When applying for my Nuffield Farming Scholarship I was unaware of just what this would mean for me and my family. Having worked hard for many years repairing and rebuilding the family dairy unit, I had reached a point where I had plateaued. My next goal was to start up another unit and milk twice as many cows.
This was by no means a hard goal but locating another unit proved to be a difficult task. After a few failed rental bids and a joint venture which never got started I gave up. I wondered how anyone could get started in the dairy industry.
I have a proven track record and plenty of capital (money) behind me and even that didn’t seem to help my cause. After explaining all this to a family friend he suggested I applied to do a Nuffield study on this very topic. I titled my paper ‘How best to save the dairy industry’; I truly believe that without enough people entering our industry it will simply just shrink to a point where we will lose critical mass.
I travelled around the UK speaking to as many farmers and their staff as I could. Some points became clear; one was that some young people struggled to grasp the content of Nuffield Scholarship reports, saying they were sometimes too complex. The other point which popped up every time was that people wanted a clear career path to climb, where they had the choice to either work very hard and climb towards farm ownership or just stay in the position they felt most comfortable with.
Many farmers in the UK have forgotten the plus points and focus on the negative things about farming; things we can’t control such as weather and global markets. Farmers need to get back to basics and look at what makes a great business appealing to others outside farming. In many ways agriculture has become isolated from other industries in the UK. This has not helped our image problem.
The aim of my Nuffield report is to get farmers to take a fresh look at themselves and their business. I’m also going to share some of the insights I have had from my travels and show how anyone can succeed in the industry no matter what their circumstances.