Friday, January 21, 2011

June 2010 Nuffields GFP

My “Global Focus Group” left Australia on the 6th of June 2010. A GFP is a six week global odyssey around the world looking at agriculture in all its forms. Nuffield Australia make it part of their Scholarship to promote contacts and a better understanding of world agriculture.
The group I was in had a good mix of ag. industries from bee keeping and wild catch crayfishing to your stock standard cropping and livestock businesses. Not forgetting myself in the horticulture category.
We had two New Zealanders in our group, Paul McGill and Desiree Reid, with the balance consisting of six Aussies; Ed Cox, Helen Thomas, Ben Tyley, Ben Hooper, Alan Redfern and myself.
The flight to London via Sydney from Canberra was without drama, albeit a long one.
We lodged at the Farmers Club which is right in the heart of London, a short distance from Trafalgar square. Nuffield has its perks.
It wasn't long before we met up with some of the UK Scholars and together we set out for France to tour the Western Front and attended the service at Menin Gate in Ypres where the names of the lost and fallen line the walls. Every night, traffic is stopped so the service can be held. It is of some significance that the names of Australian soldiers fill these walls and the original lions that once adorned the gate now stand at the entrance to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
A little R&R for the group
We made our way to Brussels for briefings on the EU for a better understanding of their farming subsidies and structure. Our speaker from Ireland really drilled us with some very frank discussions claiming most of the people running the EU are morons!
After Brussels, we returned to England by train. That thing can really move - it was great.
The stay with James Peck (Nuffield UK 2010 Scholar) on his farm was excellent. James runs a cropping and haulage business and manages a grain warehouse on farm.
The UK scholars set out our agenda for the week with trips to Cereals (a large field day) and Rothamsted Research (oldest long term wheat trial in the world, over 160 years).
Farm visits to Jo Paterson's (Nuffield UK 2010 Scholar) and James Peck's were very good value and I enjoyed talking to them about their businesses and the whole thing ended sooner than we would have all liked.
We had a busy time with something on every day. Ireland was no exception and the five 2010 Irish Nuffield Scholars worked hard at maintaining that as soon as we touched down in Dublin.
Ireland's beautiful country side
I now understand why it is called the Emerald Isle. Green, green, green. The farmers here complain about too much rain. If only they could export the stuff. How different their world is to mine.
Brewing, distilling, potatoes and dairy play a big part in this country. Most cereal crops I saw looked great and if they continue to have the great weather we had on our stay they should finish well.
Potato crops looked good and I discovered the Irish prefer a waxy potato over what I would describe as a common potato that we in Australia are familiar with. Rooster was the most commonly grown variety; preferred by the consumer and grower alike. Eating fresh carrots straight out of the ground at O'Shea's farm was as fresh as it gets.
A balloon ride over Kilkenny was a highlight. From the air it was beautiful. We landed in a farmer's field and he and his family got a kick out of having a group of farmers from Australia and New Zealand drop in on them.
Sadly our week in Ireland ended with the scholars - a plane to Washington, DC awaited.

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