Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Nuffield Contemporary Scholars Conference Saturday - Putting it All Together

The final part of the conference was arguably the best.  We were split into 6 groups to work together on a presentation for the other groups.  We were given two hours to work out a plan; in our case, "Telling the Story of Agriculture", then we had a 15minute presentation and a 10 minute grilling from everyone else.  We looked at the voice that agriculture has in the world, from Facebook groups promoting agriculture to those in opposition and it really was frightening the balance of opposition to agriculture.  We looked at Twitter, at YouTube and how we as scholars can help influence the positive side of our great industry.  What amazed me was that all the scholars are having the same thoughts and issues, no matter where they come from in the world.  The rural population is in decline, the age of our farmers is increasing and our voice is getting lost in the general 'noise' of our modern world.  It's not all doom and gloom though there are some beacons shining in the darkness telling our side of the story.  We need to do more of it, maybe with one international agriculture brand? It was a very good finale to the Conference and one that inspired a very good 'take home' message to us all.  Some were really shocked at the statistics.......
The evening was spent in the Skylon Tower over looking the Niagara falls where we all mulled over the information we had taken in during the week.  I was amazed at how quickly the week had gone, spent with a really tremendous group of friends.  Friendships that will last a life time even though we've only just met.  Friendships that will be built on over time, meeting up around the world, during our individual studies and long into the future.
The view form the tower was a stunning setting for the final talk of the week from Steve Larocque who owns a company called Beyond Agronomy.  Steve was a Nuffield Scholar from 2008 and manages over 30,000 acres in Alberta.  Steve has taken his Nuffield experience to the highest level, looking after a wide range of crops, including wheat, barley, canola, beans, lentils and peas, as well as setting up his own farming business.  He is a huge advocate of Controlled Traffic Farming and looking after the soil at all times.  It's a system that has the greatest resilience to climate change and one that we need to be looking into more and more in the UK.  It will be a nice side line as part of my 20:20 project!  
Steve gave us an example of one of his spring barley fields with 650 ears/m2 with 60 kernels/ear which when harvested yield 12T/Ha.  Now that is very impressive and a target to aim for and one that needs more investigation.  What can I learn for the UK situation?
Steve left us with a couple of quotes; one I especially like is from Lloyd Alexander, an America author, he said; "we learn more from looking for the answer to the question and not finding it, than we do from learning the answer itself".  I guess this sums up my Nuffield adventure so far.......

No comments: