HM King Charles III’s farming charity, The Prince’s Countryside Fund, brought together farm support groups, policymakers, and industry stakeholders this week at the NFU Conference Centre, Stoneleigh, to discuss how changes to policy, support payments, and tenancies were impacting small farms around the UK, as well as how to support farmers with topics such as carbon, and supporting the next generation.
Hosted by the NFU at their conference centre in Stoneleigh, over 70 representatives from 33 farm support groups attended the PCF’s Farm Support Group conference, providing an opportunity to network and share learning with those who work to support farming families across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Discussion on the first day centred on policy, with speakers including NFU Vice President David Exwood, TFA Chief Executive George Dunn, Baroness Kate Rock, and Defra Deputy Director, Programme Policy, Engagement and Strategy Jonathan Baker. Questions were asked on sustainability, the changes to BPS payments, TB, soils, and tree planting.
Keith Halstead, Executive Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said, “This is a really exciting time for our work with Farm Support Groups across the UK, and we’re thrilled that this year we have increased our reach, with twice as many groups in attendance compared to 2022.
“In 2023, we’re looking to grow our support for these incredible organisations who do so much to look after the people who look after the countryside, giving advice and support on everything from business queries to mental and physical health.”
There were also ample opportunities to hear from those working with the farm support groups, including Gillian Reid from Rural Support NI, Harry Seran and Chris McVey from RSABI, Gareth Davies from Tir Dewi, Gareth Miles from Lightwave, Edward Richardson from Farm Cornwall, Sam Stables from We are Farming Minds, Sarah Starkey from Herefordshire Rural Hub, and Veronica Waller from the Farmer Network, discussing the future of support payments for farmers, policy changes around the UK, and succession and the next generation.
Those in attendance were also treated to Becky Willson of Farm Carbon Toolkit, giving an uplifting and engaging session on the opportunities for farmers to work with carbon in building resilience and future-proofing their businesses.
The PCF has been running its Farm Support Group Initiative since 2019, growing to represent and help over 50 incredible organisations to better collaborate and share knowledge, best practices and advice with each other.
Through monthly online seminars and the provision of training opportunities, members of the FSGI are supported to become more sustainable and able to respond to the growing demands on their time.
The Prince’s Countryside Fund would like to thank the NFU, NFU Mutual and Waitrose for funding the Farm Support Group Initiative, as well as the wider supporters of the charity. If you would like to support this incredible work, you can find out more by visiting www.princescountrysidefund.org.uk.