Farm Advisory Service - One to Many: evaluation

This report provides an evaluation of the One to Many component of the Farm Advisory Service, delivered by SAC Consulting and provided as part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. It analyses what has been delivered and provides recommendations for the future.

6 Conclusions and Recommendations

Overall, this evaluation has found that, from 2016 to 2020, SAC Consulting have effectively delivered on the specification they have been given. During this time, we have seen consistent increases in the use of the FAS service as provided, as well as innovation and development in the delivery, including experimentation with additional formats like podcasts. While changes are unlikely to be uniform, the high incidence of stated 'intention to change' by FAS event participants and the activity taken in response to advice, as captured in our survey, indicates that impacts are taking place. However, it remains challenging to demonstrate the extent to which the provision of farming advice has changed practices on the ground and this can be partly understood as reflecting limits within our data collection mechanisms. Going forward, more focused and detailed monitoring of impacts should be able to address this.

Farming advice may be able to play a key role in supporting farmers to take advantage of the opportunities facing the Scottish agricultural sector, as well as addressing the challenges. The following recommendations, reproduced from the report above, outline several ways in which farming advice can help to facilitate long-term improvement for the sector and meet the demands associated with the current climate emergency.

6.1 Recommendations

In the main report, the recommendations below are restated in the main text in greater context. However, a summary of the eight main recommendations is provided here:

Recommendation 1: Review Monitoring Framework. Review the KPI arrangements for a future service, and consider the possibility of developing outcome based KPIs. Review the options for establishing effective monitoring of farm improvements, ranging from centrally set and monitored goals to goals established and monitored by individuals or groups of participants.

Recommendation 2: Review Data Strategy. Consider potential mechanisms for regular, representation farm data collection to determine the extent to which FAS is used within the farming population as a whole and how the service is viewed. Consider opportunities for integrating monitoring of farm environments within a broader environmental monitoring strategy. Consider the possibility of a specific farm data strategy for monitoring and benchmarking environmental impacts.

Recommendation 3: Review Engagement Strategy. Consider contractual mechanisms that support the goal of engaging with those who are under-represented in FAS, and the possibility of requiring a detailed engagement strategy that examines subjective and structural barriers. Review whether future farm advice should develop an appropriate customer management system that allows monitoring that tracks additional advice and engagement from customers, to monitor crossover between the different components of the service (in the event that delivery continues to be separated into 'one to one' and 'one to many' components).

Recommendation 4: Review the 'mission' of the service. Consider the value of establishing an updated 'mission' for the service, using a participatory mechanism to ensure wide cross-sectoral buy in. This should be cognisant of the climate emergency and the need to support nature in farming.

Recommendation 5: Review Knowledge Integration: Review mechanisms for knowledge exchange to ensure there is a consistent approach to climate change and environmental practice both on and off farm, potentially incorporating knowledge exchange initiatives like SEFARI, the website that hosts the outputs from publicly funded research into food and agriculture.Similarly, consider the mechanisms for greater integration of FAS in relation to the broader farming advice context, and ensuring specialists knowledge is available and integrated into service provision.

Recommendation 6: Consider Scope for More Holistic Training Integration. Consider whether there is scope for more holistic integration of training with advice provision. Taking a long-term view, consider the scope for FAS to engage with longer-term training and advice mechanisms.

Recommendation 7: Ensure advice is inclusive. Consider the best mechanisms to mainstream the lessons of women-only training techniques, how best to ensure they are available and review barriers to participation that may exist for other equalities groups. For sensitive topics, for example, succession planning and mental health, ensure that FAS can provide an appropriate forum for discussing these sensitively.

Recommendation 8: Engage with Barriers to Following Advice. Consider developing mechanisms to cultivate small, facilitated groups of farmers which can collaboratively develop change over time. A common view among interview respondents was that achieving change is easier in the context of small groups of farmers, rather than individuals, and this should be considered as a mechanism for improving the take-up of advice.



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