Oxford conference report challenges farming’s entrepreneurial failings

Farming is less entrepreneurial than many other industries, according to the newly published 2016 Oxford Farming Conference report.

Authored by the Andersons Centre’s Graham Redman and Cranfield University’s Dr Muhammad Azam Roomi, the 43-page report also concludes, however, that farmers who are entrepreneurial are also more profitable.

“Farming is moving into a new era of lower direct subsidies, possibly with more volatile and more challenging market conditions,” state the report’s authors, adding that the long term competitiveness of agriculture is “likely to continue to be increasingly challenging”.

“If you believe that commodity prices will return to high levels in the short term and remain there for the long term, then stay average and good luck,” they state. “But it is pointless doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In light on the “less entrepreneurial” nature of farming, compared with other sectors, they urge industry leaders to recognise this fact and start working to secure a change.

“Young people entering farming should be encouraged to think entrepreneurially,” they state, calling for this to become a new industry focus from college onwards.

“There are lessons to learn. If you can feel the winds of change blowing, then it is time to build a windmill, to create rather than be destructed, and to continue working to grow and develop.”

The report’s conclusions also feature the following list of action points for those who definitely want to get ahead:

  • Look for ways to add value to other peoples’ lives and businesses. This is the key to add value to your own. Why? Free trade assumes both parties in a deal expect to be better off from it.
  • Engage with farm and business people to help act as a catalyst for ideas and opportunity.
  • A farm is an excellent place from which to build an entrepreneurial business, whether diversified or remaining brutally focused on commodity agriculture. The farm offers opportunities to build entrepreneurial ideas into new areas of business.
  • Create opportunities for yourselves rather than wait for them to arrive as the best opportunities are never given away.
  • Implement ways to make fuller use of resources throughout the year; capital, social and human resources alike.
  • Be prepared to test new ideas, they might not all work but they won’t stand a chance without the proactivity and persistence to find out.

“Despite the challenges we all face in farming, the opportunities are considerable, the resources are rich and the rewards diverse and fulfilling,” they add, with their final piece of advice being to make sure you “enjoy the ride” towards farming and entrepreneurial success.

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