How it works
Taking the lead from participating farmers, we provide groups across the UK with a rolling programme of issues to consider, posing specific questions on the matters that affect the future of farming most.
We then capture those views and opinions, combining them with voices across the whole network. The core themes that emerge are written up and shared with all participants through regular newsletters and bulletins.
Not only does your group gain its own platform for discussion, but you get to hear what groups from other parts of the country are saying too.
All participant details remain completely confidential and all survey responses are anonymised.
The key points that arise will also be shared with government, businesses, and organisations with an interest in land management, food production, or the environment.
Who can get involved?
Established and newly formed farmer discussion groups can take part. We believe these small, local groups are the best place to kick-start an on-going national discussion within the farming industry.
What is discussed?
We ask groups to talk about a wide range of issues concerning farming today. For example:
What is the role of land, and how can it make a good financial return after the CAP?
How can we balance food production with society's increasing demand for environmental protection and animal welfare?
How can farmers engage with the public to re-establish the connection between consumers and food?
What skills, technology, innovation and advice do farmers need for themselves and their businesses?
Why take part?
The Network is an independently facilitated, non-political and business led initiative designed to put rank-and-file farmers at the heart of the debate, a voice which is often not properly heard.
Participating in the Network provides local groups like yours with a chance to openly and systematically discuss some of the most pressing topics on the future of farming.
Our job is to share those thoughts with other farming groups, and with people who can influence change.
The Network will provide an opportunity for individuals and organisations from both inside and outside the farming sector to develop long-term agricultural and environmental management policies which work for farm businesses and wider society.
How the Network is run
The Network is controlled and managed by the Land, Environment, Economics and Policy Institute (LEEP) at the University of Exeter's Business School.
Initial funding and in-kind support for this activity has been provided by sponsors including The Co-Operative Group, Lloyds Bank, Northumbrian Water, Severn Trent Water, Southern Water, South West Water, and WWF-UK, all of which are interested in working with the farming sector.
Over time, we hope a range of other organisations from across the UK will offer their support.
LEEP provides an independent coordination role, and carries out the following tasks:
Identifying and supporting group leaders and members to engage with the debate.
Surveying group leaders and members, collecting and sharing opinion data.
Establishing a Network facilitation service, enabling farming groups to contact one another to arrange group visits and exchange information.
Building on the successful discussion technique developed last year, we plan to conduct four cycles of discussion during 2020 in addition to a number of regional events and group exchange visits with Network members.
The plan is to continue indefinitely post 2021, for as long as participating farmers see value in the process. Participants are free to join or leave at any stage.