The future of farming is looking bright: A conference review

Food security, tech and skills among the topics covered at inaugural event at Plumpton College
The audience at the Future of Farming conference.JPG
The audience at the Future of Farming conference.

Positive. Can do. Determined.

This was the resounding vote of encouragement and confidence in the future of British farming given by 180 guests who gathered at the new Plumpton College Agrifood Centre in East Sussex on April 20 to discuss the way forward for the UK’s agricultural sector.

Hosted by Plumpton College in partnership with Virgin Money and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the all-day Future of Farming Event attracted a full house of farmers, landowners and agricultural business people from across the South East.

In a series of presentations and workshops they heard and discussed some of the practical solutions for farmers and landowners to forge a sustainable new direction in farming, and in a packed Q&A session they challenged a distinguished panel to answer the huge range of questions that the industry is facing on the viability of its future.

Virgin Money has supported both the college’s investment in the new Agrifood Centre and the Future of Farming events, and Brian Richardson, Virgin Money Head of Agriculture, felt that both the facility and the event had emphatically proved their value.

“There is inevitably a great deal of concern over slow central policy development in the UK, but farmers are resilient and resourceful, and they recognise they must focus on their own business. The event helped to highlight the many practical steps farmers can take to plug into the new support mechanisms in England, and help deliver sustainable, regenerative and profitable farming in the future.

“This was a thoroughly enjoyable day with a focused audience in great surroundings that enabled some excellent, practical, forward-thinking knowledge exchange, and yet again it was inspiring to see the positive and ‘can do’ attitude of those who joined us at Plumpton. There were some really encouraging demonstrations of what’s possible as farming moves forward with a focus both on food production and on using the land resource to support nature and the environment. It was a privilege to be involved and it reinforced my own views that the future for UK agriculture can and should be bright, even though it will be different.”

The CLA represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses across the South East, and speaking afterwards CLA South East Regional Director Tim Bamford said: “The CLA is delighted to have supported this conference at such an important time for farming, and it was pleasing to see such a healthy turnout.

“The diverse range of speakers, case studies and experts helped highlight how we can farm sustainably for the long-term health of the environment and rural economy. There was also a real atmosphere of guests sharing knowledge and experiences, and while challenges remain this is also a period of considerable opportunity.”

For Jeremy Kerswell, Principal of Plumpton College, the Future of Farming event was the perfect inaugural event for their multi million pound Agrifood Centre. “We are delighted to have launched this inaugural event for farmers and landowners across the region, with such success. All of the keynote speakers provided valuable insight into what the future of farming may look like. Combined with the workshops, this also enabled delegates to hear of the innovative and progressive approaches being taken across a range of food and farming enterprises, to drive productivity alongside sustainability. Some truly inspiring stories and practice.”