Philip Huxtable, Director of Arable Production at JSR Farms and LEAF Board member, was one of seven LEAF Demonstration Farmers who took part in the Environment Agency’s pilot Agricultural Placement Scheme earlier this year. Here, Philip shares with us his thoughts on the scheme and its wider role in relationship building…
Knowledge generation and exchange is a key part of being a LEAF Demonstration Farmer. It’s essential to keep things fresh and moving forward, to ensure a constant flow of experience, skills and information. This is exactly why I was keen to take part in the pilot scheme run by the Environment Agency offering agricultural placements for their officers. A great opportunity to share what we are doing here, as well as to strengthen our working relationship with the Agency.
IFM in practice
Our EA officer was Helen Dale, an experienced Environment Officer based in Lincolnshire who joined us in February and March. The first visit was very much office based, focusing on the theory behind what we are doing here, how we plan and document our farming operations – covering nutrient management and applications as well as our traceability systems. In March, it was all about getting out on the farm to see it all happening in practice. Helen shadowed our slurry spreading team and spray operators, saw grass strips being drilled, potatoes being graded and joined our ploughing and fertiliser spreading guys so she could get to grips with precision farming and satellite navigation. A very varied few days which gave her a great overview of the whole business and how we are implementing Integrated Farm Management (IFM).
Insights, inspiration and information exchange
As farmers, it is absolutely critical that we are open to new ideas, share our experience and knowledge and keep an eye to the future. The scheme gets a definite ‘thumbs up’ from JSR. We were delighted with the way Helen interacted with staff, her enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge. Having the right calibre of placement is essential for staff to feel comfortable and ‘open up’.
The insights and practical knowledge that Helen picked up from her time with us, can only have had a positive impact on the support and advice she offers to other farmers in the future.
In addition, the scheme provided us, as a business, with a hugely valuable vehicle to build on our relationship with the EA. The more we can do to enhance this partnership and to demonstrate the professionalism of our business, the better. I have always viewed the Agency as an additional resource on which to draw upon – working together with them and not against them. It’s a bit like your bank balance – the more you can put in, the more resources and good will there is to draw upon when you need it!
The Environment Agency’s Agricultural Placement Scheme will run again in 2017.