Opinion: Continual development pays dividends in farming

There is no doubt our industry is going through significant change, requiring many businesses to adapt if they are to remain successful.  

While there is no obvious “silver bullet”, as all businesses and circumstances are different, for me there is something in the value of continual education and personal development that will hopefully help.   

After graduating, I trained and qualified as a land agent.

See also: FW Learning Centre: Grow your farming knowledge and career

The skills and education gained equipped me well for this type of work.

About the author

Oliver StonesOliver Stones is a rural property consultant and land agent who is also directly involved with operating a diversified family farming business in Northumberland.

But as my career advanced, with an increasingly diverse client base and work profile, a wider skill set was, and continues to be, needed.

Developing specialist knowledge continues to be of vital importance, but broader capabilities are also essential, be it financial, communication, marketing or people management skills.  

After pursuing specific “on the job” learning, I decided that I needed something more orientated to developing business management skills, and was recommended the advanced course in agricultural business management – one of the Worshipful Company of Farmers’ courses run by the Royal Agricultural University.   

The timing of the course was ideal as it coincided with becoming more closely involved with the family farming business, providing an ideal opportunity to take stock and decide on the future direction.

It delivered exactly what was needed, through a successful mix of detailed information, inspiring speakers, debate and business analysis. 

The other delegates shared a common desire to progress and innovate, which by the end of the three-week course, ensured everyone left feeling energised and motivated to tackle the challenges to come. 

The benefit did not end at this point either, with the other delegates becoming friends and valuable contacts with whom to share ideas, experiences and problems.

By taking what has been learned, acting on it and being disciplined enough to review progress regularly with an eye on the future, I hope to ensure our farming business has the best chance of success going forward and that I can provide a tangible benefit to my land agency clients by sharing the knowledge gained.  

Education, learning and continually broadening your skills needs to be considered as a lifelong state of mind, bearing in mind the vast spectrum and depth of knowledge needed to operate a farming business.

Without a mindset to continually innovate and develop, it can be easy to become consumed by the day-to-day workload and not build for the future.

While education has not given me a defined blueprint for success, it has given me the tools, the information and the connections needed to make improvements and to prioritise what really has to happen as Brexit and the shift to a domestic agricultural policy become a reality.

Affording time out from your business for further education is not easy, but the benefits can be immense.

Perhaps this should be given greater priority with funding for further education or continual development within agriculture offered as an option under our developing domestic agricultural policy?

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