Field Note: Donna Smith shares insights from her time at the RCF’s Farm Support Groups Conference

May 1, 2024

This year’s Royal Countryside Fund Farm Support Groups conference took place when I was just 6 months into my role as Chief Executive at the Scottish Crofting Federation.

The conference was an excellent opportunity for me to come and meet some of not only the RCF staff  that I had been speaking with, but also members of the other groups, some of whom I had already met on the monthly seminars but a lot that were new to me.  The Scottish Crofting Federation has had a long association with the RCF and I was keen to continue that and build my own connections as I grow into my role.

I think I claimed the prize for the furthest travelled, having left my home in Invergordon the morning before and around 500 miles (yes, there’s a song in that) by car, three trains and 9.5 hours of travelling, I made it to the hotel, ready for the next morning.

The journey, which some of my friends and colleagues thought I was slightly crazy making for a 1.5 day event, was totally worth it.  It was really great meeting so many folk and hearing about what their organisations do.  There’s a huge power in knowledge sharing and learning from others and I went home with lots of ideas to mull over.

The sessions and talks were equally worthwhile.  As a new Chief Executive, I had been mulling over how to tell the story of the organization and breathe new life into our media presence so the talks from Anna Jones on Tell Your Story and Steph Brimacombe on Reaching New Audiences, could not have come at a better time for me and I found them hugely valuable. 

It was also great to hear from Sam & Emily from We Are Farming Minds about their mental health journey and the fantastic work they are now doing to support others.  The thing that really stuck with me across all of these sessions was the power of sometimes a single word and for all of us who are supporting crofters and farmers in our own way, the great impact the right words can have.  I also learned things about soil that I had never even contemplated and who knew that a tractor dyno run was a thing?!

All in all, I had a fantastic couple of days and I spent my 9 hour journey home planning how to put some of what I had learned into practice, connecting on Linkedin with some of the fabulous people I had met and looking forward to the next conference for more of the same.

The Royal Countryside Fund would like to thank Aldi UK and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust for supporting our Farm Support Groups Initiative.

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