Archie Griffin’s passport book would be the envy of any jetsetter. In the last two years, he’s visited farms in 14 different countries—all with the goal of bringing new ideas home to his Washington, N.C. row crop operation.
Griffin is a 2018 Nuffield Scholar, which is an international program that started in 1947. Although it is still gaining traction in the U.S., the Nuffield International Farming Scholars program is an elite opportunity for producers across the globe. Each class of up to 85 farmers and ag professionals embarks on an international journey to study key issues and develop a worldwide network.
Applicants select an individual study topic to explore, culminating in a report that makes them an industry leader at home and around the world. Examples include farmland ownership models, environmental impacts and farm technology.
Griffin serves as vice president of Griffin Farms, which produces tobacco, corn, soybeans and wheat. He used his scholarship to study how farms can find success if their primary products are facing declining consumption, value and profit margins. During his international farm visits, he discussed finance and budgets with farmers, looking for common threads and innovative ideas.
“It's not until you step outside your comfort zone that you truly begin to, to grow, and change and do things differently,” he says. “The exposure, the connections and the insights that are gained is unbelievable.”
Transformational Travel. The Nuffield experience can be a game changer for those involved in U.S. agriculture, says Jean Lonie, Nuffield USA vice president,
“Building a global network at this at this moment is just critical,” she says. “It sparks a desire in you to keep growing and to find the time to get off the farm and engage elsewhere, which is just as important. It builds confidence and capacity—personally and professionally—in people.”
The perfect candidate for the program is someone who is intellectually curious, says Ed Kee, Nuffield USA president.
“We want scholars who are just eager to learn about agriculture and farming systems in different parts of the world,” he says.
Scholars should also understand the reciprocity of the program, Kee says. “The network is so good from the business point of view. But you’ll also crate lifetime friendships that cross continents and oceans.”
For Blake Vince, a farmer from Merlin, Ontario, the motivation for applying to be a Nuffield Scholar was the opportunity to study conservation practices.
“Lake Erie’s ongoing problems with algae blooms really made me look at the impact that I was having on the water resources as a farmer,” he says.
In 2013 and 2014, he spent time studying cover crops and the importance of biodiversity in soil. As a result, he’s implemented new production practices on his farm, which is located on the north side of Lake Erie, about an hour east of Detroit, Mich.
The Nuffield experience gave Vince the opportunity to meet people from dozens of countries and be exposed to various types of agriculture.
“There's a common thread that I find amongst agriculturists,” he says. “Regardless of the industry that you represent, we're all committed; and what fuels successful businesses directly comes back to the passion of the owner and the drive to succeed.”
Global Thought Leader. The takeaways from the experience have a waterfall effect on the industry, Lonie says. “It builds resiliency in the individuals, which builds resiliency in communities, which builds the resiliency in the food system.”
Nuffield scholarships are available in 12 countries. As of 2019, the U.S. has had six Nuffield scholars, since the program is still growing.
“But in other countries, our scholars truly are the thought leaders in agriculture,” Lonie says. “These are the people that governments ring up for thoughts. These are the folks that are innovating on the farm and in the industry and their community. When you're given this gift and you have this experience, people are pretty impressed with it. It opens doors for you to go into places and have conversations you may not have before—and all of that has cumulative effect.”
You can join the ranks of this prestigious group by applying for a Nuffield Farming Scholarship. Valued at $60,000 (covered by the program), a Nuffield Scholarship includes 16 weeks of group and personal travel over the span of 18 months. Applicants must have direct engagement in the agriculture industry and be between the ages of 28 and 45 (other ages will be considered).
Applications are due Sept. 30, 2019. Visit nuffieldinternational.org to download an application and learn more.
Four Components Of A Nuffield Scholarship
The Nuffield International Farming Scholars program involves two years of international travel and agricultural networking. Here’s an overview of what participants will experience.
Contemporary Scholars Conference: A weeklong program in March for newly selected scholars (for 2020, it will be held in Australia). Speakers share insights on trade and policy issues. Scholars develop skills in practical and political leadership.
Global Focus Program: For six to seven weeks, scholars travel the globe to investigate agricultural marketing, trade and environmental issues, all while experiencing the social and cultural aspects of each region. These trips include visits to countries such as Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand and the U.S.
Private Study: After the conference and focus program, scholars embark on a seven- to eight-week individual study program. They visit countries of choice on a study topic relevant to agriculture.
Reporting: Scholars write a report about what they discovered, what it means for their investor and ag, and how it will make demonstrative business changes. They give a verbal presentation at an ag conference.