Monday, 18 February 2019
Brigg Monitor Farm host Colin Chappell reports from the 2018 Monitor Farm conference
A stronger word was used, but thus started a breakout session of the Monitor Farm Conference 2018. For those that have never been, it is an annual meeting of Monitor Farmers past and present, their steering groups and guest speakers. So why should anyone go? Well, the words ‘truly inspirational’ or ‘thoughtprovoking’ spring to mind. Normally during any conference, there are times when the brain wanders, and especially an hour or so post-lunchyou feel drowsy. I can honestly say that has never happened to me during my two annual visits.
This year’s theme was resilience: personal, business, environmental and technical. So, for me, Heather Wildman’s aforementioned comment struck home large. There is always a ‘Brexit’ approaching somewhere in your life. By having Mother Nature as our chief business partner, we have to have the ability to build a sustainable environment around us in all its forms. Keep it simple, use the basics and pay attention to detail. If you can measure something, you can then manage it. Be it personally by taking control of your own destiny, the approach of ‘I’ not ‘we’ and therefore reinvesting in yourselfto then embolden those around you.
Using benchmarking and integrated pest management (IPM) factors that allow you to monitor and diagnose issues before they get too large will allow you to make decisions that may have at firstappeared difficult. However, make those findings realistic and achievable but, more importantly, give them a timeline, or you will find they will inevitably drift. At the conference we were lucky enough to listen to people who worked outside agriculture and therefore had a different sense of perspective. Be it a former military officer in Iraq or Bear Grylls’ right-hand man, they both gave us an insight into resilience: by focusing on an end goal and being prepared to adapt your strategy, as you will inevitably have to, you can move to a more satisfactory conclusion.
From New Zealand, we learnt that knowledge exchange increased among farmers as subsidies disappeared and that yield and cost of production became king, not at any cost and not just around individual crops but on a whole farm approach. ‘Dr Food’ (Professor David Hughes) showed us how with changing world populations came a changing diet that could mean a different protein focus to the food we eat.
Finally, there was a dawning realisation that farming is becoming more knowledge-intensive and that IPM will become not just a necessity but a licence to operate, which will mean that we all see building resilience as an opportunity to run with. Motivation that comes from that will influence and inspire others, which will in turn lead to personal satisfaction.