This event round-up was kindly written by WiAS Secretary Alix Ritchie.

Woman in Agriculture Scotland (WiAS) members from all over the country gathered at The Den@Culross in November for the AGM and Autumn Event.

The day’s proceedings started with the AGM, chaired by Catherine Sloan, where five new members were elected to join the committee – Cora Cooper, Pippa Ross, Lucy McClymont, Sandra Guthrie and Alison Ross.  They join the existing committee of Carole Brunton (Chair), Iona Smith (Vice Chair), Alix Ritchie (Secretary), Ellie-Louise Sinclair, Ailsa Smith and Alana McLean.

This year’s Autumn Event theme was centered around biodiversity and both Dr Jenna Ross OBE and Nikki Yoxall shared their knowledge, passion and enthusiasm with those attending.

First up was Dr Jenna Ross OBE who talked us through her journey from the home farm in Tarland, through her school and university years, through her time as an scene of the crime officer with Grampian police and to her work as an agricultural researcher and environmental scientist.   Her research work into slugs and nematodes has taken her to live in Norway, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia.  Jenna is focused on improving sustainability and resilience in agriculture and is responsible for international development at the Agri-tech Centre Crop Health & Protection.

Jenna’s Nuffield Farming Scholarship focused on The Future of Slug Control and took her on a 26 week tour of the world.  Based on these investigations Jenna wrote a report outlining emerging pest management techniques which was then used to inform future national and international policy.

Jenna is now working to utilize modern technologies to help the efficiency of pest control to ensure food security across the world.

She is also passionate about the STEM Ambassador programme, the Farmers Club Charitable Trust, is a Scholar of the Oxford Farming Conference Programme and enjoys creating bale art to entertain the local community. One of her greatest accolades was being named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honours.

Next up was Nikki Yoxall who is farmer and Head of Research at Pasture for Life.  Nikki has also recently worked with The Soil Association, Nature Scot and runs Grampian Graziers who manage livestock, manage land and build soil fertility and produce organic meat.

Nikki is also an educator and is exploring agricultural transformation through her PhD research.  She is passionate about moving in from the hedges and edges and creating integrated ecosystems throughout the farm.   She believes that if we harness the power of nature it can act as another member of the team to help the farm business.

Nikki shared a number of different ways this could be done including paddock grazing, agroforestry and increasing plant diversity. She discussed how each of these could bring tangible benefits to the economic, environmental and social sustainability of a farm.

Attendees were shown a number of photos to bring the talk to life, including photos of cows in trees and lots of photos of cow pats!  Nikki spoke passionately about the importance of dung beetles, earth worms and the biodiversity within the soil and the positive impact good management of these can have.  She also discussed some funding options available to farmers and crofters across Scotland to improve conduct soil testing to measure a baseline of a farm’s soil health.

Following the speakers delegates enjoyed chatting over a delicious lunch then rotated around three different workshops.  Turcan Connell delivered a workshop covering routes into agriculture and shared farming options.  Nature Scot discussed working with nature on your farm and members of the Women in Agriculture committee delivered a speed networking session.

RSABI were in attendance selling a selection of Christmas cards and gifts and participants also heard about charity CoppaFeel.

 

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