Tess Howe: reflections from the Royal Three Counties Show

Tess Howe: reflections from the Royal Three Counties Show

"Embracing lifelong learning is vital to adapt to changes in farming," says Tess Howe, our Head of Partnerships, at the Royal Three Counties Show.
Tess Howe.
Tess Howe.
Tess Howe.

In June, I had the pleasure of participating in the first Future of Farming Theatre at the Royal Three Counties Show. Among the range of industry specialists, special guests, and farmers, I was invited to represent TIAH and discuss our recent work.

Over the show's three days, visitors had the chance to learn more about hot topics in agriculture and horticulture and how to progress a career in the sector.

I had the honour of opening the professional development session, where I was joined by Becky Miles of Dairy Futures and Neil Barrett, who spoke on behalf of We are Farming Minds.

I introduced TIAH as the new professional body for agriculture and horticulture established to ensure that the professionals already working in our sector are fully recognised for their skills, knowledge, and abilities in producing sustainable food. We also explored the benefits of lifelong learning and discussed the support available to help people start and develop their careers in our vibrant and varied sectors.

During the panel session, we discussed why some farmers are reluctant to train their staff. The reasons ranged from not having the time to leave the farm, not knowing which was the best training for them, to the fear of training staff only for them to leave. However, I explained that we should be more worried about the untrained staff staying in the business, as that may harm our business in the future and may stifle progression.

The panel was asked how we can support people starting in the industry now. The consensus from the panel is that we, as an industry, need to be more proactive in promoting the varied range of opportunities available to school children, offering more chances for people to safely get involved on the farm and be more willing to share our knowledge and support for new entrants.

We wrapped the session up on the final but very critical topic of mental health and chatted about the excellent support available for people not just from We are Farming Minds but also the other charities focusing on this area. You can find more information about those charities here.

Key takeaways

  • The skills we learn may only have a life span of 1-3 years; lifelong learning is vital to adapt to changes in innovation and best practice
  • Encourage those around you to develop too; the chances are, even if they leave, you will still have benefited from your investment
  • There needs to be a clearer understanding of routes into the industry, the opportunities, and the progression available. Owning a farm is not a prerequisite for a career in farming
  • It is never too early to start talking about succession; the sooner it's done, the easier it will be
  • There is no shame in asking for help if you or someone you know is struggling. There are many organisations providing support in a confidential way
  • The audience grows significantly when Clarksons Farms, Kaleb Cooper, comes on after you!

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