Positive Messages of Resilience for Future Farmers
More than 200 farmers and industry professionals came together for the Future Farmers of Yorkshire’s popular Breakfast Meeting at the Great Yorkshire Show where they were urged to cut through tough economic challenges by focusing on factors within their control and plotting a clear plan for their businesses.
This flagship annual get-together of Future Farmers, a thriving network supported by farming charity and Great Yorkshire Show organisers, the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, saw a diverse industry panel examine the theme ‘Bounce Without Breaking: Building Resilient Farm Businesses’.
Held at the Vertu Motors GYS Stage and sponsored by George F. White, AHDB and Oxbury Bank Plc, the Breakfast panel set a positive tone at a time when farming businesses are looking to grow and develop amid various challenges. Post-Brexit access to labour, the impact of the war in Ukraine’s on market prices, government changes to farm support payments, the cost-of-living crisis and volatile weather patterns are all current challenges for the industry.
Traits of high-performing farm businesses were examined as panellists shared their own experiences. Adam Palmer, co-founder of Breckenholme Trading Company, believes farmers have the tools to respond to challenges, saying: “Farmers are very good at solving problems and fixing things if they go wrong so every farmer in this room will have that creativity.”
Adam, whose North Yorkshire family farm of arable crops and sheep did not look viable when he took it over from his grandfather in 2000, made the farm more financially sustainable by diversifying and co-founding Breckenholme Trading Company which produces products such as cold-pressed Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil, using rapeseed from the farm, as well as flavoured oils, dressings and mayonnaise.
Adam said: “It’s very important to have a plan that’s based around the possibilities that there is the market for, and it takes quite a lot of research. Once you get going, don’t worry if your plan doesn’t follow through exactly; you have to be able to move with it.”
Dairy farmer Philip Halhead, CEO of Norbreck Genetics based near Lancaster which provides high-quality beef semen from multiple breeds to organisations around the world, thinks it is important to have a “solutions focused” attitude to respond to challenges, and that this should be part of the culture of a farming business.
Philip, who advocated using personal and business mentors, said: “Most weeks you will have a problem and one of the biggest problems you will have is handbraking on that. Look for the solution and get all your team on the same page.
The panel talked about how even the best performing farm businesses make mistakes and getting 80-85 per cent of what you do right is key. Philip said: “Learning to fail and fail fast is important. Dust yourself down and move on.”
Attracting and retaining new farming entrants was discussed. Mark Pearson, Senior Agricultural Manager at Oxbury Bank Plc covering the North of England, said the bank’s ‘new gen’ initiative is backing six new entrants and considering applications from 16 more, to provide access to finance worth a total of £4.5m.
Becki Leach, Head of People and Senior Consultant at Kite Consulting which works with the dairy sector, said it was important to keep farm workforces motivated: “We have a responsibility at a time when farming is challenging from a cost perspective. No one wants to come to work where it’s all negative. Some of your responsibility as leaders is to project positivity.”
North Yorkshire poultry farmer Chris Harrison believes it is important to change industry perceptions to attract workers, saying: “It’s a big issue. We have a couple of young people who work with us from completely outside of farming. They’ve gone from working weekends to fulltime. It’s about getting people to see it’s a great place to work and when they are there, giving them some responsibility and allowing them to grow.”
Summing up, Breakfast Meeting Chair, Caroline Horn of George F. White said: “There are small changes we can make that can have a positive impact on our businesses There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there and it’s easy to focus on that but let’s focus on what we can control.”
For details about Future Farmers of Yorkshire and to join the group for free, see yas.co.uk/futurefarmers
- The Great Yorkshire Show is England’s premier agricultural event, organised by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS), a registered charity supporting rural Yorkshire.
- The Farmer Scientist Network (FSN) aims to work with the crop and livestock sectors to find new ways in which science and technology can find solutions and underpin innovation in agriculture.
- YAS is supported by its family of businesses including Fodder, Yorkshire Event Centre, Pavilions of Harrogate and the Harrogate Caravan Park as well as events Great Yorkshire Show and Springtime Live.
- Businesses and events held at the Great Yorkshire Showground in 2019 contributed £73.7 million to the economy.
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