Heather Wildman, director, Saviour Associates
Are you part of a dairy farming business? Do you have the grit and resilience to continue when times become difficult and it appears everything is against you? Do you know who you are and where you want to be? More importantly, how are you going to get there?
I was bowled over by the stark difference in the attitudes and pride in our UK farmers compared with those I met while traveling across the Americas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand as part of my studies on influencing and motivating change in my 2012 Nuffield Farming Scholarship.
This difference led me to questioning why? Was it the extra hours of sunlight? No; at the time they were all in severe drought and experiencing extreme hardship and were very envious of our guaranteed rain.
Did they receive more public, industry and government support? No, many received little, if any at all, and all were equally having to address the increasing gap between farming and consumer awareness, knowledge and respect.
So what was the difference? They had chosen to farm – it was not an expectation. Before taking over the family business they travelled, worked and learned in different businesses and industries – accountants, vets, lawyers, computer programmers, milk companies – with most working on at least two other farms before coming home.
So why did this make them more resilient? They had new skills, built up capital and generally owned a property in their own name. They had built up a network of skilled professionals. They understood business. They also knew how long they would be managing the farm for before handing over to the next generation.
They had a vision – they had the plans, skills and the network to make it happen, so when times became hard – whether through drought, disease, debt, death or divorce – they still felt the pain but they never complained, moaned, blamed others or gave up.
They revisited the vision, reviewed the strategy and started again, with heads up, smiling and focused, knowing where they were going, how they were going to get there and who and what they needed to help them achieve it.