Friday, 20 February 2015

Partnerships - working together delivers!

Outstanding in their field! Farmers out on the field scale cover crop trial plots
I have had my “Campaign for the Farmed Environment – CFE” hat on this week and been involved with two events which attracted an impressive 150 farmers and advisers. What I think has made the meetings so good is that they have very much been delivered through “partnerships” – different organisations working together and pooling their diverse expertise. Add to this a healthy dose of “practicality” and you have the right ingredients to put on an informative and interesting session.

The first one was in Devon and was organised by Roland Stonex of the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group (South West), who lined up an array of speakers to cover soils, water and the environment. Following the demise of the national FWAG organisation a few years back, many new independent FWAG groups have formed and are now thriving – FWAG SW being a prime example! A couple of farmers spoke at the conference of how incredibly important FWAG had been to their businesses and there is no doubt that they are delivering good, local, practical advice which is vital if a farm is to have bright green credentials. 

Then I was back in my own county of Hampshire, helping with a Cover Crops Event organised by Test & Itchen Catchment Sensitive Farming, Growhow, Kings Seeds, Agrii and Wheatsheaf farming. Add to that CFE as well and it sounds a bit of an overkill doesn’t it! But if you have to plant and look after trial plots of crops, take measurements and get them analysed, organise venues and find knowledgeable speakers to enable a discussion on all aspects of what a cover crop can offer – well you need a few folk!

There is another important message in organising events with partner organisations too. Farmers are busy people, so if they can go to a “one-stop-shop” and get all the information that they require on a topic, that is also relevant to their area, then they see this as a win-win.

Hopefully, gone are the days when you had to go to a soils event, then a water workshop and finally if you had time attend a wildlife based day. They are of course intricately linked and so advice needs to be across the board.

Finally, by working together within partnerships definitely helps to clarify the “ask” – what collectively we would like farmers to deliver. We have been guilty in the past I believe, of delivering rather mixed messages to farmers, leaving them slightly bewildered as to what exactly they should be doing. I'm not saying that all organisations agree on everything nowadays – but a simple, joined up practical message from us goes a long way to getting things achieved on the ground.

And that surely, is what it is all about!    

Tim Clarke from CFE - the main organiser of the cover crops meeting 

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