maize for the last decade.  The farm is entered into an HLS scheme which is central to our focus on creating wildlife habitat around the enterprise. We also run some stubble to stubble contracting.

After working abroad in Ghana, Guinea Bissau and France, I worked for a local agricultural college mainly assessing NVQ qualifications.  I also achieved qualifications in Internal and External Verification and a PGCE (adult education).  I then set up a small training company where we offer training services, mainly LANTRA and City and Guilds qualifications, aimed at the land-based skills sector.

When not working, I love riding motorbikes and drinking whisky.  Not a great combination though a recent biking trip to Islay managed to get the best of both worlds.

I would like to thank all those supporting my Nuffield Scholarship, not least the Central Region Farmers Trust for their sponsorship, and my wife and parents for their support and backing.


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Pre CSC trip

A summary of the 5 days spent with UK scholars before meeting up with Nuffield scholars from around the world in Reims, France

Posted by Christopher Padfield on March 2, 2015

Appears in Business

Tuesday 24th

NFU conference

It was the first time  I had visited the NFU conference and it was interesting to learn more of the NFU s work and vision.  A range of speakers kept us interested including the Secretary of State, and European Commissioner for Agriculture....  A couple of take home points; Arla speaker pointed out 92% of dairy growth between the years 2012 and 2020 will be in emerging markets.  Joanne Denney Finch of IGD spoke very well urging farmers to understand the changing consumer market. Her points included: Strengthening partnerships between farmers and retailers - stability, trust, information. Target growth markets aiming for quality.  Help retailers add excitement (e.g. meet the farmer at a supermarket).  Raise standards including traceability and integrity

Wednesday 25th

The day started with a tour of the Houses of Parliament.  Baroness Byford met us in a committee  room and explained how the place worked.  We were all very impressed with her knowledge and commitment.

A move to Savills HQ saw us take over the boardroom on the 7th floor. An introduction by Andrew Wraith explained the scope of Savills work including managing 2 million acres in the UK. He emphasised it was a people business - its all about people. Ges Ray gave a workshop on public speaking - and death came third. One survey showed that people were more concerned about public speaking, and walking into a room full of strange people, and death came third. I learnt 3 rules:  Breath deeply (solid deep breath) then speak. Silence - use it. Maintain eye contact.  Finally always smile; people will remember how you made them feel.

The afternoon saw Peter Kendall AHDB pointing to recent research that  UK agriculture has low productivity growth compared to the rest of the world.  He asked how do we become the best? He suggested AHDB looked to work on joined up supply chain, a knowledge centre of excellence, funding of applied research with a strong link between education/research/extension. He emphasised that in all businesses vision and focus is really important.

Allan Wilkinson HSBC gave a challenging presentation on farm business financial management. As volatility in markets is here to stay, control of fixed costs is vital - its all about management. He stated Fixed costs are variable and variable costs are fixed. He suggested looking up the report on the best of British farmers - Andersons presented at Oxford Farming Conference. Top tips: Few farmers operate at economic optimum, does expansion increase or decrease profit and cash, benchmarking and budget is vital, biggest variable in business is farmer, customer is king, collaborate with neighbour.


Thursday 26th

A return to the Savills boardroom saw presentations from Louise Rose and Laura Bailey on effective PR and social media respectively.  The opportunity to learn from and engage people on social media is great but so are the pitfalls of poorly thought through posting whilst drunk.

Adam West from Natural England reminded us of the UK self sufficiency (or lack of) from the 1930s to the present day. He emphasised the need to protect the environment and then lead a challenging workshop on how to define modern farming. Tim Nevard spoke passionately about the necessity of maintaining and the rebuilding diversity - biodiversity is the buffer at the end of the road to help the world adapt to global warming

Doug Jackson and Ashley Lilley from Savills and Patrick Begg and Charles Bradfield from the National Trust explained how their respective businesses developed and implemented its vision and strategy. The following workshop was on business strategy planning. My take home points were - the vision should be one sentence. Make sure you have thought through your vision and strategy before making changes.

Friday 27th February

A move to Brussels via Eurostar found us as guests of BAB - British Agricultural Bureau. Maeve Whyte briefed us on the workings of the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council.  I was amazed to find out there were about 15,000 lobbyist working in and around Brussels.  However as most legislation affecting farms starts at EU level it is important to have a voice and so we learnt about the role of COPA-COGECA.

After Trees Robijns from Birdlife International gave a presentation and Q&A session.  Birdlife International is an umbrella organisation for wildlife lobby groups such as the RSPB in the UK. In all it owns or manages 5800 sites (about 320,000 Ha) in Europe and Central Asia and speaks for 2 million members. Trees role was to argue and lobby for change in the CAP reforms though the 7000 amendments made to the legislation has clearly led to an unsatisfactory outcome for almost all affected parties. I found this talk incredibly interesting.  Birds were hardly mentioned. The key outcome she was arguing for was for biodiversity.  This is a powerful argument - maintaining diverse habitat, good soils and a varied cropping scheme will encourage plants, insects and - by default - birds. I think from my point of view it will also lead to lower pesticide usage and less nitrogen. I am afraid that all farmers hear from the RSPB is accusations of destroying birdlife, rather than an encouragement to maintain and ultimately increase biodiversity.

The final lecture was by Tobias Gras from the Danish Agriculture and Food Council, representing farmers but also co-ops. He said that currently one of the biggest challenges to Danish Agriculture is high debt possibly in part due to responding to environmental regulation, and also to recent Russian import restrictions. He spoke very positively about &The new narrative& - promoting a positive face of farming, the contribution of food exports to the tax system in Denmark and speaking up about innovation in farming.  From a Danish perspective he argued against extensification and localism.

Saturday 28th February

A Battlefield tour of Waterloo and lessons of leadership.  A day was spent exploring the battlefield including climbing the impressive Lion mound.  Leadership lessons learned included the 2 up, 2 down principle - making sure you have explained and implemented strategy 2 steps down the chain of command and those 2 steps down know what the leader intends 2 steps up. When leading a strategy with a team think about the intent and reason why, then the constraints and restrictions which could affect you. In the army a good unit had 4 F's - Fitness, Faith, Fate, Friendship.



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