Massey University is leading the carge to train rural professionals to help farmers to produce Farm Environment Plans (FEPs). It is running a series of courses ranging from introductory through to an advanced course. Peter Burke caught up with the participants at the advanced course at Massey recently.
Normally the FLRC workshop runs over three days, but this year because of Covid, the organisers decided to go with a one day event with a single theme – FEP’s. About fifty participants came to the workshop at Massey’s Palmerston North campus while more than 350, including several speakers joined in via zoom.
FEP’s are a tool that has been developed to help farmers recognise on-farm environmental risks and set out a programme to manage those risks. The FEP is unique to an individual farm and the level of complexity of the plan depends on the farm system.
Professor Chris Anderson who heads up the research centre says FEP’s are a huge issue now with big problems such as water and soil quality uppermost in farmers’ minds. He says there is a strong association between dairying and FEP’s because dairy is quite visible. He says the FEP’s are becoming a major tool for dealing with environmental issues. Speakers and participants at the workshop included scientists from Massey, CRIs, regional councils, farm consultants and fertiliser reps.
Anderson says it was great having more than 400 people wanting to know more about these plans.
“We got to a larger audience than we usually do and picked up people who don’t normally come to these workshops. For example we had professionals in the legal space and banks that don’t normally engage with us. The event went well and we quickly overcame the odd technical hitch and we will get better over time. We are confident that what we are doing is working well and the scope is to do it more often,” he says.
Anderson says as the demand for more FEP’s grows, Massey University through his research group has a big role to play in thought leadership and promoting discussion to solve some of the challenges.
“As a research organisation we don’t want to take sides. We are not involved in accreditation or auditing of the plans but we are involved in discussion, training and good science that will underpin the plans,” he says.