The one hour special review of farming in 2012 understandably centered on the impacts of the weather, which started with the drought in January but then developed into consistently wet weather which washed out shows, caused havoc to crop yields and raised prices of feed bills.
A key point raised from these factors was the importance of land drainage and the key role soil plays on the farm. 2012 also saw the use of social media in farming gain popularity, exploding onto the scene with the SOS dairy hashtag which snowballed into a multi-platform campaign to raise awareness of milk prices and to change public perceptions.
The AgriChatUK discussions also gave valuable insight and views from stakeholders on issues such as climate change, young farmers, levy boards, and mental health issues, with DEFRA and the NFU taking note. The Farm Apprentice series run by Farmers Weekly also gave a much needed focus on ways of attracting and maintaining young people across the farming spectrum.
The overall message though was that even faced with a range of problems, those within agriculture retain a deep rooted love and passion for their roles and the industry is inherently one built on resilience.
The 1 hour special discussion held on Thursday 27th December 2012 looked at the topic of “Farming review of 2012” and generated a total of 151 tweets on the topic from 39 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders, as well as members of the general public.
Q1 What were the main rural related events of 2012 looking back through the months i.e. Jan, Feb etc?
- Wasn’t there a drought in Jan?
- May 2012 Pig & Poultry Fair
- For me in May-July agriculture provided incredible backdrop to the shots of the UK beamed around the world- 2012 Torch relay
- Hosepipe ban in Kent, which was the last to be lifted in the UK. That was the drought of 2012
- Well sadly due to the weather a lot of the rural events were cancelled
- The year of washed out county shows
- Besides the weather, #sosdairy was a big event and showed what could be done to raise awareness with the help of Social Media
- In Jan we had NFU Hustings for the Presidential Top Table elections in February
- Growing some of the nicest looking crops ever in spring only for them to turn into some of the worst ever crops in the summer
- Open farm Sunday in June was the big one for me. Looking forward to June 9th next year too
- 2012 was also the year Twitter take up in agriculture exploded
- Queens Diamond Jubilee & the Olympics two influential occasions that helped us to stay positive in otherwise tough year
- March was a big thing in the farming calendar for #agrichatuk our first Chat
- Influence of the #agrichatuk Thur evening sessions started to spread in 2012. Where next?
- The resilience and organisation shown by #sosdairy farmers was an inspiration and has to be a highlight of 2012
- Feb – The month #clubhectare started and has gone from strength to strength both on line and in the real world
- I think there was a change in the public perception of farmers. The pint bottle logo of the cost of milk reached joe public
- The growth of #agrichatuk in 2012 has the potential to make it a real force in 2013 – how best to move forward?
- Let’s not forget the Laying Hen Cage regs, many in the EU failed to meet the deadline 01/01/12. Ditto sow Crates 01/01/13?
- October = #farmapprentice! A life changing month for me and many others!
Q2 How did 2012 impact on your farm/ rural based enterprise? Weather & everything else included
- We suffered a double blow in the summer,heavy rain & milk price cut. Poor yields mean expensive food being purchased
- Feed bills raised substantially and our forage crops drowned
- Long term infrastructure such as drainage must be maintained or it will let you down when most needed
- We got very good at packing the combine away and driving it home as there was barely a field we didn’t get rained off in
- As long as a litre of water costs 3 times as much as a litre of milk we are going to be in trouble!
- We went controlled traffic farming and no till drilling in 2012 which allowed us to get some crops in the ground this autumn
- Think 2012 weather might have greater impact on my farm in 2013 than it did in 2012
- Direct drilled wheat and rape better than cultivated here and soil structure still good worm nos high
- All our direct drilled land will be fine as we preserve the soil structure but where we move ground problems of at least 2yrs
- The worst year possible weather wise to launch a new enterprise. Looking forward to a drier and more successful 2013!
Q3 What else happened in 2012 for the rural industries i.e. change & sector development? What about tech & social media?
- Welsh Gov. did not renew ram vouchers, interest in performance recording fostered over past two years collapsed
- I think #farmpics became important in 2012 too
- Encouragement to shop local & support local communities had increasing coverage, localism could be gaining new relevance?
- Last time UK arable started the year in such a rough state was 2001. But prices much better now. Glass half full or empty?
- Many online services have become more user friendly & avail 24/7 much more user friendly for farm businesses in particular
- Resisted social media till November ’12 now embracing #agrichatuk after getting a Nuffield for next year!
- 2012 reminded us that no matter how clever the tech, weather rules-maybe it would have been worse without it
- A failure to come up with practical solutions to the scourge of bovine tb
- I hope that in 2013 UK agriculture makes some big changes in attitude and business – reducing SFP will force the issue
- High speed Wireless broadband was the big thing for our community in 2012 changed lives and for some different ways of working
- Grants being available to contribute towards technologies like GPS steering that will help claw back some efficiency %s
Q4 What have u learned/ improved upon throughout 2012, & what positives can be taken?
- If you are still here after a year like this then you can achieve anything!
- The importance of good and well maintained field drainage
- I’ve learned I can do more than I thought I could, that I can reach my goals sooner & I’ve the support of inspirational people!
- Timing and attention to detail as important as ever esp t3 sprays. Combine can’t be too big! Tractors often are! No-till for 13
- 2012 taught me how truly diverse and eclectic farming is- in its communities, methods, and beliefs
- It has been a difficult year but for us quite successful which has been very pleasing and shows me our future is strong
- Drainage and maintaining it is getting quite a mention this evening – perhaps more than anything else on farm?
- Social media has only just begun in raising awareness of farming issues and will become more important
- We have messed about with cover crops. would like to know more about seedbed nutrition now – get seeds up & growing quicker
- We’ve seen interest in renewables grow over the year, despite Govt’s best efforts to create an uncertain policy environment!
- This is the year when we should have taken no notice on agronomists’ advice and drilled wheat in mid-September.
- Social media has shown farmers can have power in numbers & through twitter. Just last week Defra tweeted us “we are listening”
- I learned I still love my job despite the grief it can send my way. Those things beyond your control must never control you
Simon Haley, Reading Agricultural Consultants and Alan Spedding, 27 December 2012