Food for Thought – Educating the next generation of farmers and food producers
- 16 Jan 2018
- Start time
- 7:30 PM
- Tempest Anderson Hall
- Dr Tim Whitaker, Askham Bryan College
Food for thought –educating the next generation of farmers and food producers
Dr Tim Whitaker, Askham Bryan College
Food security and resilience is of critical strategic importance to the UK’s prosperity and safety. The background is; the UK imports over 50% of the food it consumes, Brexit will have far reaching implications for UK farming and food production, securing safe high welfare food is identified as a fundamental for food production.
Our post 16 education system is about have the most far reaching and important changes it has ever seen. Skilled technically competent and able young people will be required to manage and drive these changes. How do we achieve this?
This was a history of land-based education in England from the establishment of agricultural colleges in the 1880s, through their remit to feed the nation in the Second World War, to the 14 current, land-based higher education establishments. Askham Bryan College today is one of the largest, providing education for 2,500 students each year. The college serves an area of 10,000 square miles in the North of England, covering seven counties, three city regions and five Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), with a turnover of £33 million.
The College has a Rural Business Research Unit which provides data on farming and food production for central government – an EU statutory requirement. The need for accurate data and information is increasing as the UK develops plans for the future of the sector outside the EU. The Common Agricultural Policy provides varying levels of subsidy, such as 25% for upland farms where their profit margins are 5-10% of turnover. These farms will not survive without subsidy. Currently, approximately 50% of food is imported so there is a need to increase food production, particularly as the UK population is estimated to increase to 77 million by 2050. Increasingly, technology such as robot milkers reduces costs and increases productivity but feeding the nation and interesting young people in careers in food and farming is an immense challenge.