I have a confession – ever since my early teens I have wanted to be Tom Cruise!! I want to soar through the skies in a fighter jet, doing twists and turns as he did in the film Top Gun. What I didn’t want to be was a women working in the agricultural and rural sector and yet it is the environment I have grown up in as a farmer’s daughter. In fact when I went to university to do my Event Management degree and on day one we were asked to consider if we would like to follow a specialism, I quickly noted “no weddings, no agriculture”.
And yet here I am today working in the very sector! It seeps into your blood, overtakes your mind and the excitement you get when you have the opportunity to put on your wellies is something I now never want to give up. But it took leaving the family farm for me to realise what an amazing industry I had at the tips of my fingers.
I grew up on a family beef, sheep and arable farm in England where we also ran a farm shop, butchery, tearooms and regular events and educational visits. Our purpose was to bring the consumer to the farm so they could see how and where their food was produced which in turn would encourage them to buy British. And it worked – we won England’s Top Farm Shop, welcomed over 8,000 people annually for food and farming events such as lambing days, butchery courses and LEAF Open Farm Sunday, had a staff team of over 20 and contributed thousands of pounds back to the local community via fundraising each year. We were playing a key role in investing in our local economy but it wasn’t where I wanted to be full-time.
With parents keen that I explored opportunities, and still this feeling that agriculture wasn’t quite for me, I went off to do International Events for pharmaceutical clients travelling all across the world. I stayed involved in the farm business working weekends in the farm shop, managing their newsletters and putting together anything technical i.e. databases
Less than a year in, I was handing in my notice, setting up a freelance event management business and working full-time for the family business. However much I thought I didn’t want to be involved, the reality was I did – because I didn’t want to work the land and actually be a farmer, I thought I had to try something different.
But the world of agriculture and rural life offers so many different careers, you don’t have to put your wellies on and get dirty to play a key part in it (although I take any opportunity to get out on farm now with my own pygmy goat herd!).
I spent two years working part time on a food and drink, and flower and gardening festival so I had the opportunity to develop my own skills away from the farm whilst remaining actively involved. In 2013 after two decades, we decided to sell the farm and return to Scotland where our family originates.
Still not wanting to farm, I joined the Scottish Association of Young Farmers’ Clubs as their Communications and Rural Affairs Manager. This included developing industry links, farm visits, international study tours, training and skills, political engagement, managing on and offline media channels, writing features and ensuring young people have an active role within the sector.
I then joined and now work for Jane Craigie Marketing, an agency that specialises in the agricultural and rural sector. We support clients to tell their story, working with farmers and businesses across the UK including the Oxford Farming Conference, Interagro, Agrovista, LEAF Open Farm Sunday, BASF, MDS, ABP, Velcourt and the Turriff Show. We are creative, have fun and play a key role helping the farming community and consumer learn more about the economy in which we are all so passionate. And for us, part of what allows us to enjoy our job is the flexibility to work from any of our offices, all located in the countryside or the centre of a farm yard. I could be looking out at sheep in Kinross or cattle in Galloway.
We also launched the Rural Youth Project in 2018, an initiative to look at the challenges and opportunities for young people in rural areas with the objective of reducing the number of under 30’s who migrate away. Through leadership, skills and confidence development we support individuals so they can go back and make a change, developing personal and community-led solutions with intergenerational engagement. We are currently working on plans for the next two years including events, training, learning journeys, storytelling, filming, big rural ideas workshops and international partnerships.
So my journey started with a desire to work as far away from the agricultural and rural sector as possible but today I am more involved than I was growing up on the family farm. I now find myself looking for opportunities to do more – I am a judge for the Scotland Lantra Learner of the Year Awards, Scottish Coordinator for LEAF Open Farm Sunday, a former Director of Scottish Rural Action and in less than three months’ time will be taking on a new voluntary role that will allow me to be involved in agriculture beyond UK waters.
For me being a woman in the agricultural and rural sector has only been a disadvantage because of my own personal belief that I had nothing to contribute. How wrong was I. I don’t need to drive a tractor, calve a cow or combine a field of wheat to be part of the industry…..challenge your perceptions, look for a career that captivates you and keeps your mind open to opportunity, because you never know where it might lead.