The Future of Farming in our Region

CXCS asks Kate Speke-Adams, Managing Director of Herefordshire Rural Hub, for her views on farming and what the future holds for farms in our region.

 

Tell us what the Herefordshire Rural Hub does?

We are a community guided not-for-profit organisation that provides support and resources for the benefit of Herefordshire’s farming and rural businesses. Our monthly newsletter reaches more than 1,000 subscribers with information and updates about funding schemes, regulation, local events and advice available. Our annual Rural Business Advice Day brings together more than 30 organisations and businesses under one roof, the one stop shop to access advice and support in the county. We deliver a range of projects with partners including the Environment Agency to help improve awareness of and compliance with regulatory requirements on farm and DEFRA’s Facilitation Fund to coordinate the activity of the Herefordshire Agri Group.

How are farmers in Herefordshire feeling about the future?

Uncertain. The volatility of markets and weather over the last few years has really put pressure on profit margins. Now the withdrawal of BPS is really bringing things home to roost. And although farmers are no strangers to pressure and overcoming crises, it can take its toll and we implore people not to stick their head in the sand. We’re working with the Royal Countryside Fund and Ricardo to provide free farm business support and advice for Herefordshire farmers, this gives access to expert finance, succession, legal or environmental advice for free. Whatever the challenge we can find someone to help – so please just ask.

How do you feel about the opportunities presented by the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)?

Most people don’t like change, so new schemes are always daunting and the initial uptake was slow as a result. But SFI is the new baseline support for farming businesses so most people will need to get familiar with it pretty quickly. The applications we’re seeing are fitting really well into Herefordshire’s mixed farming landscape. As well as contributing to the costs of meeting regulatory requirements like nutrient management planning, it can support grass leys that many already have in the rotation and reward the miles of hedgerows we’ve retained. I’m optimistic that we can make the most of what it has to offer.

What traits do thriving farm business have in common?

There are four key areas that support a thriving farm business and those that have all four of these balanced seem to thrive the most. The first element is ‘the farming’, such as the knowledge and skills for machinery maintenance, paperwork, health & safety, staff management and retention, planning and managing livestock and crops. The second element is ‘the business’ – the knowledge and skills to manage finances like budgeting and cashflow, utilising schemes and grants, direct sales, managing contracts, diversification, business and succession plans. The third element is ‘the environment’ – the knowledge and skills to manage nutrients, carbon footprint, stewardship schemes, compliance with environmental regulations, adapting management to cope with climatic changes. The fourth element is ‘health’ – the mental and physical health of all those involved in the business, as well as the health of personal relationships.

What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve ever heard?

Don’t over-promise and under-deliver!

Which aspects of paperwork and form-filling do farmers currently find most challenging?

The new application process for SFI, when it was introduced, seemed to be giving people the jitters. But the RPA listened to feedback and have been working hard to make the online application process simpler. It’s important farmers know the detail of the options they sign up to.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working in my home county, in a role that enables me to support farming families just like the mine, to overcome challenges they face and optimise the opportunities that arise.

Where’s your favourite spot in the Herefordshire countryside?

It’s impossible to choose only one! I get to see the whole county and still find myself in awe of the views. I’m happy in any peaceful spot with a spare minute to admire all that our beautiful county has to offer.

To read CXCS Managing Director Karen Powell’s answers to these questions, follow the link to the Herefordshire Rural Hub website.

Find out more about Herefordshire Rural Hub by visiting the website, calling 01432 268428 or emailing hub@herefordshireruralhub.co.uk

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