FAS Connect is a new service from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service that aims to bring farmers and crofters together to share experience, ideas and knowledge to tackle the big problems.
Expanding on successful pilots of a small group learning approach, FAS Connect is establishing 40 discussion groups across the country covering a range of topics including improving biodiversity, increasing sustainability of a dairy herd or rotational grazing. Groups will consist of around fifteen farmers or crofters with the aim of bringing together like-minded people. Each group will have three meetings per year on topics decided by the group members.
FAS Connect aims to blend technical information with networking and learning from each other. Working closely with a dedicated group facilitator these small groups will be able to tailor content more effectively than larger group meetings.
FAS Connect in action
A few of these smaller discussion groups have been running on a pilot basis for a few years. One such group is Forage for Profit. This group is run in the Stranraer area and facilitated by Lorna Galloway. The group brought together farmers from a range of farm types with one thing in common- they wanted to make better forage to reduce their feed costs.
Over the past few years the group have looked at a number of topics. Here’s what two of the group members said to us about being part of a local group.
Sandy Hamilton farms in partnership with his wife Paula near Glenluce in South West Scotland. The Hamiltons started farming in 2016 establishing a flock of Cheviot ewes and Black Baldie and Hereford cattle. Sandy and Paula place a heavy emphasis on utilising grass and forage crops. In 2018 Sandy joined the Farm Advisory Service’s forage for profit discussion group which brings together beef and sheep farmers in the Wigtownshire area who are trying to increase the sustainability and profitability of their business through a greater use of homegrown forage. Sandy says, “You always learn something from the group meetings.”
He has been able to share his ideas for his use of forages with the other group members and benefit from their advice on things they have tried. “It’s good to get together with other farmers and share the good and bad days.” Over the last few years the discussion group have visited different farmers across the region who are growing forage crops and rotational grazing to reduce their reliance on concentrates, visited each other’s farms to take ideas from other group members, had a virtual farm tour in New Zealand and welcomed a raft of specialist speakers.
Ewan Cameron runs a beef finishing farm with his brother Fraser near Stranraer. The Cameron’s focus on using homegrown forage for finishing cattle, growing a combination of forage crops such as forage rape, barley and grass and red clover mixes. Ewan joined the discussion group in 2018 with other local farmers also keen to do more with homegrown forages.
“The members of the group are really supportive of each other and it’s great to have a group all with similar enterprises to bounce ideas from.” He goes on to say, ‘It’s good to get out and see what other people are doing and hear from different people within the industry to pick up new ideas that can be applied on your own farm.”
How do I get invloved?
Our FAS Connect survey is now closed but if you would like to be put in touch with the team organising the project then email our advice line on firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get your details to the project organiser.
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