Discussing everything from the importance of getting yourself in the room to earning your place on merit were common themes at the Ulster Famers Union Inaugural Women in Business Conference.
Ruth Sanderson of BBC was our wonderful host for the day and first up was Roseann Kelly chief executive of Women in Business (WIB). Roseann is passionate about supporting women in business and has been instrumental in helping forge links between Women in Business and the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU). It was interesting to note that as a UFU member you can now register for free to become a member of WIB. Roseann introduced WIB long standing member Tracy Hamilton, Brand Director of Mash Direct. Tracy discussed the power of the networking within WIB and the high calibre of mentoring available, whilst also touching on the mentoring she herself has done with Rory Best as he progressed to life after rugby. Tracy spoke of the journey she and her husband Martin took from the light blub moment to diversify their business when they established Mash Direct, to how their two sons have joined them to grow the business in an ever changing and competitive agri food market. It wonderful of Tracy to share some of her “lessons learnt”.
The next speaker to take to the stage was co-chairperson of the Scottish government’s Women in Agriculture Taskforce Joyce Bannerman-Campbell. Joyce is a third-generation sheep farmer of Armadale Farm in the North coast of Scotland. Joyce farms 5500 acres which is home to approximately 830 pure-bred North Country Cheviot Hill ewes in addition to approximately 50 rams, 255 ewe hogg replacements, 25 suckler cows and some free-range outdoor hens. Armadale Farm was the first farm in Sutherland to have the Great White Sheep Taken North in 1791. Joyce is certainly straight talking and proactive in promoting the agricultural industry. She is clearly someone who likes to get things done and stresses to all of the women at the conference that if they want things to change that they can be instrumental in doing so by getting themselves in the room, attending those meetings, joining those committees that aren’t delivering for them and their farm and basically getting empowered to do it themselves. Joyce encouraged everyone to face their challenges head-on and to always remember a mistake is only a failure if you don’t learn from it. It was refreshing to hear her share how being challenged by her twin niece and nephew has changed her thinking and helped make her farm more profitable and advises everyone to embrace challenge. Joyce is such a positive role model to women in agriculture and obviously takes time management and multi tasking to a whole new level. I look forward to following her on social to be further inspired.
It was great to catch up with Zita McNaugher president of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster as we discussed how far FarmCompare.com has come since we last met pre our launch in May. Zita was one of the panelist on the “We are resourceful” Panel Discussion, which also included Deirdre O’Shea executive director of Agri Aware and Rhonda Geary, operations manager with the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society (RUAS). All 3 women leading in their own roles to promote a positive image of the agricultural industry and reminding us of how we have a world class agri food industry to be proud of. Discussing the importance of educating tomorrows farmers of the endless career opportunities available and to how 50% of agricultural college classrooms are now female. A key theme from all the discussions was the need to educate children at primary school age to encourage them to want to know about their food and where it came from and the importance of this information. Speaking with Deirdre afterwards she explained how Agri Aware have collaborated with the UFU with their Dig It Programme to set the seed early with our young children. This is a wonderful resource for any school to avail of and I encourage anyone with a connection to a school to pass this link onto them https://www.ufuni.org/education and ROI schools version https://www.agriaware.ie/digin.html.
Hannah Jackson – a rural ambassador and in the farming world is better known as ‘The Red Shepherdess’ . Hannah’s light bulb moment of knowing she wanted to be a farmer came after watching a lamb being born. Hannah shared her journey from being a townie to setting her first step on a farm when she was 20, proving that you don’t have to grow up on a farm to be a farmer. Hannah knew what she wanted and with hard work, determinisation and by the sound of it a lot of resilience she has developed herself as a leading well respected brand within the Agricultural industry with 'The Red Shepherdess’. She shared the pains and gains in getting to this stage and key to that was placing yourself in the right place to learn from the right people. Hannah has established herself as a highly sought after skilled shepherdess and her Practical Guide to Lambing received enthusiastic reviews and in 2017, she was appointed as a National Sheep Association ‘Next Generation’ ambassador, inspiring young people who want to get into agriculture. Promoting mindset and success she advised how everyone should choose their thoughts every morning just like they choose their clothes- such simple advice but worth embracing. This is defiantly one brand I look forward to hearing more about.
The Ulster Farmers Union did a wonderful job in delivering an extremely informative and inspiring day for anyone in the Agricultural industry and especially women. The conference was concluded with another strong female Chef Paula McIntyre who delivered a live cookery demonstration with some seasonal dishes. Paula has a very impressive CV but I would certainly say her wit and charm is as strong as her cooking ability, she was certainly a real tonic and had the room in stitches and I particularly enjoyed the story about knowing the difference about having a bit a craic and looking stupid on a leading TV show.
Farm Compare were delighted to attend this fantastic and celebration of women doing brilliant work in the world of agriculture!