This month, TMAF Farm Manager David Jones gave an inspiring talk to the 2024 group on the John Forrest Award Communications Skills course.
“It’s hard to believe that 12 years ago I cautiously turned up for a 3 day enhance your communications skills course in Cambridge.
It all came about following the loss of the late John Forrest of Suffolk, who sadly passed away before I moved to Norfolk. John had been a great supporter of The Morley Agricultural Foundation (TMAF) and The Felix Thornley Cobbold Trust (FCAT).
By all accounts, John was a progressive farmer with an enquiring mind looking for new ideas and advances in technology. He often commented on how some of the greatest scientific minds were good at the science but not so good at explaining their discoveries to a wider audience.
Funding the Forrest legacy to train better communicators
From the money raised at the funeral, and subsequently contributions from TMAF and FCAT, an annual 3-day training course was set up – the John Forrest Award (JFA) – to help agricultural academics, advisors, farmers and managers to learn to be better at sharing their messages.
I joined the 2nd JFA course in 2012. It is important to remember that back then things were a bit different. The iPhone was new. Taking pictures with phones was new and the quality of the images was not great. Video on a phone was nothing but a pipe dream. But the power of social media was becoming clear.
The JFA course inspired me there and then to be a content creator. On the way home from the course I stopped to buy new still and video cameras. The next day I joined Twitter. The next turning point was when we got fibre broadband to the house here at Morley. The things I could watch, interact with, and share became limitless.
Going back to inspire the next JFA participants to get ahead
I am very honoured and proud to say that every year since the course Susie Emmett, the course leader, has invited be back to be the after-dinner speaker to reflect on another year presenting and sharing. Although largely I talk about similar things, I make a real effort to make it different each time: using new examples, different techniques and technologies. There is always a way to be better and provide a fresh perspective.
As the class of 2024 heard me say, there are still lots of good examples of bad communication practice. Which is why TMAF and Felix Cobbold Trust chose and paid for another eight young agriculturalist to become inspired and enthused to challenge their existing skills to become better communicators.”