The untapped potential of millennial farmers

I’m recently back at our farm in Midlothian after a really enlightening trip to the Houses of Parliament, where I was invited to attend a recent event looking at the untapped potential of millennial farmers

During the event, The Royal Bank of Scotland launched a new report , Harvesting the Future for Young Farmers, revealing how crucial millennials are to Scotland’s farming future and what support these young farmers need to helped to diversify their traditional farming businesses and create sustainable, profitable new income streams.

As an example of a successful on-farm diversification, I was invited to have a display of our Supernature Oils range and to be a speaker at the event, outlining our story and my thoughts on the content of the report.

I was excited by the prospect of it but was travelling down on the train to London still without any speech written. I did think about what I wanted to convey, what are the most important aspects of our story, related to the contents of the report. As I gazed out at the landscape racing past, I imagined being able to say all that I wanted to in a confident, concise way. I let myself feel how it would feel as I was doing that. I had 5 bullet points on a small piece of paper – this was my structure.

After getting a huge case full of bottles of Supernature Oils through security at Parliament, I was led through the Great Hall, down corridors lined with old paintings of Westminster and beautifully ornate wood-panelled rooms. Our event was in the Terrace Pavilion overlooking the Thames and was I was struck by how special it felt to be there, and to speak at an event attended by over 100 MP's, Peers and business people.

Doing things like this is part of my life now. One of the many exciting things that have come along, that go hand-in-hand with all the hard work and ups and downs of running my own business. I have to pinch myself sometimes that things like this are part of what I do.

I felt the adrenaline building as I set up my products, then, taking a tip from Amy Cuddy on body language and how to feel confident, I went to the ladies toilets, and in the cubicle, pulled back my shoulders and with my arms outstretched, took long, slow deep breaths. I felt ready for anything!

As I was waiting to speak, I noticed that the man who was about to speak before me was standing with this hands on his hips and shoulders back, very much in a power pose. This would seem an unlikely way for any woman to stand, but men often adopt this kind of masculine stance. I could see how similar it was to what I had been doing, but I had gone to do it in a toilet cubicle!

My time out in the toilets certainly worked. When it was my turn to get up and speak, I felt like I was 'in the zone', and the folded piece of paper in my pocket with my notes on it stayed there.

We women can do difficult things. We can find ways to cope, being outside our comfort zones and enlarge our sense of ourselves in the process. No matter how nervous we are, we can do things to empower ourselves and each time we do it, it becomes easier. We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

I felt truly privileged to be invited to be part of the launch of the Royal Bank of Scotland’s farming report, to have the opportunity to share the Supernature story, with all the ups and downs of the journey.

What the Harvesting the Future for Young Farmers report really highlights is the need for a joined-up approach to business support. In particular for young farmers who have many opportunities for diversification but may be reluctant to explore them because of their lack of knowledge and experience of the support available, in understanding how to set up and grow a non-traditional farm business.

When we started down the Supernature Oils road, I had to really seek out the support available, and found a wealth of great support from organisations such as Women's Enterprise Scotland, my bank, Entrepreneurial Spark, Scottish Enterprise and Business Gateway.

I think doing more to make young farmers aware of the support available to them would really help give them the confidence to explore the possibilities for creating viable options to traditional farming. That can only be good for the whole rural economy, as well as the obvious benefits to the wider economy too.

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