March 20, 2008

Farmers and Collaboration

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The Arthur Rank CentreFarmers and collaboration are two words that are rarely linked in the UK. Search for the words together and it is always overseas. UK farmers do not do co-operatives. This was the consensus as I met with Warwickshire CC rural experts and farmers at the RASE’s Stoneleigh Park. Despite this there were real opportunities for collaboration in the countryside. Discounts for agri-chemicals, sharing of transport to distant markets never mind the plant-based novel materials etc., explored by the RICE project, .

The meeting challenged me to go back to my own Ulster farming background. There I had seen a new generation of farmers take their young farmers social network and extended it to farm collaboration.
Raw materials photos from 'Plant Based Futures' site.
They did this in three steps;
  • They moved away from being generalists and specialised.
  • They trusted others in their area of expertise. On many farms it still made sense to have mixed production. This was possible by sharing expertise.
  • When the bilateral swaps became too complex they created contracts that incentivised the expert to maximise the return for the group. This has led to experimentation and innovation.

After exploring my own anecdotal experience it struck me that successful collaboration between farmers was based on processes and skills in just the way that CCM’s research has demonstrated with our region’s manufacturers.

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