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Resilience: People

People: a key agricultural resource

When we are looking at agricultural resilience, its not just a case of looking at the biophysical aspects of agriculture's productive capacity, 

"Food production is ultimately dependent on farmers and their decision making" 

This quote comes from the write up of a conference that took place in 2013 looking at Global Agriculture, food and land use - how to create resilient, agricultural systems in a world of increasing resource scarcity and climate change.  

Its all too easy to forget the crucial part that we as farmers play in creating a profitable industry that can be sustained long term and investing in skills and people development can help businesses to grow.

The recommendations that came out of this conference referring to people included:

The need to create a people based approach to improving agricultural production and systems.  This includes changing the behaviour and perception of farmers.

The need to recognise the importance of farmers as a fundamental part of the system.  Farmers are responsible for food production, managing ecosystems and biodiversity and preserving the cultural landscape of the surrounding area, a crucial role. 

The need to nourish skills and knowledge transfer and to have access to education and healthcare, is essential for building rural resilience.

A growing issue recently is also access to improved services to access knowledge, for example rural broadband and other rural services, which sustain rural communities.

 

Human resources

 

The lifeblood of any business is the workforce – finding skilled and committed workers can be a challenge for any business, but especially on farms. There is a shortage of younger entrants to the farming industry,

Recruitment is an issue for many farmers and growers already, for example practical training in organic crop production and horticulture is very limited, and existing growers struggle to find suitably skilled staff.

The UK as a whole is forecast to be short of 3 million skilled workers by 2050 if current trends continue. As of winter 2013, the lifting of restrictions on citizens from Romania and Bulgaria was set to create worker shortages for the fruit industry and 2008 saw major concerns across the fruit and vegetable industries regarding labour shortages.

Farms therefore need to think about managing this challenge as without doing so it will not matter how successful the business, if there is no one to operate it.

 

Response Strategies

You could consider starting an apprenticeship scheme if you don't already have one, to train the workers of the future.

Involving young people in other ways, such as on work placements, could create interest in farming career paths and give people the break needed when starting out.

Another response is to create longer term interest in locally grown produce, perhaps by involving the whole community in growing vegetables, or supporting a community growing project – the interest in food provenance and growing should spark interest in working in the sector and create a greater awareness of the benefits of locally grown food.

See the Caplor Farm case study for more detail on one farm's approach to encouraging local interest in food.

Why not check out our events page to see whether there are any events which interest you (and allow you to upskill yourself?!)

Thoughts on personal resilience 

Stress is an inhibitor to change

Develop a robust attitude towards adverse events

Look at your attitude to risk management and how to cope with change

Develop evaluation skills and weigh up risk

Update current knowledge by attending training

Sources:

Wilton Park, Conference Report - Global agriculture, food and land use. How to create resilient agricultural systems in a world of increasing resource scarcity and climate change, 15-17th April 2013

Natural England Commissioned Report NECR120, Climate change farm resilience planning.