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Latest News / Simon Cook’s Nuffield Thoughts

Simon Cook’s Nuffield Thoughts

NZKGI Forum and & Executive Committee member Simon Cook has embarked on his Global Focus Program which is the second of the three core components that make up his Nuffield year. Read about Simons thoughts of the Nuffield Scholarship and what it means below.


I’m writing this sitting in an airport lounge waiting for a flight Singapore. This is something I’m about to get rather accustomed to as I head off on a whirlwind tour around the globe as part of my Nuffield scholarship.

I’m about to embark on what is know as the Global Focus Program or GFP which is the second of the three core components that will make up my Nuffield year.

Taking a step back, what is a Nuffield Scholarship and what does it mean. The scholarships have a long tradition primarily in the dairy and broad acre cropping areas and are not as well known in other primary industry areas such as Horticulture where I come from. The scholarships are considered internationally as one of the most prestigious agriculture based scholarships.

The scholarships are named after Lord Nuffield, or as he was originally known William Morris, The British engineer and industrialist who founded the Morris Motor Company and is probably best known for giving the world the Morris Minor. Using the success he had enjoyed in Business, Lord Nuffield became a leading philanthropist in the areas of Health and Education. Following the Second World War Lord Nuffield also initiated a scholarship scheme to allow British and Empire farmers to travel and promote best practice in agriculture. That tradition started in 1947 continues today and has grown to include around 70 scholars each year from a number of countries around the world. New Zealand now contribute 5 scholars each year and in 2018 I am lucky to be part of that group.

The scholarship has three core components. The first is a conference where all 70 scholars from around the world are brought together for a week of learning and interacting. This year the Contemporary Scholars Conference or CSC was held in the Netherlands and during the week there we were exposed to all facets of Dutch agriculture and a history of Europe and the devastating effects the Second World War in particular had on Dutch and European agriculture. The severe famine was a result of the decimation of European agriculture during the war. The famine helped drive the formation of the EU and the creation of agricultural subsidies as a means to ensure Europe never again suffered such a devastating food shortage.

There is a stark difference in the way primary producers are respected in countries that have known true food shortages, and it is interesting to compare to the way farmers are treated in a country like New Zealand where the public have no understanding of famine and what life is like if the agricultural systems do fail.

The second component is the GFP, a six week programmed study tour where you travel in a group of 8-9 scholars from around the world and you visit up to six different countries on different continents exploring the agricultural, economic and cultural make up of those countries.

The third component is a further 10 weeks or so travelling on your own exploring a particular subject of interest. This investigation culminate in the presentation of a report of your findings and then a presentation of those findings at a biannual Nuffield Conference.

Given the history of PSA in the Kiwifruit industry and my own involvement with the industries biosecurity body Kiwifruit Vine Health, it was only natural that my individual travel would focus around biosecurity, and the recent incursion of Mycoplasma Bovis has only served to reinforced the importance of focusing on this area.

I have left behind a family I wont see for about 3 months and an orchard that is only half way through its harvest. The opportunity to travel and learn does have a significant cost, felt most sharply by those left behind to look after the family or run my business. It is only with their full support that I have been able to take up this amazing opportunity and will have my work cut out for my repaying the sacrifices they are making. I am sure my wife will never let me hear the end of this.

I will endeavour to send regular updates back to let people know where I have got to and what I have seen in the hope that it inspires others to take up this opportunity and become a Nuffield Scholar in their own right.