New Farming Lead for Soil Association Scotland
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder… and in this case it’s true.
I have just rejoined Soil Association as Scotland’s Senior Farming Programmes Manager (though ‘Scotland Farming Lead’ trips off the tongue much easier), after a year away focusing on a number of independent projects* (including a couple of field labs) and raising mini Vikings.
And I am really glad to be back – this time with a refreshed, more proactive remit – to engage with and support farmers, growers, crofters, land managers and industry, in a way that’s responsive to the needs and interests of the folk on the ground and aligned with Soil Association’s goal of scaling up organic and enabling a just transition towards agroecological food and fibre production.
Hit the ground running
The remit is broad and will involve familiar activity such as supporting peer-to-peer knowledge exchange, farmer-led innovation and demonstration. The focus will also be on building stronger industry and academic partnerships, joining up and building farmer networks and supporting Soil Association’s policy and advocacy work. This will be done at a strategic level by engaging with industry and Government to provide an essential link between policy and farming practice and an evidence base of public goods delivery of organic in Scotland.
There’s a lot to do, but three key areas are on my priority list:
- To promote and support development of the organic sector, including identifying and addressing barriers to conversion, facilitating peer support and innovation. This fits in with Soil Association’s recent launch of the new Organic for All strategy.
- To promote and support development of horticulture, and particularly organic horticulture, facilitating access to appropriate training, peer support and innovation.
- To promote and support wider integration of trees on farms, particularly through agroforestry approaches, supporting further research, peer learning networks, demonstration and addressing barriers.
Of course, none of this can be done in isolation, which is why collaboration is key. It will also be really important to get out onto farms, of every kind – including our licensees’ – to make sure that we are addressing farmers’ real challenges, needs and interests, and developing programmes and tools to support these.
So if any of this chimes with what you are doing or are interested in, please do get in touch with any .questions, ideas or just for a chat, at email@example.com. My recurring school report-card comment that ‘Colleen talks too much in class’ has finally come in useful!
I would like to thank the MacRobert Trust who have granted a Douneside Award in support of my work. Many of their aims align with our own, particularly those which ‘Promote best practice in agriculture, horticulture, the environment, biodiversity and rural skills, through the advancement of research and learning, and in the pursuance of best practice and professional excellence’.