Norfolk Scholars learn from industry leaders at Oxford Farming Conference

Luke Paterson, Paterson Ag.

Luke Paterson, Paterson Ag. - Credit: Brian Morris productions

Two Norfolk farmers were given the chance to discuss their industry's future with key decision-makers after winning the 2017 Norfolk Scholars competition.

Frontier Agriculture agronomist Emily Page. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Frontier Agriculture agronomist Emily Page. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Archant

Luke Paterson and Emily Page won places at this week's Oxford Farming Conference after securing the annual scholarships offered by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA) and property agency Bidwells.

The Norfolk Scholars programme, now in its fourth year, enables two people aged between 18 and 35, who live work or study in Norfolk, to attend the three-day conference to hear from international and national speakers within the agricultural sector.

The pair took part in debates with industry leaders, and discussed farming policy and technology with farming minister George Eustice.

Miss Page, 26, from a family farm at Scratby near Great Yarmouth and who works across Norfolk as an agronomist for Frontier Agriculture, said: 'One thing that stuck in my head was that Guy Smith (the NFU vice president) said people go to conferences to get a glimpse into the future. That is quite true, but because we were talking about Brexit and how life will be post-CAP (the EU's Common Agricultural Policy) we didn't get the answers we were looking for. The debates just went round in circles.

Norfolk Scholars Emily Page (left) and Luke Paterson discussed policy with farming minister George E

Norfolk Scholars Emily Page (left) and Luke Paterson discussed policy with farming minister George Eustice (centre) at the 2017 Oxford Farming Conference. - Credit: Luke Paterson

'But I do feel a bit more optimistic about the future. They did reassure us that they were listening and at least we have a voice.

'It is no good moaning about things unless you do something about it and go and speak to these people that have a key role in shaping our future – whatever it is.'

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Mr Paterson, 34, lives in North Walsham and manages his own 400-hectare farm as well as working as an independent broker for Paterson Ag.

He said: 'This is about our future. I have got 30 or 40 years left in this industry, and I was probably one of the older scholars, so we are going to have to look and learn. Nobody has got a crystal ball, but perhaps a conference like this gives you a glimpse of what's coming and it is nice to be on the front foot.

'That is where time away from your business is good, because you can get away from the day-to-day running of the business and think about what's coming around the corner, and the challenges you are going to face.'

Greg Smith, chief executive of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (RNAA), said: 'As an association we have a strong focus on encouraging and developing bright young people for the agricultural industry. Both Emily and Luke are great exemplars and I am sure will benefit hugely from the experience of attending this year's Oxford Farming Conference.'

James Brooke, head of farm and rural agency at Bidwells, said: 'We are pleased that the Norfolk Scholar initiative is able to support two more talented individuals and offer them the opportunity to attend this highly regarded event. Once again the standard of applicants was extremely high.'

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