It is fair to say that, after the Isle of Mull seemed to have missed out on most of the previous warm weather spells this summer, this last week has more than made up for it.

Being the thin-skinned Continental that I am, I have been thoroughly enjoying the heat – unlike the local natives. The term ‘Redheads’ may have taken on a whole new dimension over the weekend over here!

Many local farmers will be hoping for some rain now as the ground is starting to really burn up and patches of green are turning brown. Some of the white clover flowers have already burnt off.

It has been really interesting to compare how different fields are coping with the heat. The more traditionally grazed fields with shorter vegetation seem to be struggling a bit, while other fields that we have been managing differently do not appear to be suffering.

There is one field in particular that is doing extremely well. It is full of life, healthy, and neither soil nor vegetation appear to be burning off. This is one of several fields where we have been trying in recent years to adopt a better, more rotational grazing system – as much as is realistically possible on a hill farm.

Last year, this field was also oversown with a multi-species seed mix containing everything from grasses and legumes to various herbs. We have intentionally been giving this field longer resting periods to ensure that the vegetation can recover from grazing to the point where the roots can expand further into the soil.

I had listened to an interesting presentation that stated it takes almost three weeks of above-ground growth before the plant will start to use energy towards root development again.

So, we’ve let the sward go to seed intentionally for it to self-rejuvenate naturally – a trial at this stage, but it seems to be working well, even though it looks messy and too rough from a conventional point of view. It certainly goes against anything and everything I learnt at college about good grassland management!

When I was still at college, we had some great tutors who tried to encourage us to think for ourselves and question everything we see or read.

As part of the module ‘Topical Issues’, I discovered the story of ecologist Allan Savory, who gave a very impressive TedTalk about holistic grazing management (available on YouTube if you are interested). He is a man with a very interesting backstory in Africa as a former park ranger, politician and now ecological and agricultural consultant, and his name is well known amongst those seeking to halt desertification, or generally wishing to manage their land in a wholesome way.

He is equally infamous amongst many who criticise him and his work as not being based on sound scientific evidence. I am not here to say 'yea' or 'nay', but he does talk a lot of common sense and he is not afraid of admitting to and sharing his mistakes to educate others.

Savory developed the concept of a holistic management framework which can be applied to any farming or non-farming business. What I really like about his framework is the fact that he has managed to design it in such a way that attempts to capture the bigger picture.

He recognised that everything is interlinked and interdependent and that we sometimes need to take several steps back to be able to see that bigger picture, particularly when we look at land-based enterprises and land use systems.

The vast majority of farmers and crofters that I know have genuine concerns about their impact on the environment and the role they can play to benefit ecosystems and society. It is a hugely complex role and one which Savory’s framework tries to identify by looking at everything from the nutrient, carbon and water cycle to wildlife, local communities and wider social interests.

Farming is not just like any other business and should never have the sole focus of profit maximisation because there is so much more to a farm that is often easily forgotten, particularly by those not directly involved. Our poor decisions harm the environment whilst our good ones can help preserve our ecosystems and decisions made now will affect the viability of future generations to come.

Holistic management is not about drip-feeding farmers little bits of information and support to keep them going until the next paycheck. It is about giving them the knowledge and the tools necessary to make informed decisions so that they can manage a successful, viable and sustainable business that benefits all and harms none.

Remember that saying: “Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you've fed him for a lifetime.”?

The same principle should apply to the way agricultural businesses are supported by taxpayer’s money in return for continuing to deliver existing and delivering additional public benefits. Support payments should not be treated like an afterthought to brush over the losses arising from buying increasingly more expensive inputs and selling at low prices so that the consumer can buy cheap food.

These payments should support farmers on a journey to become businesses that can deliver the many public benefits – including food – demanded by society whilst being profitable in their own right.

A profitable business will achieve far greater things and be much more resilient than a struggling industry ever will be.

But in order for this to happen, we need Government to realise not only the role that good agriculture currently plays, but the role it could play if given the correct support – in every sense.

That requires the involvement of and decision-making by people who haven’t just read ‘Farming for Dummies’ but who actually know how farming works, really works, on the ground, in the tractor, outside in sunshine, rain and snow, in the middle of the night and seven days a week. The alternative is we risk a farming policy that misses the point, delivers nothing, and causes damage that will not be fully recognised until it is too late.

As Eisenhower famously said: “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”