The storied Nuffield program stems from one mans vision to educate farmers in agriculture practices by sending them afar to learn and engage with the ‘best of the best’ and then return home to share their knowledge. That man was a wealthy entrepreneur, William Morris also known as Lord Nuffield. It was following the Second World War when the UK population was struggling to rebuild, including a need for an improved domestic food production system. Then, like today, scholars chose topics meaningful to themselves, often involving production techniques, farming practices, environmental concerns or like my topic, more of a market focus.
Although the original endowment which funded Common Wealth scholars has depleted, scholars used to spend 6 months abroad working on farms. Convincing my family that leaving for 12 weeks over 1.5 years is a great thing, I suspect if I had the conversation about a 6-month placement in the UK would be a very short conversation. Today, the Nuffield Agricultural Scholarships are independent programs operated by countries in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, Holland, France and Canada. Now based on private funding, Canada is that of a growing organization operated by a volunteer board with a recently appointed part time Executive Director.
Since my announcement of a 2016 Nuffield Canada Scholar, I have met with local stakeholders whom share a common interest in my topic. Having met past and current scholars the Nuffield AGM in November, it demonstrated the mix of diversity and backgrounds in Canadian agriculture linked to Nuffield.
As I arrive in Cavan, ‘The Bread Basket of Ireland’ to meet the 75 current scholars from around the world at the Contemporary Scholars Conference, conversations are sure to be interesting. This conference was held in Canada three years ago and will be in Brazil next year. The focus is to highlight issues in agriculture; technology, health and well being of farmers, European Union policy, but also leadership development. I look forward to learning about the competitive sectors of Irish agriculture and particularly how poultry farming fits within the EU, no doubt there is sure to be many conversations on the state of the dairy sector. I have scheduled a few personal visits related to poultry including local turkey farms.
Canadian scholars are expected to travel for at least 10 weeks, 4 of which are consecutive. My travel includes the Global Focus Program, one of five offered. I will travel with 8 other scholars in for 7 weeks in June and July to Australia, Singapore, India, Qatar, Turkey, France and USA. The balance of my independent travel will occur with trips to western Europe and USA.
Throughout the Nuffield journey, I have made commitments to share the experiences and personalities I meet along the way and bring a perspective to Canadian agriculture from out an outside view. I look forward to speaking to farm and community groups about my experience, but through social media, Twitter, Facebook and my Blog, ongoing communication is a must. To wrap up the scholarship, I will prepare a formal written report, likened to a mini thesis.
None of this would be possible without the Scholarship award from Nuffield Canada, but also private support from local industry and business relationships and importantly are the personal support that I have received from my family. So as the program ramps up over the next while, have a read, send me a message or let me know what you think.
As a condition of applying, my wife Kathryn told me: ‘You cannot apply if I can google the answer’. I look forward to sharing my travel experience, but also creating thoughts, questions and insight you otherwise might not considered.