A REGIONAL farming organisation providing help to farmer members has teamed up with a national network to exchange ideas and views on the future of farming.

The Farmer Network, an independent, not-for-profit organisation that provides support to nearly 1,200 farmer members throughout Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales, is now linked with the UK Farmer Group Discussion Network (FGDN).

The farming industry is facing a period of profound change, making planning for the future a difficult process. Understanding and taking advantage of new opportunities will be essential to farm viability going forward.

The FGDN was established in 2018 by the University of Exeter to kick-start independent, non-political debate about how to achieve an economically and environmentally sustainable farming sector.

The aim of this national network of farmer discussion groups is to help farmers informally debate with one another across the industry and, while not a lobbying organisation, will provide a vehicle for those views to be heard by policymakers.

FGDN has teamed up with the Farmer Network Ltd in the North of England to work with existing and new grass roots farmer groups. This includes local discussion groups, agricultural societies, and other farmer groups.

Group members discuss a rolling set of topics on a quarterly basis with responses then summarised and incorporated within a newsletter sent to all farmers participating in the discussion. In time, it is hoped that this may lead to exchange visits and further discussion between groups across the country.

The Farmer Network operates two independent networks in Cumbria and The Yorkshire Dales. It also has growing links to farmers in other northern counties. Formed in the aftermath of the foot-and-mouth epidemic 2001, the network is farmer-led and aims to help farm viability and sustainability by reacting positively to every challenge and every opportunity.

Adam Day, managing director of The Farmer Network, said: ‘Farming is integral to the rural economy and there is a period of significant change on the horizon.

"We are delighted to be teaming up with The University of Exeter to create a place where farmers can debate and express views regarding the future of farming and the agriculture industry more widely.

"These discussions are desperately needed and FGDN provides a strong and credible platform."

Alex Inman, founder of the FGDN at the University of Exeter, believes that the farming community has incredible ingenuity, adaptability and a ‘can do’ attitude for which it should be proud.

He said: "Our discussion platform will build connections and we consider it a distinct privilege to be working with The Farmer Network in the north of England on this venture."

FGDN is open to all existing or newly-formed local farmer groups. There are no costs involved and not all members of a given group need to participate. Farmer groups wishing to get involved or needing more information should call Carol Moffat, Farmer Co-ordinator for The Farmer Network, on 01539 621602 or email carol@thefarmernetwork.co.uk.