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Making a meeting

27 February 2020
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Mary-Jane Lawrie

The blog this week comes from Mary-Jane Lawrie, an agricultural consultant based near Edinburgh.  She runs the Developing People topic of the Farm Advisory Service which includes a wide range of outputs including, common grazings discussion groups, personal and business resilience, and Women in Agriculture meetings.  Mary-Jane has brought her passion to the topic she runs and if you’re a member of our Women in Agriculture Facebook Group, you’ll know that she is always there with a supportive comment, excellent advice and helpful ideas.  In this blog she talks about how she’s brought together the Women in Agriculture meetings this year and the impact they’ve had.

As an agricultural consultant we give advice to farmers on a daily basis on a whole host of topics, but I also have the job of facilitating meetings for the Farm Advisory Service, something that I love doing.  This year I was tasked with developing meetings, materials and podcasts that go beyond offering technical advice on calf survival, crop choice and fertiliser plans.  Whilst all these topics are important, this year we also worked on farmer resilience and the idea that successful businesses are built by successful people, who are successful because they have the right mind-set.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  Henry Ford

I spent a lot of time pondering this quote as I prepared for the series of Women in Agriculture workshops with Kerry Allison: “Personal resilience for business success”. We began to build materials behind the idea that whatever you set out to achieve, having the right attitude and mind-set to achieve these goals is essential.

We kicked off the Women in Agriculture events with the first meeting in my home patch in the Lothians.  We had a great turn out of women from all stages of their career and family life (we had a small toddler come along to this meeting with his granny and he was so wonderfully behaved – it helped that I had a stash of tiny tractors in my car for him to play with!).  Kerry Allison was the main speaker for these events, and she guided us through a series of exercises looking at our own personal resilience, discussing times that we felt challenged, how we dealt with that, and how we could learn from these experiences to build our own resilience for the future.

Kerry spent the next few months travelling the length and breadth of Scotland delivering this meeting to all the Women in Agriculture groups from Stranraer to Orkeny.  I was blown away by the feedback from these workshops, which included:

“Wow, congratulations on yesterday’s meeting.  I was completely amazed at the reactions and interactions you got from the group yesterday… you truly made an impact on these ladies lives!  I didn’t know quite what to expect from this meeting but actually this had the biggest take home message from a meeting I had been to before. You certainly are an impressive motivational speaker and think you could be an amazing counsellor too. These workshops will make a big difference to the women in the industry”

“…thank you both for yesterday.  I got a lot out of it, and needed it! Looking forward to seeing what else I can do. “

“Thank you so much for organising such a fantastic day. It was really interesting & I’ve come away with lots of ideas.”

“I have to say I and all of the other girls attending the event found it both very interesting and thought provoking. I know we all came away from that much more positively and so much better prepared for what can only be described as very challenging times.”

At times I have been questioned as to the purpose of the Women in Agriculture groups, why we need them, and whether having meetings for only one gender is necessary.  The research points to the fact that learning in a women only environment is absolutely essential for women in Scottish agriculture at the moment.  But more than that, I have seen directly the impact that these meetings have been having on the attitudes of the women that are attending.  The feedback we have received just goes to show that these meetings give women a chance to take time out of their business, focus on themselves and connect with other like-minded women to build their knowledge, self esteem and confidence.  So I’ll finish with that Henry Ford quote again.  “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”.  What will you do to prove to yourself that you can?

The Farm Advisory Service runs Women in Agriculture events across Scotland.  For more information go to our Women in Agriculture page

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