Nuffield contemporary scholars conference

So what is the Nuffield CSC? I am sure that is the first thing most are asking. Contemporary Scholars Conference which is where all the 2015 scholars from around the world meet up, learn, challenge and socialise. The last couple of CSCs have been in Australia and Canada, so when I found out our was a short train journey away in Rheims, I admit to being a little disappointed. Then I found out Rheims is the centre of the Champagne region and I cheered up!

So what is the Pre-CSC? This is where the UK scholars spend a few days together learning, challenging and socialising  – you get the idea. Our Pre-CSC started at the NFU conference in Birmingham, then three days in London. One morning visiting the Houses of Parliament and Baroness Byford.

After London, where we had excellent talks and workshops with people such as Sir Peter Kendall and Allan Wilkinson of HSBC, we moved to Brussels where we were hosted by the NFU. In Brussels we learnt about the structure of the EU and had a chance to look around the parliament buildings.

When we got to Rheims we were welcomed by our French hosts with a Champagne reception – yes, I know, life is tough! That was the start of the CSC official. A week of early mornings, lectures, visits and late nights. One such visit was to an ethanol and sugar beet refinery. This is owned by a farmers’ co-op (9,300 members) and also has a state of the art research centre too. Amazing what farmers can do when they get together!

For another visit the group was split into two. One half went to the huge Moet and Chandon headquarters with 1,200ha of vineyards (£500,000/ha), robots working in the bottling plant and the other half (myself) went to an 11ha family run vineyard, Vazart Copquart. An excellent afternoon learning about the bureaucracy of Champagne and also trying some of the local tipple.

We had a lot of excellent talks by speakers such as Frederic Thomas, who tried to convince some Aussie farmers the benefits of cover crops. Other talks were on communication and leadership skills.

There were also talks on global agriculture, French agriculture and the CAP.

I know it might sound like a bit of a jolly but it was also hard work. Lectures starting at 8am and finishing at 6pm with little time for lunch. Getting to know 75 fascinating people from 12 different countries from around the world: all have interesting and varied backgrounds and points of view, so this was a fascinating opportunity. So, after some very early mornings, long days and late nights, our heads were buzzing with new ideas, new friends and new opportunities.



Andrew Howard farms 345ha in a family partnership near Ashford, Kent, growing winter and spring wheat, winter and spring oilseed rape, spring oats, spring barley, winter barley, and field beans. His soils range from heavy weald clay to light sand. Andrew is a committee member of BASE UK, and member of LEAF and the Institute of Agricultural Management. As a Nuffield Scholar, Andrew will study companion cropping around the world.