What’s the impact of the Monitor Farm programme?
It seems incredible, but three years has passed and we have come to the end of the Crediton Monitor Farm with James Lee and his family. When we started this, it was a completely new Knowledge Exchange project for English arable farmers. A farmer-led, farmer-driven agenda of topic meetings addressing key issues using the Monitor Farm’s actual finances to evaluate the discussions.
As with any investment of time and money, it is important to ask the short but killer question, ‘So what?’ to evaluate the success of the programme. This is a question James Lee as Monitor Farmer, attendees in respect of their own businesses, and AHDB have all been asking.
Responses to this evaluation are being formulated and will be published in due course. However, having had a sneak preview at some of the responses so far, there are already some clear messages.
While there are specific examples of change and financial benefit such as rape establishment, agronomy provision, and soil compaction management, there are two more general and important themes:
- The value of time to debate real issues, farmer-to-farmer and sharing best practice in a non-commercial environment.
- For those who took part, the value of financial and technical benchmarking on a detailed whole farm (variable and fixed costs) basis and seeing areas for improvement. There are no ‘silver bullets’ but lots of areas for ‘marginal gains’.
The Bath Monitor Farm will also be shortly finishing its three years, but Monitor Farms continue at Blandford and Truro in the South West and we will shortly be announcing a new one in North Wiltshire to start this summer. The longer term strategy will see the next new Monitor Farm in the Taunton to Exeter M5 corridor area.
I appreciate this leaves large gaps in the South West between the Monitor Farms but the all-, and indeed more important benchmarking groups are more prolific. I am pleased to say James Lees’ Crediton benchmarking group are continuing. Contact me for details of one near you. They are great places to challenge yourself. ‘So what?!’