During 2019, I had been looking for ways to advance my career in agriculture and enhance my understanding of the many issues currently impacting the industry.

To this end, I applied and was delighted to be accepted as a candidate for the Challenge of Rural Leadership 2020. This renowned course,  which is run by the Worshipful Company of Farmers in conjunction with The Dutchy College Rural Business School, is held each year at Dartington Hall.

One Sunday afternoon in January, the nervous cohort of 15 arrived, with little knowledge of our fellow companions or what the next 14 days had in store.

The Challenge of Rural Leadership, started in 1996 and is aimed at individuals already in management positions, within the agri-food sectors.

The course comprises an intensive programme of management and leadership skills. It aims to provide high achieving managers, with the capabilities to grow and thrive, in the increasingly challenging conditions of the rural, food and agricultural sector.

Later that first Sunday evening, I found myself balanced on a chair, arms wrapped tightly round a total stranger, never doubting the belief that this was going to help me remember their name.

Over the following 2 weeks we became a tight – knit, supportive team, as we learnt strategy, leadership and how to appraise a business from above. Primarily, we learnt about ourselves, our joys and challenges, facing our fears and vulnerabilities.

We were privileged to experience speakers with key leadership roles including Minette Batters on the morning the Agricultural Bill had its first reading in parliament.

We came to this course without prejudgment, in fact, part of the impact was never knowing what to expect next but armed with the unwavering confidence that a fundamental shift was taking place for all of us.

Personally, I came away with a realisation that I had gained confidence and a set of skills and strengths which were unique to my own style.  Tools which would enable me to enhance my current role for Innovation for Agriculture, including planning and problem solving techniques but also friends, who together with me had experienced a life changing 2 weeks.

In all, a fantastic experience at CRL2020. I am looking forward to a bright future with new skills and featuring some of the most amazing people.

I would like to thank everyone who helped make this happen: My sponsors:

The Worshipful Company of Farmers, Innovation for Agriculture and Fisher German, for their generous support.

Richard Soffe, Geoff Kerr and the team from Dutchy College who have produced a life enhancing opportunity.

For more details please contact Course Director, Richard Soffe on 0845 458 7486 or email leadership@dutchy.ac.uk

Deborah Crossan

Soil and Water Manager – Innovation for Agriculture