I began this year with optimism, a new set of goals, a hopeful wish for new experiences and a determination to put 2020 firmly in the past and make the most of each and every day this year. In personal terms, society terms, global health terms and farming terms 2020 was a year of upheaval, and that’s putting it lightly.
Today, in the virtual sphere (because that’s where everything takes place these days), the Oxford Farming Conference is taking place. At the time of writing we have already been ‘treated’ to hearing from all four ministers responsible for agriculture in their various home nations. We’ve also had a session on trade and the Frank Parkinson lecture which was this year delivered by ‘the Godfather of Sustainability’ – John Elkington. Tow key things have come to the fore for me so far. One of those is the need for defined purpose and determination in communicating that purpose in a clear manner. The other is that we need to act, and that means all of us, however we can. That action in itself needs to be defined and goal orientated, ideally with a long term vision.
I am a fan of goal setting but I only became so after a few struggles in life – ‘failure’ often teaches us to change the game, to flip things on their head and to think about what it is that we really want or ‘need’. Goal setting has become part of my own way of moving forward in life. Structure, routine, lists. Every so often things will happen in life that you have to react to, but most of life can be structured and imagined beforehand. We all have the power to predict and make our own futures to some extent, even if it is only having the freedom to decide what to eat for lunch.
How then, does this follow through to land management or indeed business management? This is a broad question and broad concept and clearly goals enable progress, but are they enough? Does resilience require more? I believe it does.
I listen to the debate at Oxford Farming and I look forward to the debate at Oxford Real Farming over the next few days. I hear that we need to move when it comes to sustainability on our own micro-business levels and we need to move quickly. I then look to my family’s farm here in Essex and what we need to do practically on the ground over the next few years. We have a plan but can only enact it at a certain pace. A step by step approach has to be the way but we are limited by people, money and other similar resources. It will be an acute challenge. I know of numerous other SMEs who are in the same boat. I therefore question whether, as a sector generally, whether we will be able to move as quickly as we need to. Just on our farm level we need to transform our energy, growing methods and we need to go much further when it comes to landscape scale conservation and critically in measuring and recording data.
These are just thoughts, but an indication of how I’m thinking as we go into 2021. I am largely optimistic for the near future, but this will only be based on all of us being able to enact actions quickly, and whilst I hope we can, it is a push. All we can do is just keep moving forwards.
Happy new year to you all.