UFU Supports Northern Ireland AHDB Monitor Farm

Saturday, 25 November, 2017

ARTICLE                                                                                             

Commodity Watch - Written by UFU Policy Officer, Hannah McCollum

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board are currently in the recruitment process for six new arable farms to join their Monitor Farm Programme. This is the first time a farm in Northern Ireland will become part of the project.

The programme aims to improve the performance and profitability of the host Monitor Farm and the wider industry as well as encourage openness and cooperation thereby building sector resilience. It brings together groups of like-minded farmers with a common interest in improving their farm businesses.

There is already a network of more than 30 successfully run monitor farms across the UK. The farms allow for the transfer of knowledge both between farmers and from research into the industry.

The host farm should be representative of other farms in the region. The team from AHDB will organise and facilitate the meetings but the scheme is owned by farmers and run by farmers.  The selected farmer will open up their business to the arable business group. A steering group of 3-4 members will be involved in the on-farm decision making. The farm will become a focal point for group discussions and testing of new techniques.

The ideal farmer to join the Monitor Farm Programme is someone who is willing to disclose information and open up their business, and share decision making with the wider farming community. The monitor farmer must be open-minded, receptive to new ideas and willing to embrace change.

The project normally runs for 3 years and meetings will be held on the farm 4 to 6 times per year. One of the particular highpoints for those in the Monitor Farm network – hosts and their steering groups – is the annual Monitor Farm conference, held in November.

UFU Seeds and Cereals Chairman, Allan Chambers, says, “This is a great opportunity for arable farming in Northern Ireland. The Monitor Farm Programme is something we as industry need to make sure is fully utilised. We welcome all avenues of expertise that have potential to help cereal growers more efficient and profitable. I would encourage our cereal growing members throughout Northern Ireland to apply to the programme, it will have a positive benefit on the selected farm business.”

Tim Isaac, AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds Head of Knowledge Exchange, says, “As we build on the success of the programme by extending its coverage at this crucial time, we are keen to reach out to growers across all parts of the UK, now including Northern Ireland. We certainly picked up a lot of enthusiasm at the Balmoral Show earlier this year, so I am confident we will be able to appoint a highly suitable farm for us to launch next summer.”

The Monitor Farm and visiting farmers will also be able to learn from independent, non-commercial experts discussing subjects that are of local relevance and which have been identified as priorities by the farmer group.

Judith Stafford, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager for Northern England and Northern Ireland says, “Open-minded farmers looking to further their business are particularly well-suited to being a monitor farmer. We find that the more the host and the rest of the group are willing to put into the project, the more everybody benefits.

Farmers interested in hosting a Monitor Farm should contact their Knowledge Exchange Manager by 31 December 2017. Judith Stafford is the Knowledge Exchange Manager for Northern Ireland. Contact Judith on: judith.stafford@ahdb.org.uk, 07981 556623.

Interviews will be held in January and February 2018, with the successful farm being announced in March 2018.

For more information visit: https://cereals.ahdb.org.uk/get-involved/monitorfarms.aspx