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Opinion- Farming has to welcome change

Richard Price, director of farming and commercial events, Lowther Estates

Richard Price, director of farming and commercial events, Lowther Estates

 

The future is going to be about embracing challenges and opportunities and being ready to make changes. And what is going to be fundamental to every farming business is how it manages its structure, staff and recruitment. We need to develop a streamlined, profitable business allowing us to reinvest in order to remain sustainable.

 

At Lowther Estates we operate a mixed farming business comprising 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) run by an able four-strong team. I manage from top to the bottom.

 

I believe every farm business, whether it is family owned or a limited company, shares the same issues, including market volatility and low prices.

 

Consequently, continually going back to basics, defining objectives and examining the true costs of production prior to implementation of any changes are vital to profitability. You need to be honest about what you want to do, why and how.

 

Professional staff management is something we can all do. ‘People work for people’ is one of my mantras, so two-way communication is vital. Try to understand the priorities of your staff and make them fully aware of your expectations.

 

I aim to meet with each team member on a daily basis. We stage weekly team meetings and frequent ‘hands on’ workshop training. Staff often have to collaborate. Cumbrian weather is volatile and challenging, so this team approach and attention to detail are crucial.

 

We reward with an up-front package, accompanied by non-monetary bonuses. I believe involvement and respect are worth a great deal more.

 

Agriculture needs to attract the best next generation farmers. However, to succeed the industry requires better marketing to promote the fact it is modern, dynamic and highly technical, and a high degree of wide angled thinking is essential.

 

Farming businesses can play their own role preparing our future farmers and farm managers by knowledge sharing and offering work placements to college students. Along with other Cumbrian farmers, we engage with some keen agricultural apprentices from our local college, Newton Rigg.

 

There is a plethora of courses to help career progression, including Professional Agriculturalist (P.Agric), a national benchmark recognising the professional skills in the sector and I am proud to have been awarded this qualification.

 

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Richard Price is part of a line-up of speakers presenting at the National Farm Management Conference, organised by the Institute of Agriculture Management (IAgrM) and staged at The Royal Society, London, on November 23.

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