Learning to be adaptable

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Almost 700 people attended AHDB’s Monitor Farm programme summer meetings to share ideas and experience, helping each other be the best they can be, regardless of external pressures like prices or the weather.

Richard Meredith co-ordinates the Monitor Farm programme for AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and said: “This year has really emphasised how important timeliness is to the whole farming operation. UK farmers are now required to be adaptable in huge extremes of weather conditions.”

The Monitor Farm meetings took place from Truro in Cornwall to Northern Ireland, and from Saltburn near Middlesborough to Chelmsford, Essex.

The weather and grain prices have often been topics of concern for Monitor Farm groups.

Richard said: “Although they are out of our control, there are still things we can do to minimise the impact of low prices or bad weather, or make the most of good prices and good weather.”

Although the future might be uncertain, the Monitor Farm groups give participants a chance to delve into their businesses, looking at options to improve efficiency and productivity. Rather than looking at what may or may not happen, the Monitor Farm groups are looking into how efficiently their businesses are operating and they are also addressing the less productive aspects of their businesses.

Paul Hill, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager for the south-east, said: “Essentially it all comes down to risk, how you manage it and how you can benefit your business by taking calculated risks.”

For farmers at Monitor Farm meetings in the south-west, a key theme was doing more from less.

Philip Dolbear, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager for the south west said: “Arable rotations may have to save or generate an additional £200 per hectare if Basic Payments disappear post-Brexit – we’d like to help farmers prepare and share ways to increase productivity on farm.”

This year’s summer meetings also featured thorough discussions around:

The value of straw
Black-grass
Soil health
Growing for markets
Labour and machinery
Risk management
Cost savings
Yield

For Monitor Farms in their first or second year of meetings it was a chance to review work, ideas and try-outs done over the previous 12 months. For new Monitor Farms, farmers had the opportunity to suggest ideas, get to know the farm and each other, and set the direction for the next three years.

New Monitor Farm host Rick Davies, who farms in Bedfordshire, said:

“The first meeting went really well. I want it the Monitor Farm programme to be mutually beneficial, but I probably benefitted more from that first meeting!”

“I learnt a lot from people doing a SWOT analysis of my business. It’s good to see what other people’s views are because it’s just so easy to carry on doing the same thing year in, year out. It’s so nice to get fresh ideas, opinions and outlooks from outsiders who wouldn’t ordinarily like to comment on your business because that’s not the ‘done thing’.”

For more information visit cereals.ahdb.org.uk/monitorfarms

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