Keep­ing your pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment continuous

LEAF’s IFM Man­ag­er, Alice Mid­mer talks about the impor­tance of farm­ers invest­ing in their own learn­ing to help dri­ve for­ward a more resilient and respon­sive farm­ing industry.

"There is one quality that one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it." Napoleon Hill

Farmers have always adopted new ideas, been open minded, pioneered new technology. Essentially, this is how we, as an industry have evolved. Continual improvement and investing in your own and your teams’ learning is the basic building block of LEAF’s Integrated Farm Management. As a farming system it is continually evolving, adapting and responding to a whole raft of societal, political, climatic and legislative influences. And, critically, it’s the practitioners of IFM – the farmers themselves who must also have the same mindset. It’s their willingness to push forward barriers, to imagine, to ‘think big’ that ensures IFM remains dynamic and relevant.

Whether we like it or not, there is a growing climate of measuring our capability and being benchmarked against our peers. Smart farming requires us to keep abreast of new developments, to inquire, to challenge and to pioneer new ideas. As an organisation, LEAF has always encouraged farmers to take ownership of their own professional development. We have invested heavily in providing farmers with the right tools and training to equip them with the skills and know-how to meet changing requirements and challenges head on. And in today’s ever changing technological landscape, with shifting customer demands, coupled with a volatile political climate, as we prepare to exit the EU, the need for farmers to keep ahead of the game, is even more important.

The starting point

The first step to effective continual development is identifying your own skills gaps and keeping one eye open to emerging issues facing your farming business. LEAF’s Sustainable Farming Review is a good starting point – it provides a complete health check for your business, helps identity areas of improvement and in so doing, flag up areas where you may need to ‘up-skill’.

Enhancing your performance

When you’re busy farming, it’s easy to lose sight of the changing needs of the job. Stepping back, reviewing, assessing and taking an objective look at what you could do better and asking whether you have the necessary skills and knowledge to make those changes, should be an integral part of your farming approach. Undertaking learning activities will help to ensure you are more able to adapt to changing requirements and gain a competitive edge. In turn, you’re likely to be more motivated, engaged and responsive.

Knowledge updating

Keeping your knowledge up to date and relevant is key. You may have attended a state of the art soil management training event five years ago, but technology, legislation and best practice advice changes. Continual development has to be just that: continual.


It’s not necessarily always about comparing yourself with your neighbour, its more about measuring your own performance; being the very best you can be. And to do that, you need to commit to updating your knowledge and skills. You need to invest in your own learning.

Whether it’s a one-day course, a free conference or three day residential formal training, it all counts. Take charge of your own and your teams’ learning and development and seek out every opportunity for continual improvement. In doing so, you’ll be a smarter farmer, running a smarter business and ultimately contributing to a smarter farming industry.

LEAF and leading training provider ARTIS have joined forces to bring you some new training courses offering a deep dive into sustainable soil and water management. Taking place on LEAF Demonstration Farms the one-day courses will help growers, farmers and managers tackle emerging opportunities for better soil and water management, through Integrated Farm Management. All courses take place in February 2018 and LEAF Members qualify for a 15% discount on course fees. Click here for more information and to book your place.