In this month’s regular column from CEJA – the European Council of Young Farmers – we talked to its President Alan Jagoe about his attendance at the UK’s Oxford Farming Conference held at the beginning of January.
MF: What brought you to the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) this year?
AJ: This is arguably one of the strongest and most positive conferences on the subject of agriculture in Europe today. The 2016 theme focused on the need for an agricultural sector with ambition to be bold and entrepreneurial. It was an informative, challenging and inspiring event. CEJA was delighted to attend this year as Oxford Scholars thanks to the support of Massey Ferguson. Every year, 50 young scholars are invited to visit the event in order to engage, develop and support young people in farming. CEJA Vice-Presidents Alice Cerutti and Jannes Maes as well as myself were the delegates in 2016. I would like to thank Massey Ferguson for this wonderful opportunity, as all three of us gained a huge amount from the conference which we can take home to our own farms, administrations and of course the rest of the CEJA membership.
MF: The conference featured speakers and invited guests from across the UK, Europe and further afield. What were some of the programme highlights for you?
AJ: The first afternoon was filled with fringe events. These short and informative presentations - from bioscience to sustainability to rural policy papers - gave us a lot of insight into a variety of areas but also enabled us to meet like-minded agricultural actors and thinkers. I found day two particularly interesting, when the conference kicked off in earnest with contributions and debate from both the British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Shadow Secretary of State – a useful window on the latest developments in the UK, especially under the current government.
MF: Other highlights?
AJ: Another speaker was Dr Bram Govaerts, a Belgian living in Mexico. He spoke about the challenge of feeding a growing world population with diminishing resources and showed what he felt could be the best way forward in a sustainable manner. These ideas struck me as in line with my own, as well as the vision of CEJA and Massey Ferguson for the future of agriculture - in other words, producing more with less. Also a particularly engaging speaker was an Oxford Scholar last year who won the travel scholar award. This award is given to three young scholars who then had the opportunity to go to Agritechnica last November where they also visited and toured the Massey Ferguson pavilion.
MF: One of the key events was the presentation of the Oxford Research Report – Entrepreneurship: A kiss of Life for the UK Farming Sector. What did this set out to do?
AJ: This explored the challenges and obstacles facing agri-entrepreneurs today, and what can be done to help and support these innovative and dynamic individuals who are the growth spark behind so many rural communities.
MF: How did the OFC relate to young farmers?
AJ: I would like to highlight the importance of the self-described “boldness” of this event. This ties in with the current position of European young farmers who are faced with an uncertain future in agricultural support, trade, climate and markets. It is therefore more important than ever for the key actors in the sector to be bold, brave and innovative – and for such initiatives to be fostered and encouraged – in order to secure the future of farming in Europe. Young farmers are best-placed to do this, and therefore it is imperative that they are at the forefront of such discussions as those held at the OFC but also that we are in strong partnerships with other innovators such as Massey Ferguson.
MF: Do you think it is important for Massey Ferguson and CEJA to be involved in events like the OFC?
AJ: There is no doubt that Massey Ferguson is truly committed to the future of farming. Its strong and vibrant presence at this event and, indeed in so many more smaller and intimate events, is a clear signal that Massey Ferguson is listening to and watching the direction and the vision of agriculture. The partnership that exists between Massey Ferguson and CEJA is built on this principle and we are happy that a company that is innovative, adaptable and open to change is an industry leader. We are proud of our mutually beneficial relationship. It is also essential for CEJA to be involved in events like this. We reap multiple benefits. It is a network for innovation exchange and knowledge sharing among our membership. It brings new ideas to the fore and gives us food for thought in terms of upcoming policy developments and discussions - both internally and with other actors in the sector. I would strongly recommend anyone who has the opportunity to participate in this conference to do so, and I hope to continue to attend in coming years
If you would like to get in touch with Alan Jagoe, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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