Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC)

Published in the Scottish Farming Journal – September 2018

In my last article I documented the beginning of my Nuffield journey, from the initial application process, through to receiving the awarded at the Winter conference in November 2017. This month I want to cover what is known as the Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC), an annual event where the current cohort of global Nuffield scholars come together to share ideas, develop leadership skills and learn about current opportunities and challenges in global agriculture.

However, before the CSC began, it is tradition for all the UK Nuffield scholars to gather in London for a briefing, and for an intense few days of lectures and workshops. We had some fantastic speakers, including Prof David Hughes, who covered global food and drink issues, from the slow food movement to the beyond burger. We also had presentations from Sir Peter Kendall, Chairman of the AHDB, and Dame Helen Ghosh, former Director General of The National Trust.  In addition, we received insightful workshops covering leadership skills training, public speaking, media coaching, photography and report writing, ensuring we were fully prepared for the challenge lying ahead of us. However, the highlight of the week for me was a visit to the House of Lords, where our host, Baroness Byford, very kindly volunteered her time to discuss the future of agricultural policy in the UK.

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Figure 1: 2018 UK Nuffield Scholars at Westminster

A second bonus of this week was staying at the Farmers Club, which is a hop skip and a jump away from Downing Street. One of the perks of being a Nuffield scholar is that you get free membership to the Farmers Club for an entire year. I must admit, I have definitely taken full advantage of my membership over the last few months.

After our intense week in London, the next phase was to head to the main 10-day CSC event. This year it was held in the Netherlands, which despite its size, is the second largest exported of agricultural products after the US.

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Figure 2: Center Parcs De Eemhof in the Netherlands was the location for the 2018 Nuffield CSC

The CSC did not disappoint. It was full of insightful lectures and speakers, that echoed the sentiment of innovation, customer focus and value-add. We also gained a deeper understanding of agriculture in the Netherlands, covering land and water management, through to the Hunger Winter of WWII.  The CSC was also a time of self-reflection and personal development, and an opportunity to share ideas, develop professional networks and visit diverse agricultural businesses. In fact, one of the best parts of the CSC was the field trips. My personal favourite was the Royal FloraHolland flower auction, where we watched world traders bid against the clock to buy flowers from over ten countries.

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Figure 3: Royal FloraHolland flower auction

I also really enjoyed the trip to the World Horticultural Centre, where we met with Rob Baan, founder of Koppert Cress, which is a microgreens company. Rob was incredibly charismatic, with a passion for innovation, health and value-add.

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Figure 4: Rob Baan, founder of Koppert Cress

We also spent time analysing various farm businesses, with my group looking at dairy farming close to urban areas. We looked at businesses who were utilising robotic dairy systems and vending raw milk and eggs.

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Figure 5: Vending of raw milk in the Netherlands

The CSC concluded with a final conference dinner at Ruurlo Castle where we were joined by a couple of classic Nuffield tractors.

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Figure 6: Jenna at the final conference dinner with the Nuffield tractor

The final dinner was an opportunity to reflect on the 10-day long CSC, as well as prepare for the next step in our Nuffield adventures. For me, that included joining eight other international Nuffield scholars to start what is known as the Global Focus Programme (GFP). The GFP is an opportunity to travel across three continents over five weeks to look at global agriculture. Our GFP trip aimed to visit the US, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Kenya and South Africa, and analyse the challenges and opportunities in each respective country.

The next morning, we were up early and flew out to Portland, Oregon, where we were straight into meetings. Join me next time to hear more about these meetings, and the next leg of my Nuffield adventures. You can also follow my journey on twitter @DrJennaRoss.


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