January is conference season for the farming industry. The long standing Oxford Farming Conference’s (OFC) theme is ’embracing change’, with views being offered from the DEFRA Minister Michael Gove and balanced by thoughtful presentations from a variety of practitioners and academics. It promises lively debate, as do the delegates for the alternative assembly at the Oxford Real Farming Conference (ORFC), a more iconoclastic, alternative and eco-centric gathering, held in parallel with its big brother. The latter, given my interest in nature conservation, is to be my destination.
Change can be as exciting as it can be controversial. Despite appearances to the contrary, it is a continuous process in farming at every level, from the arms race with nature in the fight against pests and diseases to embracing the modern environmental imperative. Changing economic conditions, personal circumstances and political vacillation add to the challenge. The ability to weather change external to the business must come from the ability to effect change from within. Farmers are good at harnessing technology and diversifying their incomes. Good management, well defined and enumerated, is an essential farming tool. That is how most of us tackle change.