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.
Katrien van't Hooft - Livestock development expert at Dutch Farm Experience 18/5/15
Katrien is a Dutch vet with 25 years experience in livestock development around the world including twelve years spent in South America. She was concerned with the fact that many development projects push production rather than understanding why farmers might not concentrate on this one performance indicator preferring to minimise risk or look to greater environmental benefits. Some of this thinking can be accessed via her book 'Sustainable livestock management for poverty alleviation and food security'. Now she is working to connect innovative and sustainable farmers from the Netherlands to provide support, and learn from, dairy farmers abroad.
Whilst the Dutch dairy farming industry can be seen as successful, it is not without problems such as the loss of up to 90% of family farms, large debt, soil fertility issues and water pollution, loss of biodiversity and high use of antibiotics. An interesting review of the lessons learnt has been summarised on her blog which I have copied below:
1 Build on innovative farmers’ knowledge and experiences supported by research and policies, rather than research and policy deciding it all for farmers: do not miss the innovations that come from innovative farmers!
2 Soil fertility and soil organic matter are highest priorities for efficient farming: improve soil life and closing nutrient cycles by producing milk from roughage (which gives good quality manure) and locally produced animal feeds, rather than from an excess of concentrated feed based on imported soy
3 Optimize production: strengthen total-life milk production rather than maximize productivity (milk production per lactation or year)
4 Diversify farmers’ income: farmers are less vulnerable for changes in the market or climate, than in case of total specialization in and dependency on the market of one product (like milk) only.
5 Growing importance of direct marketing and short chains: direct linkages between farmers and consumers gives better price margin, and stands at the basis of growing niche-markets
6 Growing role of farmers in nature management: for preserving natural bio-diversity, for example wild birds
7 Re-validation of dual-purpose and traditional animal breeds and crossbreeding Holstein cows towards a more ‘robust’ animal: to improve natural resilience, animal health and produce milk efficiently from roughage
8 Restoring the links between dairy farmers and crop farmers: to close nutrient cycles at regional level
9 Re-valuing medicinal plants and other natural products: to improve animal health & wellbeing, and reduce the use of antibiotics and other chemicals
10 Importance of farmer study groups: farm results – economic, animal wellbeing, environment – are monitored and exchanged, and stand at the basis of joint learning
11 Farmers with large-scale farms are not necessarily the farmers with highest incomes!
Increasingly her concern was with the unregulated use of antibiotics in many developing markets (see Link) and looking to promote naturally occurring medicinal plants backed by scientific research particularly with contacts in India.
Points to consider
- I know from working on development projects myself that unless the vision and strategic aims of the work is clearly identified and valid the outcomes will not be achieved. I need to consider how well the aims of my own farm are clearly thought through (and not just a continuation of what we have always done, or a chase after subsidy) and communicated with all those involved in the business.