Growing the system from the roots up

New three-year programme of farmer-led learning in Northern Ireland announced

12th May 2022

This week, as farming families gather at the Balmoral Show and Stormont political parties wrangle over a cohesive future for the Executive, GrowIN – the Growing Innovation Network – announces a new three-year programme of shared learning opportunities for farmers in Northern Ireland.

GrowIN is a farmer-led network, funded by the Ashden Trust and delivered by the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission. It aims to bring together farmers and amplify their work. Supporting innovation and amplifying farming experiences is all the more vital given the recent election and the need to avoid gridlocked farming policy and payments. Networks, such as these, are a key part of developing resilience and ensuring a thriving farming sector.

Over the next three years, the GrowIN team will host a hybrid programme of farm visits and online learning experiences, designed to tackle a range of pressing and practical topics. In addition, the GrowIN platform will give farmers flexible access to a farmer-led discussion forum, to a bank of learning resources and to examples of change from other farmers – all flexibly accessible whilst on the go, through the GrowIN app. The team hopes to grow the GrowIN community itself further, and to work with similar networks in Ireland and beyond, to increase the opportunities to share learning.

GrowIN team member Will Frazer welcomed the opportunity, saying: “farmers are a force for change, and GrowIN is a new farmer-led movement focused on working together, helping each other, sharing stories, ideas and knowledge to drive innovation. Thanks to this funding, farmers in Northern Ireland will have more opportunities to learn from each other and work together to tackle challenges and opportunities, like the rising costs of inputs, the role of modern technology and accessing new markets for fibre, carbon and environmental delivery. Topics like soil health, carbon, and horticulture are also high on people’s minds - and we will be organising farm visits and events for farmers to get together and discuss these topics and other opportunities for their businesses.”

FFCC Northern Ireland Director John Woods added, “We are delighted to be partnering with the Ashden Trust over the next three years to support the GrowIN network of farmers to lead the way in tackling the food, climate, nature and health crises facing society in Northern Ireland. A lack of agreement around the future of the Stormont Executive, means that now more than ever farmers can and should act as the driving force in developing a sustainable and resilient farming sector, fit for the future.”

The network looks forward to working with a range of partners already active in supporting innovative and regenerative approaches to farming - promoting collaboration in tackling the challenges ahead.