National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs

Fun, Learning, and Achievement

19 November 2020

Understanding how to develop a profitable and sustainable farming business was the focus of a recent online seminar hosted by The National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC) AGRI group, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and the NFU.

The Produce, Protect, Profit event was supported by Defra and was originally due to be held at the GWCT’s Allerton Project in Loddington but was quickly moved online following national lockdown restrictions.

Attendees enjoyed presentations from Dr Alastair Leake, Head of GWCT’s Allerton Project ; John Royle, NFU Chief Livestock Adviser;  Dr Ceris Jones, NFU Climate Change Adviser and Phil Jarvis, GWCT’s Head of Farming, Training & Partnerships, chaired the panel taking questions and suggestions from the next generation audience and providing a virtual farm tour of the Allerton Project Farm.

“The YFC AGRI group has been meeting regularly online and built up a great rapport, so the chance to have an actual event was welcomed,” said YFC AGRI Chair George Baxter. 

“However, the online event opened up the opportunity for next generation farmers to listen and discuss with industry experts and share thoughts, ideas and potential challenges. With topics as far-ranging as global warming, data use and the Environmental Land Management scheme (ELMs), we had some very useful conversations and all points captured will be shared with industry and Defra as more meat is put on the bones of new policy. 

“As Phil Jarvis quite rightly noted, we are the future but also the present.  We’re farming now and have a good idea what will help us to be more productive, regenerative and resilient.”

Using data effectively, producing efficiently and helping to mitigate the effects of climate change are all industry ambitions being considered by young farmers.

Reputation of farming 

Self-confessed ‘policy geek’ John Royle presented on the reputation of the farming industry, consumer attitudes, productivity and the Sustainable Food and Farming Scheme (SFFS). He predicted that the farming industry would be challenged more by the media regarding environmental damage and climate change.

Speaking at the event, John said: “The consumer buys on price but second choice is around health with a perception that red meat isn’t good for you. However, things that influence buying behaviour are changing . The environment and global warming are moving up that agenda, so what can we do to mitigate that and defend our industry?"

The role for farmers in responding to the climate change challenge was tackled by Ceris Jones, the NFU’s climate change adviser. Ceris highlighted the opportunity for farmers and urged them not to feel overwhelmed by the industry challenge to reach net zero.

“Climate change is such as big subject and it may feel that what you do doesn’t make much difference,” said Ceris. “But every farmer has a role to play if we’re going to get to our net zero target. We think we can get there by 2040, and if we’re going to get there we need more farmers than ever before doing things that are good for their business and good for the planet.”

Ceris outlined the ways in which the industry would reach net zero by improving productivity, storing carbon on farmland, and by growing renewable energy and products for the wider bioeconomy.

For those attending the online seminar, a poll revealed that they felt upskilling and training would be most important in making real change on future agri-environment and climate change measures.


Discussions around the introduction of ELMs and the end of the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) were led by Alastair Leake, as he questioned whether the £3.2bn available at the end of the BPS would be enough.

“Farmers need to produce both food and wildlife and be properly rewarded for both. The £3.2bn may not be enough for all we want and we should not be afraid to spend more –public money for the public good. Any scheme should be farmer driven and simple to apply for,” said Alastair.

For attendees, their view was that equipment, future trade deals and direct marketing to the public would be the top solutions for future profitability of their farming businesses, according to poll results. But it was shows, rallies and events that were flagged as the top activities people wanted to do as soon as some form of normality returns following the pandemic.

A recording of the session is available for those wanting to watch it in full. 

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