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The benefits of the monitor farm programme may extend much further than previously thought, delegates at a workshop run by Quality Meat Scotland heard this week.

Farmers from all over Scotland who are involved in the monitor farm programme, along with the facilitators who support the project, gathered to pool ideas on making the most of the programme in the future.

The potential for the programme to nurture the rural leaders of the future was one area under discussion and a project to investigate this is underway, lead by Julian Pace of Scottish Enterprise.

Mr Pace will look at the extent to which the farmers who have taken part in the programme contribute more actively to the rural economy. Anecdotally, they seem to be more willing to take on new off-farm activities. The role of monitor farmer appears to give them additional drive and allows them to implement strategic decision-making on-farm.

Taking part in the programme has also seen improvements in the way different generations work together in the family business, delegates heard. One monitor farmer reported that his farm’s involvement had reduced the “old bull, young bull” tension which had existed between him and his son, with the different generations gaining a greater appreciation of the thinking – and usefulness - of the other.

One attendee suggested that the benefits extend beyond the monitor farmers and include those in the community group who attend meetings. Group members develop the confidence to put forward their views in a way readily understood by others. Community group members are encouraged to play an active part in the meetings and frequently act as chair.

One facilitator pointed out the very beneficial effect from involving farm staff in the programme, as many have increased their confidence in speaking to an audience and explaining the pride they take in their work.

The 25th monitor farm in the history of the programme was announced recently with the appointment of the first monitor farm for Moray and Nairn which holds its opening meeting near Rafford on the 9th June. The programme continues to go from strength to strength with recent meetings attracting attendances of up to 100 farmers and representatives from the agricultural community.

“This was an important opportunity to bring new, current and previous monitor farmers and facilitators together to share their experience and enthusiasm for this exciting work.

“The monitor farm programme is farmer led and it is the farmers’ ideas, suggestions and encouragement that helps to improve its effectiveness and relevance to a wider rural audience,” said Peter Beattie, Technical Projects Manager, QMS who co-ordinated the day.

For more information on the monitor farm programme, including dates of forth-coming meetings and the latest reports visit www.qmscotland.co.uk