Farming: Sustainability is at the forefront for young farmers
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SAYFC had a very successful weekend at their Agri and Rural Affairs Conference 2023.
Attendees travelled from across Scotland and beyond to enjoy a packed schedule full of panels, farm tours and breakout sessions all centred on the theme of Sustainability.
The Conference began on Friday Night with the YF Centre Send Off Dinner and Panel Night.
The Panel which was entitled Success Through Sustainability and supported by Johnston Carmichael delved deep into the topic of how sustainable farming practices can be best utilised to help the land, livestock and the wallet.
The panellists covered the shift from reliance on traditional subsidies, the trusting and utilisation of natural processes in farm systems and a change in the very idea of what and who we are farming for.
Speaking after the evening, panellist Nikki Yoxall had this to say: “For me it’s about seeing nature and natural systems as a key member of the team on the farm, it can do the heavy lifting for us if we just let it. Sometimes we try really hard to manage out nature because it gets in the way but hearing from Chris (fellow panellist Chris Leslie of Cloud Farming) about dropping out so many inputs, once you get those soils working, once you start down that process and we’ve seen that with the cattle as well, the benefits are clear to see.
"Its really exciting that there’s so much interest in this area and we had so many great questions from the audience.
"There’s lots of opportunity in this line of thinking and farming practice especially as we start to see that shift in policy coming in in the next few years.”
On the Saturday the attendees spent the morning attending farm tours to the Roslin Institute, the Moredun Foundation and Cloud Farming.
At the Roslin Institute (SRUC’s bioscience research base) Dr Jos Houdijk (Professor of Animal Nutrition and Health) and Dr Spiridoula Athanasiadou gave the members an insight into the current projects and research the institute are undertaking.
After this, at Moredun, some attendees got to grips with VR technology.
While at the visit to Cloud Farming’s East Lothian base, director Chris Leslie gave an overview of their sustainable farming operations including a farm walk around their arable unit and an insight into their contracting and consultancy business.
The afternoon was spent in a variety of breakout sessions covering a wide range of interesting topics including drone technology, biomass diversification, understanding subsidies, analysing soil health and farm safety. These sessions provided a wide range of useful and thought-provoking info for attendees to take on and possibly use to influence their own sustainable farming journeys.
That evening, Conference delegates had a chance to let their hair down at SAYFC’s annual Five Star Awards. Where the hard work of members and supporters over the year is recognised and celebrated.
The evening was a great success with attendees dancing and celebrating well into the night.
The weekend ended with a final farm tour on Sunday morning hosted by the Black Family of Mawmill Farm in Kinross. This mixed arable and potato farm have invested heavily in renewable energy projects including biomass, solar and heat pumps. They also gave a tour of their latest diversification, Pawmill, a dog park for local pooches.
Reflecting on a hectic weekend of activities, National Agri and Rural Affairs Chair John McCulloch had
this to say: “We have had a fantastic weekend at Ingliston for our Agri and Rural Affairs conference 2023, focussed around the theme of Sustainability.
"It was massively important for us to follow this theme this year, with making businesses more sustainable and resilient, being the focus of many farmers up and down the country in these challenging times.
"As always, we had a strong turnout from young farmers all over Scotland. We also welcomed exchangees from Northern Ireland, Wales and England.
"A huge thanks must go to the staff behind the scenes, our panellists, farm visit hosts and those who delivered breakout sessions for giving their time generously to come and support the conference."