As part of the McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmer Programme, Annie, Alice and Katie attended the Oxford Farming Conference for the first time as Scholars.
The OFC scholar programme allows organisations to sponsor young farmers. At the conference they take part in the Scholars Workshop to debate the most exciting developments in the industry.
Here the girls tell us what they learnt.
The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Bold Agriculture’ and I was inspired by the focus on innovation and science. This is really important to help the industry move forward and tackle the challenges the future will bring, such as climate change and the ever growing population.
One the highlights for me was the debate in the Oxford Union titled “Agriculture is an equal opportunities industry”. It’s a topic I feel strongly about so I was really interested to hear all of the arguments. The House voted for the motion, so I was pleased, but it was quite a close result.
The conference is an absolutely incredible experience that not only opens your eyes to so many new ideas but also gives you the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and across the industry. It can be overwhelming to begin with, but it’s an opportunity that needs to be grabbed with both hands and you definitely come out the other end inspired.
Personally, it taught me the value of speaking and learning from as many new people as possible. I think the lesson is not to be nervous to speak to new people as you never know what you’ll take away from a brief discussion with someone.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the conference, but I was really looking forward to attending. I’ve always followed the event on Twitter, so I was excited by the chance to attend this year as a scholar.
The atmosphere was really friendly and inspiring and there were many were lots of fantastic sessions and debates, as well as the opportunity to talk to a huge range of people during the breaks and evening dinners.
I was inspired by so many of the speakers, but my favourite session was on Entrepreneurs and their stories.
Getting a personal insight into how, through hard work and ambition, farmers across the world have grown, innovated and diversified their farm businesses taught me many lessons I can take forward into my career.
It really inspired me to think about how many opportunities for innovation there are within a farm based business.
I’d encourage next year’s scholars to make most of this opportunity by talking to as many people as possible and attending all the events on offer including fringe events, breakfast meetings and workshops as well as the main conference sessions.
The scholars workshop was the best part for me. I spent one-to-one time with my fellow scholars discussing what we thought were the biggest issues for future farmers and debating solutions.
We covered vast areas of challenge and opportunity including access to land, the sharing of knowledge and best practice, and encouraging farmers of the future to embrace opportunities to innovate.
I particularly enjoyed meeting members of the European Young Farmers, CEJA. Talking to young farmers whose ways of farming are completely different was fascinating and inspired me to broaden my horizons.
I want to look further at farming methods in different countries to see what could be put into practice in UK agriculture. Also realising that CEJA Vice President Jannes Maes can speak four languages has inspired my New Year resolution to learn a language!
My take home message is the need to be positive about agriculture and to make full use of every opportunity. One of the main points made throughout the conference was that entrepreneurship comes from embracing change rather than fighting it.