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10 Aug 2021

Taking the lead

As featured in Arable Farming Magazine

Taking the lead

by Arable Farming

Developing leadership skills is as important for a family farm business as it is for a global agribusiness. We asked agricommunications strategist Jane Craigie to highlight what is on offer for those working in agriculture.

Ask someone to name a leader and captains of industry, high-ranking public sector figures and politicians and possibly even some football managers are likely to be among the first mentioned.

Some people are natural leaders, but leaders can also be made and as farming enters a period of huge change, there are calls for more to be done to develop the industrys leadership skills.

Recently, AHDB, in conjunction with the Institute for Agricultural Management, the Worshipful Company of Farmers and the Farmers Club Charitable Trust, celebrated leadership programmes in agriculture through its #AgriLeadershipWeek initiative.

These four organisations all run or fund leadership development programmes.

The Scottish and Welsh governments also invest in leadership training, with the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme (SERLP) now counting 670 people in its alumni.

For younger people, the MDS graduate scheme provides training for future leaders in the fresh produce, agriculture and food sectors.

MDS chair Christine Tacon says: More than 500 people have been on the programme since it started more than 35 years ago and most of them have stayed in the industry. Today we are recruiting people from many different degrees and bringing much-needed new talent into the industry.

The Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust is a charity that ‘aims to bring positive change to agriculture through the development of future leaders, sending them overseas to learn from others and helping them share their brilliant ideas when they return home.

Since 1947, there have been more than 1,000 Nuffield Scholars.

In the field Caroline Millar, Angus

Caroline Millar farms with her husband in Angus, Scotland.

They have an arable, beef and sheep farm, as well as a boutique holiday business called the Hideaway Experience.

Mrs Miller is a Nuffield scholar and a graduate of the Scottish SERLP.

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely affected Mrs Millars tourism business, but it has not stopped her lobbying for recognition of, and support for, Scotlands agritourism sector.

She says: Leadership programmes have shown me that effective leadership is a skill; it is essential in any business or organisation and it has a value and can make a hugely significant impact.

It still seems to me to be undervalued by many as something that can make a shift change to the fortunes of an enterprise or sector.

The programmes have allowed me to mix with and work with other leaders and to learn from them. Observe how people are effective for example, supporting others to grow for the benefit of the organisation, bringing in people who are better than you to let you fly.

In the field James Peck, Cambridgeshire

James Peck farms at Dry Drayton, Cambridgeshire, and is an advocate of controlled traffic farming and building soil health.

He was a 2010 Nuffield scholar and his report was entitled Arable farming, where next? The motivation to undertake his scholarship came when he returned to the family farm in 1999, a time when wheat prices had plummeted to £65/ tonne and costs of approaching £450/hectare were no longer sustainable.

In 2003 he took over the family farming business and started PX Farms.

In his Nuffield report he said that, with 14 permanent staff, more than 2,000ha farmed under contract, a bulk haulage business and a 26,500t grain store, he had hit a brick wall regarding the future.

His fear was stagnation and he needed inspiration, motivation and direction.

Like many who have been through leadership development training, he learned about himself, reignited his passion for what he did and how he did it, which gave him the confidence to lead and inspire those around him.

He says: All Ive ever wanted to do is farm. One of the most difficult things to do when you start up on your own is to take on someone else and move your model forward. I found it very difficult to get past one person and build the business up. Once you start building a team, you have to start developing yourself to develop them. I try to go on two weeks of ‘out-of-my-comfort-zone training because the tree rots from the top down and as a leader, you need to be inspired and inspiring. Without training, you are only as good as yesterday.

The courses

There are a number of agricultural, rural and business leadership programmes available in the UK.

They typically range from two to three weeks in duration, although Nuffield scholarships take longer, and are often split to minimise time away from businesses.

Costs vary from £750 to more than £5,000.

Government-run programmes, such as the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme, are heavily subsidised.

Most course operators have direct access to private and charitable funding to help those who need financial help.

Farming Connect, Wales, Agri Academy Rural Leadership Targeted at the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs, this personal development course provides a programme of training, mentoring, support and guidance over three residential sessions and virtual supplementary sessions.

For more information, visit farmingconnect/business/ skills-and-training/agri-academy

Institute of Agricultural Management Leadership Development Programme This residential programme, delivered in Cirencester, Brussels and Westminster, is aimed at the more proficient candidate who is already in a management role.

Applications typically open in July, interviews take place in October and the course runs over three separate weeks in February, March and April.

For more information, visit

MDS graduate scheme MDS provides a graduate scheme for the future leaders of the food and fresh produce industry.

It is a partnership of companies that aims to equip young people with the confidence and ability to rapidly become senior business leaders.

For more information, visit Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust The Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust aims to inspire passion in people and develop their potential to lead positive change in farming and food.

Typically, Nuffield makes awards to around 20 individuals working in farming, horticulture, forestry or any other countryside and ancillary industry.

For more information, visit Rural Youth Project (RYP) RYP runs a range of ideas festivals, training events and mentoring for young people living and working rurally.

For more information, visit and

The Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme The course is designed to equip rural business owners and managers with the confidence and skills to make bold decisions to get the best from themselves, their business and their team.

For more information, visit Windsor Leadership Programme funded by the Farmers Club Charitable Trust The Farmers Club Charitable Trust has now supported 22 individuals from agriculture to join the Windsor Leadership Trust.

The course brings together people from all sectors.

Anyone from the agricultural sector can apply but some leadership experience is needed to get the most from the programme.

Anyone wanting to apply can make a submission at any time of year and interviews take place in the summer for participation the following year.

Nick Green, farmer and a trustee of the trust, says: You meet people that you are unlikely to meet in any other environment and the experience will stay with you and can be used for a lifetime.

For more information, visit Worshipful Company of Farmers (WCF) Courses available include: Challenge of Rural Leadership.

Applications open September 30, with interviews on October 27, and start scheduled for January 2022.

Held at Dartington Hall, Devon Agricultural Business Management.

Applications closed, interviews September 1-2, 2021, start date November 2021 at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester DWCF Cranfield Business Growth Programme.

Applications welcome during the year, with start dates in February and September each year.

Held at Cranfield Business School DWCF Cranfield MBA full-time.

Applications welcome during the year.

MBA starts in September and the executive MBA starts in January.

Held at Cranfield Business School For more information, visit

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