A Berwickshire farmer’s daughter has been awarded funding to attend an international conference in Australia later this year.
Scholar Claire Hodge is one of only three Next Generation (under aged 40) delegates to win the cash from the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) to attend The Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) conference, in Brisbane in October.
The 29-year-old told us: “It’s an honour.”
Her parents James and Fiona, formerly of Lemington Farm, near Eyemouth, were dairy farmers until the end of last year and plan to move to a smaller farm in Berwickshire.
The former Eyemouth High School pupil studied Agriculture at Newcastle University before spending time in New Zealand milking cows.
But she had worked locally for potato giants Greenvale during summer holidays and on her return, the company offered her a full time job.
“It was just a great opportunity, a really brilliant progressive company that looked after their employees, ” she said.
She worked with the tractormen sowing and harvesting the potatoes, the farmers, in packhouses and in promotion: “I got a really good overview.”
She moved to the Potato Council as a technical executive based in Edinburgh in 2012. She visits growers throughout the UK sharing best practice, relaying information between researchers and farmers and creating community groups to share knowledge and encourage cooperation. She also recently supported the seed and export team of the Potato Council at Fruit Logistica in Berlin.
RHASS set up its awards to develop young people they describe as Next Generation Scholars who can make a significant contribution to the future of agriculture.
The society says the RASC conference will provide a life-enhancing experience and allow the scholars to foster collaboration with their Commonwealth peers. The awardees will also have access to an international network of agricultural experts and learn about the latest farming developments in other countries.
Claire said: “Looking at farming in other countries has encouraged me to question why we do things in a particular way... But it has also made me proud of the high standards we have in Scotland and I feel we do not confidently promote this enough within the UK and to the rest of the world.”
She attended the 2010 BASC conference in Edinburgh: “It was so interesting, there were so many really passionate and progressive people and it was a really exciting conference, bigger picture stuff that you don’t get to see in the ‘day job’.”
She’s looking forward to meeting potato farmers in Australia and has been working with the country’s AUSVEG potato and vegetable growers industry body, as it adopts and adapts some Potato Council work
RHASS chairman, Kelso’s Allan Murray said: “The quality of applicants was hugely impressive, however we are confident we have chosen three young people with the drive, determination and ambition to fulfil their own ambitions and showcase the quality of Scottish agriculture.”