THERE was an international vibe about this year’s Wales Farming Conference, which instead of being the usual action-packed day-long event in Mid Wales, was held over four days, remotely! But don’t worry if you missed out, it’s all available online.
The programme, delivered digitally because of Covid 19 restrictions, was diverse, covering important and often controversial topics, including the recently struck Brexit deal, with speakers from New Zealand, Australia, Copenhagen, many corners of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
Einir Davies, development and mentoring manager with Farming Connect, said that this year’s first- ever online event had been a huge success, exceeding expectations in terms of engagement.
“We are normally limited by the size of the venue when we hold this biennial conference, and were always delighted to attract capacity audiences of up to 150, but this year modern technology resulted in over 1,200 online views which is fantastic.”
“We planned a varied programme of events, and the fact that registering just once gave attendees access to every online single presentation and four evening Q&A sessions, at any time to suit themselves from the convenience of home, proved a winning formula,” said Ms Davies. Ms Davies added that every element of the conference was recorded and is now available to view here.
Danish agri-food journalist Anne Villemois brought the proceedings to a close at a live Q&A session from her home in what was once Copenhagen’s meat packing district. Now full of hipsters with a proliferation of vegetarian eating places, Anne asked her audience whether it was time for farmers to avoid using terms such as ‘killing’ or ‘slaughtering’ livestock.
“Perception is king,” said Anne, who encouraged her audience to be more transparent, to consider all their communications carefully, and to use terminology less likely to alienate consumers. Anne also wanted to persuade more farmers to invite people of all ages onto their farms – to see just how respectful farmers are of livestock, land and the wider environment.
“Don’t get swallowed up by the debate on veganism and vegetarianism, take the high ground, hear what they say but don’t react because that only validates their arguments.
“These individuals although now more vocal and visible, are still very much a minority group, which is why communicating intelligently with the considerably higher percentage of consumers wanting to eat meat should be your priority!”
Professor Alice Stanton shared evidence that red meat and dairy products have proven health benefits which should encourage farmers to get involved in the debate armed with scientific facts which strengthen their campaign.
Professor Stanton said that more than two billion people in the world are over-fed and overweight because they eat a calorie-rich diet full of sugar and salt, yet lacking essential vitamins and minerals. She also warned that some of today’s leading scientists are pressing for consumers to change the way they eat.
“They want to persuade individuals to double their intake of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds and halve their intake of meat and dairy, which is an issue that all livestock producers need to plan for. ”
Health, wellbeing and staying safe in rural industries were under the spotlight for a number of speakers who spoke movingly from personal experience.
They included ex-special forces operative Ollie Ollerton, of Who Dares Wins fame; Australian farm safety expert Alex Thomas, who made the plea for all male farmers to ‘Save a life, listen to your wife” and Andy Fox, a beef and sheep farmer who addressed the conference on overcoming challenges from his 1,600 acre beef and sheep farm in New Zealand.
Three first generation farmers, Rhun Williams, Matthew Jackson and Rhidian Glyn almost ran out of time for their Q&A session, giving honest guidance and answering wide-ranging questions on how they’re now successful farmers in their own right despite coming from non-farming backgrounds.
“Every element of this year’s Wales Farming Conference is now all available to view online by visiting www.gov.wales/farmingconnect so if you missed anything that could affect you and your business, tune in when it suits you, it will be time well spent,” said Ms. Davies.
Farming Connect is delivered by Menter a Busnes and Lantra Wales and funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.