How leadership training can help secure the future of agriculture

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Some of the largest agricultural organizations have come together to raise awareness about leadership training across the industry.

Now in its second year, the #AgriLeadershipWeek social media campaign will run May 16-20, with groups keen to improve attitudes towards leadership within the industry.

See also: Learn more about the ongoing transition in agriculture

They believe that this training is undervalued in agriculture and horticulture, with more emphasis on technical knowledge, and the perception that training is too expensive and time consuming, and offers a low return on investment.

But analysis of two AHDB leadership training programs found it could be a wise investment, with participants estimated to have made a return of £13 in business gains for every £1 spent.

With industry data suggesting that less than 35% of UK farmers have formal management training, more is needed, say groups involved in #AgriLeadershipWeek.

The campaign targets both current and future leaders in agriculture.

Throughout the week, each organization will share on social media the success stories of farmers and people working in the industry who have thrived on management courses, and demonstrate ways to get involved.

Up to £2,000 for an ‘Instant Study’

To mark the start of #AgriLeadershipWeek, The Farmers Club Charitable Trust (TFCCT) is offering £40,000 in research funding to explore the future of farming.

People working in agriculture or related industries can apply for between £1,000 and £2,000 to carry out a ‘snap study’ based on a specific topic.

The themes are:

  • Bringing technology to industry
  • Farming practices of the future
  • Feed the world (increase production and reduce waste)
  • Train future farmers, producers and consumers
  • Self-sufficiency in food production from British agriculture.

The application window is open May 16-27. Applicants are required to submit a one-minute video explaining what they intend to study and why. If successful, the funds are to be used to research the topic and show a three-minute video to explain the key findings.

For more details on how to apply, visit the Farmers Club Charitable Trust website.

TFCCT Ambassador Lisa Turner said, “This is a really exciting initiative to add to #AgriLeadershipWeek.

Celebrating our 40th anniversary underscores the importance of the Trust’s commitment to support training and education within the industry.

Responsibility

Izak van Heerden, AHDB’s senior knowledge exchange manager, says everyone can be a leader and the agriculture industry needs people to take responsibility now.

“Agriculture is going through a period of unprecedented change, and it will be good leadership that will guide the industry into the future,” he says.

“Fortunately, you don’t need a fancy title or function to be a leader. We can all be leaders in our businesses and our roles. All it takes is the right mindset and a bit of practice.

Lincolnshire farmer Meryl Ward, who is a trustee of the Farmers Club Charitable Trust, agrees that there are opportunities for leadership development at all levels which can change an individual’s career, life and business from many positive ways.

“Strong leadership is needed to drive change in small and large businesses on the farm and in the supply chain, and everyone can play a role,” she says.

“We hope to remove some of the barriers to accessing these opportunities and encourage everyone to progress in their own leadership journey.”

To make a promise

NFU President Minette Batters lent her support to the campaign. “It’s about creating awareness of what leadership means to you, your company and your employees,” she says.

“This year, we’re asking everyone to commit to what you’re going to do to raise your level of leadership – whether that’s listening to a podcast, reading a book, or taking a class.

“Please socialize what you do and let’s raise the profile of leadership and the importance of skills in the future.”

Case Study: Finding the Key to Successful Leadership

Agricultural veterinarian Navaratnam Partheeban says he has benefited greatly from his participation in the Emerging Leaders program at the Oxford Farming Conference (OFC).

“A really great thing was learning what a leader should be,” he says. “I had this assumption that he’s someone with a strong opinion, strong spirit and very energetic.”

But Mr. Partheeban realized that a good leader shows understanding and is able to adjust his approach according to the different people he manages.

Navaratnam Partheeban in a shed with cows

Navaratnam Partheeban © Navaratnam Partheeban

“When you’re trying to lead many different types of people, you can’t be a type of leader that appeals to everyone,” he says.

Since joining the program in 2020, Mr Partheeban has been awarded a Nuffield Agriculture Fellowship to look at diversity and inclusion in agriculture, and joined the OFC Board this year.

The vet says leadership is not learned instantly and people grow.

“Take time to talk to others, spend time with people, learn other things and gain confidence in yourself, in your own abilities.”

#AgriLeadershipWeek Partners

The Farmers Club Charitable Trust, Institute of Agriculture Management, AHDB, Nuffield Farming Scholarships, The Worshipful Company of Farmers, Council for the Awards of the Royal Agricultural Societies, Management Development Services, NFU, the Institute for Agriculture and Horticulture, Agricultural Universities Council Kingdom UK, Oxford Farming Conference Inspire Programme.


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