“Is it time to forget our age?”

25 Jun 2019

We have all read an article or listened to a speech where the emphasis on the “Next Generation” was paramount to the future of our industry and whilst I don’t disagree we have an important role to play, we must collaborate across generations for the sustainability of the agricultural industry.

Late last year I attended the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) Conference held in Alberta, Canada thanks to support from the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS).

RASC is the only Commonwealth organisation that represents agriculture so it felt more appropriate than ever to join the participating delegates from across 11 countries and four continents to share ideas and collaborate.

My participation was part of the Next Generation group of 70 young people under the age of 35 and the group certainly made sure they were heard. They were ambitious, encouraging and I left feeling a sense of empowerment; however, it was the interaction with the speakers and our older peers that really drove home the message – we need to stop relying on others to tell our farming story and work together regardless of age.

This was a similar theme on the recent Netherlands Urban/Rural Learning Journey, organised by Jane Craigie Marketing for the Rural Youth Project and Scottish Enterprise. The group of 5 young rural leaders (18 to 28 years of age) and 15 Scottish Enterprise Rural Leaders had the opportunity to see first-hand how the Dutch are collaborating to improve the perception of agricultural with their consumer, whilst maintaining high-welfare and environmental standards. The inter-generational mix of the delegation has developed mentoring partnerships that will better inform and shape both the young and not-so-young rural leaders as they make key business and personal development decisions.

Farming often faces the challenge of isolation but with the support of networks such as RASC, Scottish Enterprise and the Rural Youth Project there are opportunities to learn and grow. I went to the RASC conference with no pre-conceptions other than the knowledge that I was a “Next Generation” member, I came away with a feeling of unity and friendship from peers twenty- or thirty-years senior. The challenges we face in the UK are recognised across the Commonwealth but so are the solutions and for me our passion for the industry outweighs our age!!

Rebecca Dawes has just been elected as the RASC Next Generation Trustee and Co-Facilitator for the 2020 RASC Conference which will take place in Norfolk, England from 30 June to 11 July.

Rebecca has a First Class Honours degree in Events Management and is a graduate of the Scottish Enterprise Rural Leadership Programme. She is a Director for Scottish Rural Action, Judge for Lantra Scotland Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards and Scottish Co-ordinator for LEAF Open Farm Sunday. She has a real passion for technology and digital communications, and is a farmer’s daughter from a mixed livestock farm; she also has her own herd of pygmy goats.