AgriLeader Forum inspires farmers

Tuesday, 13 February 2024

This year’s AgriLeader Forum – Farming your network, playing your field – attracted nearly 200 farmers for 24 hours of networking and thought-provoking discussions.

The location of the event, held in Manchester in January, was fitting, with the city being known as one that bands together and innovates – two of the main themes of the conference.

The Forum was sponsored by Agri-Tech Centres and featured an array of activities and speakers designed to push people out of their comfort zones and inspire them to make changes. Attendees were treated to engaging presentations, lively discussions and valuable networking opportunities.

Highlights included:

  • Renowned speakers from inside and outside of agriculture delivered insightful presentations, offering valuable perspectives on mental health, networking and leadership
  • A panel tackled pressing issues in sparking thought-provoking questions and meaningful conversations
  • Interactive breakout sessions provided attendees with practical skills and knowledge to enhance their personal development
  • Networking opportunities were in abundance, enabling attendees to connect with peers, leaders and potential collaborators, forging new relationships and partnerships
  • A trip to the nearby National Football Museum was a treat for footie fans, along with the welcome message from former England Lioness and We Eat Balanced ambassador Anita Asante

On the first day, AHDB Chairman Nicholas Saphir opened the conference, speaking of the many challenges facing agriculture – and the world – such as environmental threats, rapidly changing consumer demands, war and geopolitics.

The first speaker, clinical psychologist Dr Stephanie Fitzgerald, talked about mental health in and out of the workplace, and the importance of treating it with the same importance as physical health, stressing that “your mental health is a safety issue.”

Her presentation, ‘The fuel for your engine’, addressed the continuing effects of the pandemic on people’s health, as well as age, generational and gender issues. The better you feel, physically and mentally, the greater your energy for drive and the greater your chances of success.

Dr Fitzgerald’s talk was followed by a panel discussion on the ‘superpower’ that is networking – the main theme of the Forum. Led by AHDB’s Izak van Heerden and Doreen Anderson, the panel consisted of:

  • Phil Halhead, farmer and founder of Norbreck Genetics
  • Laura Ryan, founder and CEO of Meat Business Women
  • Phil Jarvis, Land and Estate Director of Albanwise Farming and Albanwise Environment

The panellists offered advice, answered questions from the audience and gave inspirational stories from their own rise to success. All three agreed that having a strong network of supportive, committed individuals, whose values and goals align with yours, is the best thing you can do for your career, your business and your wellbeing.

Addressing the audience, Phil Halhead said:

“If you don’t have a data-driven strategy, your chances of success are slim, so measure and monitor. Great things never come from the comfort zone. Learn to love uncertainty. The next 6,000 years are going to be just like the last 6,000 – opportunity mixed with difficulty.”

AHDB’s Farming Systems Director, Mike Gooding, closed the first day, remarking on the fantastic presentations and discussions and how they had helped spark important conversations and new connections among the delegates.

At the end of the day, everyone was whisked off-site for the evening reception with a trip to the National Football Museum – a treat for footie fans but good fun for everyone else, too. The absence of a seating plan encouraged further networking, and everyone got stuck in and had a great time chatting over the meal and shared interests. Former England Lioness and We Eat Balanced ambassador Anita Asante even sent a welcome video message to kick off events, which set the tone for the evening.

Day two was opened by AHDB’s Will Jackson before keynote speaker Marcus Child took to the stage with his presentation, ‘Personal power: Build your resilience, resourcefulness and creativity’. Marcus has helped thousands of people, brands and small and medium-sized enterprises to embrace change and approach daily life positively and proactively.

He talked about the importance of goal setting and having a clear picture (literally) of what you want to achieve. Everyone left with homework – instructions to start cutting up magazines to create a visual reminder of their goals. It was an inspiring, high-energy and entertaining talk, which gave business owners and aspiring leaders plenty of food for thought.

The conference was closed by Izak van Heerden, Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager for the AgriLeader programme, with a moving and inspiring speech about the importance of looking after each other above all else.

Speaking after the event, he said:

“We are thrilled with the overwhelming success of the AgriLeader Forum. The event provided a unique platform for farmers to come together, share insights and chart the course for the future of leadership and collaboration in the farming industry. We are incredibly grateful to all our speakers, sponsors, organisers and attendees for their invaluable contributions.”

For many participants, the real reward was the experience gained and the connections forged during the event, leaving full of inspiration and motivation to continue pursuing their passion and empowering their teams.

With technology evolving at a rapid pace, and unprecedented challenges facing the farming industry, events like these serve as a platform for the next generation of innovators to unleash their creativity and drive positive change in the world.

Find out more about the AgriLeader programme and how you can get involved

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