FARMING Connect received nearly 30,000 interactions on its social media platforms and website when the programme’s annual Women in Agriculture (WIA) campaign went online for the first time last month.
Billed this year as ‘Leading change’, a mix of group webinars, fully-subscribed one-to-one telephone surgeries, online video presentations and Q&A sessions proved to be a winning format for this year’s programme of ‘remote’ activities and events, as women everywhere took time out from juggling farming, work, parenting, home tuition and their many other commitments brought about by Covid-19.
Topics ranged from mental wellbeing to personal development and from succession planning to animal health and diversification, drawing comments, views and opinions from women not only throughout Wales and the UK but even Dubai!
Eirwen Williams, director of rural programmes with Menter a Busnes, which delivers Farming Connect on behalf of the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, said that the unprecedented levels of online engagement pave the way for increasing the range of online services provided by Farming Connect.
“We have been steadily expanding our range of online, digital and ‘over the phone’ services since the introduction of COVID 19 restrictions, which put a temporary stop on all our mass gatherings.
“Although this year’s Women in Agriculture participants missed out on the face-to-face networking and what is always a very sociable day, by changing the format and duration of the campaign, we have been able to reach out and inspire thousands of more individuals who joined in online,” said Mrs Williams.
Social media influencer and young farmer Anna Truesdale, who was one of the star attractions of the week, farms with her family in County Down. Anna prompted very positive feedback from her first video presentation, resulting in almost 4,000 ‘views’ of her webinar which included tips on creating engaging content, taking great photos and generating followers on social media.
“The secret to getting ahead on social media is getting started,” said Anna.
“Step back, reset your thought processes and move your business up a gear!” Farming Connect mentor Lilwen Joynson touched a chord with many participants when she talked about the importance of personal development, of how we all need to take responsibility for our state of mind to improve our confidence and wellbeing.
“Adapt to change, learn the lessons, bounce back.” Crai Valley farmers Julie and Keri Davies run a diversified 5* tourism business in a remote but spectacular part of Mid Wales. This couple provided a searingly honest account of how they overcame adversity to come back even stronger.
“Start the conversation, it’s never too soon.” Farming Connect mentor Siân Bushell urged families to start the tricky topic of succession planning sooner rather than later – which she said is often too late. “Every business should plan ahead!
There was a similar message about the importance of ‘talking openly and asking difficult questions’ from mental health training specialist Emma Picton-Jones from Pembrokeshire, who set up the well known DPJ charitable foundation in memory of her late husband Dan, a young farmer who tragically committed suicide in 2016.
“Diversification, animal health, marketing and business planning – we managed to bring together some of Wales’ leading experts on a very wide range of very important topics, both for our series of one-to-one confidential telephone ‘surgeries’ and in the online group events.
“The level of engagement, questions and comment from so many women who participated augurs very well for the future of farming in Wales,” said Mrs Williams.