15th Congress Proceedings
Helping Farmers Adjust To Policy Reforms Through Demonstration Farms: Lessons From A Project In England
Market pressures and policy changes have heightened interest in knowledge and technology transfer in English agriculture. A government funded project, Forward Farming (2002-2004) established three separate pilots to test different ways of using demonstration to encourage change at farm level: a network of monitor farms covering the arable and livestock sectors; farms demonstrating integration between agriculture and the local community, landscape and markets; and a web-based virtual demonstration farm for the pig sector. This paper reports the results of a government-commissioned evaluation of the project. The methodology for the evaluation is described: quantitative and qualitative methods were used to collect information from host farmers, a wide array of stakeholders and farmers who attended and those who did not attend Forward Farming events. Data were then compared with six case studies of monitor and demonstration programmes. The evaluation found that the monitor farms were successful in attracting farm businesses that already access sources of advice and information and in stimulating ideas for change. However, while there is a strong economic argument for public funding of demonstration, this does not necessarily require a permanent network of fixed farms. Funding to support demonstration activities from a wide range of providers, and to stimulate demand for them among farmers, will provide a more flexible option for the future. Keywords: Knowledge transfer, demonstration farms.