In this blog post, Future Farmer Angela Kirkwood explains why taking the time to step back from day-to-day business is essential.
As a farmer, I work alongside my father Peter on our mixed farming business of pigs, arable-land, renewable energy production and a direct retail butchery called East Riding Country Pork Butchers.
Agriculture is an industry that I feel passionate about and so I represent farming members from a large geographical area as NFU York East County Chair.
It’s also seen me complete a Nuffield Farming Scholarship, in 2019.
Avoid becoming blinkered
Since leaving Bishop Burton College in 2002 I have been consciously trying to attain industry knowledge and keep up with changes in UK agriculture.
It would be easy to engross myself in the day-to-day workload and never leave the farm.
You soon become blinkered into doing a job, not recognising easier or more productive ways to work.
Taking a step back
Despite substantial recent investment in the family farm, I really wanted to push myself and establish ‘what next?’
For me personally and the business, and this spurred me on to apply for the Advanced Course in Agricultural Business Management, a leading industry business course.
A three-week residential course run, on behalf of the Worshipful Company of Farmers, by the Royal Agricultural University and held each year on the Royal Agricultural University’s campus in Cirencester.
The objective of the course is for the delegates to develop a deeper understanding of the wider business environment and to improve their capacity to operate effectively within their own businesses.
This is achieved through a carefully balanced mix of lectures given by academics and industry leaders, together with hands on engagement in real life business case studies.
This is one of many examples of how Future Farmers supports and encourages personal development for the region’s farmers.
Twenty delegates are selected annually to participate in the course. Applications are encouraged from anyone with an agricultural interest and in a management role.
Anyone linked to agriculture is encouraged to apply, whether that be a banker, academic, engineer, advisor, farm manager, land agent, family farmer, agronomist or vet.
With the help and support of family, I have identified strategic objectives and direction for our business.
Clear goals and targets have been set and a plan as to how this is going to be achieved.
The broad range of skills of others in the group results in long lasting friendships, mentors and business advisors.
This support network is invaluable especially during times of crisis, such as currently being experienced in the pig industry.
Adapting in a changing world
Family pig farming businesses are being pushed out of the industry as the global food supply chain falls into the hands of a few large integrated businesses.
Despite this industry restructure and forever the optimists, lockdown created an opportunity for our business as we forged ahead with significant investment plans to improve animal health and welfare.
A change in consumer buying also accelerated the launch of a home delivery service and e-commerce website enabling nationwide delivery for our home bred pork and other locally produced meats.
I continue to champion UK food production which is growing increasingly important as the countries reliance on imported food becomes ever more fragile.