UK - Farmers across England and Wales have reported how highly they value HGCA’s new Monitor Farm programme, because of the unique opportunity to share experiences and discuss locally relevant topics with other farmers in a non-commercial environment.
More than 90 per cent of farmers surveyed found the topics relevant to their businesses and over 70 per cent have already found the meetings helpful in identifying ways to improve their businesses.
This is down to the farmer-led agenda of each Monitor Farm, which means the meetings cover only the most pertinent topics for the local businesses represented within the Monitor Farm groups.
William Cooper, a member of the Monitor Farm in Louth, said he joined the Monitor Farm because it is local and relevant to his business. “We can have open discussions of practical challenges to combinable cropping systems, which is valuable as my own farm business is going through a period of rapid change due to black-grass and volatile commodity values,” he said.
Over 2,450 people have attended the Monitor Farm meetings facilitated by HGCA over the last year, bringing with them at least 15,000 years of farming experience to share with other farmers.
There are active Monitor Farm groups from Cardiff to Colchester, Devon and the Black Isle. The farms represent a wide variety of growing conditions and business models.
The three most important aspects of the programme named by farmers were its farmer-led agenda, the opportunity to share experience with other farmers, and its local relevance.
Andrew Osmond, from the Winchester Monitor Farm group, said: “I joined the Monitor Farm because it is local and farmer-led jointly with HGCA.
I want to increase management of the business and cost control and think we should be ‘driving the office desk’ more and not just driving the tractor! As a result of the Monitor Farm meetings, I’m now re-evaluating costs, inputs and am going to start benchmarking.”
The HGCA Monitor Farm programme, running in Scotland since 2007, was launched in England and Wales in spring 2014 and there are now 18 farms and associated farmer groups throughout the UK.
Richard Laverick, HGCA Head of Regional Development, said: “Just one year into this programme in England and Wales, we have had a very positive response from the industry and have seen exciting results on farm.
"We can see from this survey that the Monitor Farms are highly valued for their independence and local relevance. Over the next two years, we will be building on this good start, working with farmers to ensure an agenda with a local focus that combines business performance and technical innovation. This is an encouraging beginning for the Monitor Farm programme.”
The survey also found that at least 75 per cent of farmers attending the Monitor Farm meetings had improved their technical knowledge. Technical topics covered at the meetings ranged from rotation planning and weed control strategies to crop nutrition, precision farming and machinery.
TheCropSite News Desk