In this blog post, Future Farmer Pete Meadows shares his career journey and reflects on his experience attending – virtually – the Oxford Farming Conference in January on behalf of the network.
I studied Agriculture at Aberystwyth before starting my career, which has subsequently brought me up to Escrick Park Estate, just south of York.
My role at the Estate encompasses the agricultural interests as well as property and general estate management.
I am passionate about the industry and keen to step up and learn from some of the brightest minds in the agricultural sector.
Routes to Resilience
At a time when the agricultural industry is going through the biggest revolution since the Second World War, the OFC’s theme this year of ‘Routes to Resilience’ seemed incredibly apt.
The conference, as in previous years, included an incredible line up of speakers from across the UK and around the world.
With a clear driver of government policy towards reducing emissions, reaching net zero and the restoration of wildlife, the undercurrent of information shone on ways in which changes are likely to influence and impact us going forward.
Much of the information at the conference revolved around new data and information seeping down from research and policy.
New income streams
With the opportunities to farmers and land managers spreading beyond the traditional income streams into carbon markets, the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Environment Land Management Schemes, Biodiversity Net Gain and woodland options, it can be difficult to know which way to turn.
For me a key take home was to sit tight until more information presents itself and the true value of the goods and services held in the soil on farm comes to light.
Henry Dimbleby, who authored The National Food Strategy, spoke about the need for government policy to improve food nutrition standards, reduce the burden of obesity related diseases affecting the NHS and to maximise the markets of high-quality British produce.
Listening to the ‘Inspiring Farmers’ section was brilliant to hear how farmers are challenging the norms and pushing boundaries whilst sticking to their roots.
With George Eustice setting out DEFRA’s plans to increase payment rates for Countryside Stewardship and the next steps for the environmental schemes, the industry will be keen to see how this develops going forward.
It was also fascinating to hear from commentators outside the industry including Dame Ellen MacCarthur who spoke passionately about the works that are being done to reduce carbon in a circular economy and integrating regenerative farming principles into the wider socio-economic landscape.
Expanding my horizons
The conference also provided a great opportunity to make new connections, even if virtually this was more difficult than it would have been in person.
Being able to expand my knowledge around some of the key themes and listen to experts in their fields talk energetically about the huge advancements in knowledge and technology gave me great optimism for the future.
There are many obstacles facing farmers today, just as in years gone by, but the options available to grow with the technology, diversified income streams and ever-increasing efficiencies of our farming systems it makes it an exciting time to be a part of the industry.
I would like to thank the Future Farmers of Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society for this incredible opportunity and would wholeheartedly recommend that everyone grasps at the incredible events and bursaries which Future Farmers offer.