Increased local sourcing post Covid-19 was the hope of over 70 attendees who attended the webinar ‘The Road Ahead: What next for global young farmers?’ held on July 10.
The webinar, which was hosted by the Rural Youth Project in partnership with the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists (IFAJ), National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) and Eat Farm Now, featured six young farmers from across the world who came together to discuss and debate ‘what next’ for farming and food post-Covid.
The panel, which was organised and chaired by Jane Craigie from Jane Craigie Marketing, included representatives from Argentina, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Scotland and Sweden.
With topics spanning from the vulnerabilities of global food supply chains and agricultural and horticultural labour to the increased concern of young people leaving farming and rural places, each young farmer informed attendees on the current challenges and opportunities they face.
Jane Craigie highlighted the need for interpersonal connection during this uncertain time as a reason for convening the webinar.
“I’ve pulled together this panel of farmers and agriculturalists from across the world at a time where there really is opportunity for real change to the farming and food supply sectors following the global pandemic.
“I thought it would be valuable to hear from some young, influential international agriculturalists about what they think might happen next and what the opportunities are for food and farming post Covid-19.”
The webinar was recorded and can be found on the Rural Youth Project’s website here.
What the panellists had to say:
Sweden: Simon Wancke is Vice-President of CEJA, the European Council of Young Farmers and currently works as an estate manager on a farm in Sweden with arable crops, beef and dairy cattle and sheep.
Simon manages an estate one hour south of Stockholm and noted that the current pandemic provided an opportunity to bring society closer to agricultural production.
“Our positives during this is we haven’t really had a lockdown compared to many other countries, but a lot of companies and restaurants have had to close and those who have lost their job have volunteered and taken work on farms and are now exposed to what we do. This is so important because currently only 2% of people in Sweden work in the agricultural sector.”
Simon's key points:
Australia: Emma Ayliffe is Chair of the Young Farming Champions Programme in Australia and is director, consultant and researcher with Summit Ag, an agricultural consulting business based in the Riverina and Central West regions of NSW.
Emma Ayliffe lives in Western NSW farms 1700 acres where they grow winter crops including wheat, barley, oats, canola and lupins.
“We used Covid as an opportunity to try and take a step back to take a step forward.”
Emma's key points:
Argentina: Pedro Vigneau, a fifth-generation farmer from Bolivar in central Argentina, a passionate no-till farmer who grows fodder crops, grains and GM soya and keeps beef cattle, using technology to protect the environment.
Pedro Vigneau from Argentina grows GM soya and is a passionate advocate for no-till farming and use of technology to improve the environment.
“You can not stop biology and this really should change the perception of farming as during the pandemic water in our rivers became clearer, our air became clearer, but farming did not stop and we need to highlight this to the public.”
Pedro's key points:
Canada: Stephanie Maynard, Past-President and Treasurer of the International Agritourism Association, and Vice-President of Expo Ormstown.
Stephanie Maynard farms 250 acres of fruit and vegetables with 100% sold directly to consumers or via ‘pick your own’. In the ten years since Stephanie and her husband took over the family farm, they have increased revenue by over 400% and welcome 100,000 visitors annually.
“The entire meat processing system came to a crashing halt and the major shift will be looking at how do we support those smaller processors which, as farmers, we have wanted for a long time.”
Stephanie’s key points:
Scotland: Colin Ferguson is a dairy farmer on the board of NFU Scotland who alongside his family, own and run two farms and are farmer-owners of ARLA.
Colin Ferguson and his family milk 450 Friesian cows over two units in South West Scotland and they are focussed on reducing cost and driving output.
“To survive and thrive we must be market-driven. We need to listen to consumers and produce what the market wants and needs, which is not what we have always done.”
Colin's key points:
South Africa: Breyton Milford is the Cape of Good Hope Agricultural Society Operations Manager, National Agricultural Youth Society Chairman & Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth Trustee.
Brayton Milford works in marketing and communications for the Cape of Good Hope society and is also a part-time sheep and beef farmer.
“We need to make agriculture ‘sexy’ to attract young people but policymakers need to provide incentive and more training facilities as well.”
Breyton's key points: