In this session we were wanting to understand what initiates and enables farmers to make changes in their farming to farm in a more regenerative way (in ways that benefit nature, ecosystems and society). Everyone has a different journey and the interactions between different communities of practice (whether this be other farmers, professional conservationists, researchers) can help or hinder this journey. What encourages and enables farmers to see the potential for improvements for wildlife? What can we do to help the process? We created on online space for lively discussions in small groups to explore these questions.
A huge range of ideas and perspectives were generated from the discussions and the notes from the breakouts along with will be available to view through the conference website. Inspirational practice was shared, as well as reflections on what it was that made relationships between farmers and conservation advisors really work. The barriers to change identified include practical considerations around how agri-environmental policies are implemented to the risks for farmers in making radical changes, to concerns around the lack of integration of ecology and environmental stewardship in traditional training and education routes for farmers.
What was really positive is that the discussion generated a very rich mix of ideas for what there was to build on and what more was needed. The value of human connection and stories was clear with a need to listen, observe and learn from different communities and perspectives. There are already some really valuable networks and organisations working to bring people together to learn from each other. These allow farmers to have positive interactions with conservation professionals and others who are able to offer support and advice whilst understanding limitations and challenges of a situation.
Looking forwards people felt they wanted more:
- Funding and support to enable farmer-conservationist interactions. Building trust and communications and more groups focussed on mutual learning
- Integration of agro-ecological/conservation/regenerative approaches into events, training and publications run by already existing groups such as The Farmer Network, AHDB and others.
- Training for young farmers at colleges and Universities on the environment and training for conservation students in farming – more farm visits and inspiration. Teaching listening, observing and respecting in both types of course
- Funding support and everyone putting time in to help and encourage farmers to showcase their environmental achievements to other farmers and the public
You can watch the recording of the session here.