Women in Agriculture Conference

I went to the Women and ?Agriculture conference in Kilkenny today which was organised by Mairead Lavery and the team at Irish Country Living (of the Irish Farmers Journal). ?When I walked in, the first stand I saw was that of ‘magic’ window washing equipment and I thought ‘oh no’ – are they going to be pigeon holing us like that! Other stands included lovely cake sellers, hat sellers, IFA, FRS, charities etc. Many ladies got free head and shoulder massages and manicures during the day. Having sliced off half of one of my nails with the potato peeler while in a hurry the other day, I decided to give the manicure a miss!

The ‘motivator’ was getting all the ladies to stand up and wave and stretch but as I was tweeting, I resisted the urge and as a man came over to me (I thought to tell me to get up!) and provided me with the hashtag. ?Yay, I thought to myself, there will be lots of people tweeting. I really enjoy attending events where the delegates are tweeting – you get to meet up with fellow tweeters at coffee, you get to read other people’s opinions and it is like having a conversation while the conference is going on. I like tweeting too, it is like note taking and from the conference’s point of view, it spread the words and gives them feedback. ?But it turned out I was just about the only tweeter using the hashtag with the occasional person giving the occasional tweet and I was giving a running commentary (all very polite!) while writing a blog post and listening closely. ?I did accidently berate the deputy editor of IFJ for only tweeting once and then discovered he was in the office in Dublin working on the next edition! ?By the way, if you do want to check out the tweets, the hashtag was #agwomen.

So, what was the conference like? ?Well, I didn’t think it was that inspirational or motivational until Caroline Casey spoke at about 4.30 – a very inspiring and impressive lady who also spoke very well. ?It was the usual stuff about how farming is so competitive and how the population is expanding and we have to produce the food to feed them all and how cash flows and succession planning are necessary etc. ?There was nothing ‘different’ to what we could read in the Farmers Journal I felt. ?Declan McEvoy used to be our accountant when he was in Carlow and he was a man of very few words then, terrible at small talk but I liked him as he was direct and answered a question in very few words (I hate people who go all around the world when answering a question). ?I did lose concentration during his talk (I like words not numbers) but what I did listen to was good. His closing words though weren’t very cheering – we will all be paying more taxes!

Good Food Ireland did a good talk and she extolled the virtues of Irish food and how important it is to continue setting Ireland up as a food destination for tourists and to encourage people abroad to buy Irish produce, however there wasn’t any suggestions about how the women sitting there could contribute in their own small but important ways. ?Personally I think more farmers and farmerettes should be blogging – whether to ‘meet’ other people, prevent isolation, start writing which could lead to other things, or to promote their fish produce, their beef, their lamb, their milk etc to show consumers the natural green Irish grass and fresh air that our animals enjoy as they thrive. ?Let consumers read about good farming practice from the people who are doing it. I ended up getting into a debate with Bord Bia and the Farmers Journal on the topic (via tweets!) and enjoyed that.

Talking to a 19 year old full time farmer during lunch, she was telling me about how joining a good Macra club has transformed her social life but for those who are too old for Macra or too shy to go along, I think blogging would help people to socialise too, online first and then offline. ?I’ll won’t go into all the reasons now but I also think farming blogs will make lovely historical diaries for future generations to read as well as important historical documents too.

The Willoughby brothers (6 of them) seranded the 600 women there before lunch for half an hour and then sold their CDs during the lunch break. Simon Coveney spoke after lunch and yes, while he is a good speaker, there was nothing new or particularly inspiring during his speech either.

I actually felt strange talking about farming over a conference lunch rather than social media! ?All in all, it was a good day but it wasn’t as inspiring or as motivational as I had hoped. ?I would have preferred talks that were more contentious even, to evoke debate or something that would leave every woman there with an action plan in her mind that didn’t just include the norm of cashflows and succession planning.

8 thoughts on “Women in Agriculture Conference

  • judi @ farmnwife.com

    “leave every woman there with an action plan in her mind”
    Every conference would be successful if they did that. I am going to Executive Women in Ag soon in Chicago. Hopefully they will be able to accomplish this.

  • ayearinredwood

    Great report Lorna….glad I didn’t go then! I have heard Caroline Casey speaking before and agree she is a wonderful, inspiring speaker! I think all conference organisers need to rethink their strategy. There are 2 other ‘women’ conferences coming up next month and looking at the line up they look like they will also be the same as every other year! Is anybody listening out there!

    • Lorna

      I know it is hard for them to come up with something new every year but I had heard such brilliant reports of the energy and enthusiasm that was generated at the previous conference, that perhaps I was hoping for too much. To be fair, I missed the last hour so maybe I was being a little unfair.
      A good conference but if I hadn’t had my laptop and phone so I could multitask and chat with people on twitter and write a blog post, I would have been bored.

  • WiseMona

    I thoroughly enjoyed your tweets yesterday Lorna.
    I love the idea of more ‘Farm blogs’ as a way of journaling for historic preservation.
    I would read those blogs :0)
    I think you are right on the money when it comes to tweeting at events like this. It does get peoples attention (loved the Tweet Wall at Bloggers International) and can spark debates on certain topics. I feel that sometimes, at larger events, sticking to the ‘same old format’ is still very popular. Well done on your coverage!

  • Colette

    I popped in to Twitter earlier on today, and saw some of your tweets regarding the conference. It made interesting reading. How about something like food bloggers getting in touch with farming bloggers (if there are any, apart from yourself), now that would be something. Maybe Bordbia and The Irish Food Bloggers Association could get involved, to promote each other, and organise farm visits, if that were possible.

    • Lorna

      thanks colette – a good suggestion. I was tweeting with Bordbia yesterday on this very topic and with Imen McDonnell too. There aren’t many Irish farming blogs at all, you could probably count them on two hands, or one! whereas there are loads of foodie blogs but I think that is a great idea for the future. Some bloggers (like me) may just want to blog about their farms as a sort of personal family and farm diary (for the kids to read in years to come too if they wish to) whereas others will be creating produce that they wish to sell and really need to use social media to get the word out there. An example would be Oldefarm who uses FB and twitter really well too to get the word out. but yes, a synergy would be great.



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