Potential opportunities to further increase the impact of Scotland’s monitor farm programme were among the topics under review during last week’s Monitor Farm Workshop at Dunkeld.
Around 90 delegates, including monitor farmers and facilitators and the organisations behind the initiative - the Scottish Government, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), HGCA, DairyCo, Scottish Enterprise and the SOPA - attended the workshop.
The delegates from throughout the country were joined by others from further afield who were keen to learn from the success of the monitor farm network in Scotland. While the agenda of the workshop was very focused and strategic, one of the most encouraging aspects of the event was the overwhelming sense of positivity, without exception, from those attending.
“This enthusiasm and willingness to look for new ways to improve efficiency and share that information to benefit other farmers augers very well for the future of the Scottish livestock industry,” said Johnny Mackey, Head of Industry Development with Quality Meat Scotland.
“As well as a very strong commitment to the monitor farm programme and appreciation of the value of what it has delivered over the past 11 years, there was also a real determination to look at new ways of improving the programme going forward.”
Earlier this year the results of an independent review of Scotland’s Monitor Farms Programme confirmed it has been successful in practical and effective knowledge exchange and delivered a positive impact on farm practices and performance.
Over 40 monitor farms have been initiated in Scotland, funded mainly through the Scottish Government’s rural development programme Skills Development Scheme, and supported by QMS, DairyCo, HGCA, Scottish Enterprise, SOPA and other contributions from the agricultural industry. The farms selected to be part of the programme have an average project duration of three years with around 18 meetings held during this period.
The review’s interim evaluation assessed the success of the programme in achieving its core objective of improving the profitability of Scottish farmers and also identified learning and good practice in knowledge exchange.
The report found the vast majority of monitor farmers described their involvement in the project to be of significant value to their own businesses, with 93% stating their involvement in the project helped improve productivity.
It also revealed the value to the local farmers who regularly attend monitor farm meetings – known as the “community group”. Ninety-five per cent of community group members said monitor farms were an effective forum for exchanging knowledge and almost 60% reported that monitor farm projects led to improvements in the financial performance of their own farm businesses.