Northern Farming Conference: “Prepare to embrace change”

06 November 2019

Mark Bridgeman landscape

The keynote by CLA Deputy President Mark Bridgeman to attendees of Northern Farming Conference highlights need for rural businesses to prepare for changes in the industry.

Mr Bridgeman delivered the keynote address of the 10th anniversary edition of this prestigious conference. Delivered to over 200 farmers, industry experts and local politicians in Hexham, Northumberland, Mr Bridgeman urged farmers and rural businesses across the region to embrace diversification to deal with changing times.

Showcasing his own diversification journey, Mr Bridgeman shared how his mixed estate now comprises of an organic farm, three let farms, woods, four self-catering holiday cottages, a housing development and biomass plants. These various strands of activity have ensured his rural business is more robust and resilient, especially important in these uncertain times.

Mr Bridgeman then went on to discuss how Brexit, climate change, shifting consumer trends, agri-tech and a change in how farmers and landowners are supported for their work, while presenting their own challenges for farmers and rural businesses, also creates new opportunities.

A more entrepreneurial approach was also reinforced by the opportunities Mr Bridgeman suggested could be key in the coming years. These included public and private investment in the environment, how better mobile and broadband connectivity could unlock new opportunities, and how the upcoming National Food Strategy is likely to support local, high-quality food production.

Other speakers at the 10th Anniversary of this event included Mark Suthern (head of agriculture, Barclays), Alex Brewster (farmer and Nuffield scholar), Lyndsay Chapman (chief executive, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Livestock), Rupers Wailes-Fairbairn (rural divisional director, Lycetts & Farmer), Rob Ord (agronomist, Drone Ag), Bob Middleton (national programme manager, catchment sensitive farming).