In January I was lucky to be able to attend the 2023 Oxford Farming Conference.
This opportunity came about as a result of the generous support of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, who awarded me their Oxford Farming Conference Bursary at the official opening of last year’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
The focus of this year’s conference was ‘Farming a new future’ with seminars and presentations focussing on where the agricultural sector is heading and what needs to be done to secure our future.
Although there wasn’t an extensive focus on specific policy and practices, there was plenty of discussion around how schemes can be made affordable and accessible to all.
This felt very pertinent to me, as so often it can feel that there is a focus from government and stakeholders on large, highly commercial farms.
This approach has sometimes left those from smaller enterprises, especially traditional family farms, at a disadvantage when requesting support.
This is a key reason why it’s so important for all those in the agricultural sector to have access to support from RABI and other charities and stakeholders who can provide assistance.
What does the future hold?
Although there may not have been a definitive answer on what the future of farming looks like, there were a large number of inspiring individuals who expressed how, despite change being inevitable, by taking up the challenge, you can start to shape a positive outcome.
By choosing your own path rather than always following others, you are much more likely to choose the route that best suits your circumstance and your farm, resulting in a longer lasting, successful change.
How can we all make a difference?
In addition to many policy- and financially-focused debates, there was a continued sense of optimism throughout all discussions I heard.
One of the messages that resonated most with me was the importance of collaboration and openness, especially if farming is to achieve the positive and necessary change so many of us need going forward.
I truly believe that breaking down the negativity associated with opening up and talking honestly with each other will result in a huge breakthrough for wider success across farming.
Normalising the conversation
Talking may seem like such a small thing to do, but by normalising having conversations about mental health and sharing the load of a worry or question, we can support each other to achieve success.
Professional organisations like RABI are here to support as many people as we can. Yet unfortunately it’s not realistic to be able to visit every farm in person. So, by checking in on another person in your own local community you could help support them when they need it the most.
These conversations don’t have to be particularly deep and meaningful; they can simply be a way of checking in on a neighbour or friend, having a cup of tea and chat and reminding them they’re not alone.
If you, or anyone you know could benefit from talking to a professional, support is available. The first step is to call RABI’s free, confidential 24/7 helpline on 0800 188 4444.
Support is also available via RABI’s free online wellbeing platform.