Busy days settling in to new role
The summer of 2019 has been very busy at the British Grassland Society, with Elaine Jewkes stepping down as society director at the end of June and myself taking up the position as chief executive on July 1.
I join the main BGS office team including Sandra Pattinson and Celia Stubbs based at Reaseheath College. My first few days were spent attending the BGS annual summer meeting in Gloucestershire where we visited a number of very interesting farms in the Cotswolds and Severn Vale. There was particular interest around how herbal leys have been successfully integrated into the dairy, beef, sheep and arable enterprises managed by two of the host farmers.
Preparation is now in full swing for our next summer meeting which will be held in Northern Ireland at the beginning of July next year. Sandra and I will be heading to Northern Ireland in early October to meet the organising committee and visit some of the proposed host farms.
BGS attended the recent UK Dairy Day in Telford on September 11. This was a fantastic event and was a great opportunity to meet current BGS members, welcome new ones and develop important links with the industry.
The judging of the three finalists of the BGS Grassland Farmer of the Year competition took place in mid-August. The finalists included dairy farms in Cheshire and Devon, and a sheep farm in Northern Ireland.
The farms had been selected from eight regional entrants and reaching the final three is a great achievement in itself. The overall winner will be announced at an awards evening on October 22 in Beaumaris, Anglesey. Further details of the event can be found on the BGS website.
December will see the conclusion of the current Grazing Mentors project supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund. The project has involved linking up recognised proficient farmers in grassland management with livestock or dairy farmers who are looking to develop and improve their skills in utilising grassland.
Mentor farmers have received training in effective facilitation and mentoring skills while mentees' businesses have benefited from the advice and guidance offered by the mentors.
A number of producers from around the country have taken part in the BGS grazing mentor project since 2016. As part of the conclusion of the project a farm walk will be held in Shropshire at Welbatch Farm near Shrewsbury on November 12 where Duncan and Sarah Howie will discuss the experience of being involved with the project. Further details of the event are on the BGS website.
Tom Goatman is chief executive of the British Grassland Society