IN THE run up to International Women's Day on Friday March 8th, the Scottish Government's rural economy department has been publishing a series of blogs, which highlight the important and diverse role women play in driving and supporting Scotland's rural economy.

The Scottish Farmer will be sharing these stories over the next few days.

By Alison Milne, Demperston Farm, Auchtermuchty

A farmer’s daughter, a farmer, an industry representative, whichever title I choose to use, it is clear that my life has been shaped by Scottish agriculture. I have had a variety of jobs within the industry, from representative roles with NFUS, STFA and my role as co-chair of the National Council of Rural Advisors - to direct involvement in the running of our family farming partnership. Each role has taught me different things, but what I keep returning to is the realisation that no matter how great our influence in the political and regulatory environment, these efforts will only ever allow our businesses to stand still. It is our own business decisions and how we interact with our markets that have the power to make us truly profitable.

In my experience there are two things that have the power to create the greatest change, mindset and people. In 2014 my husband and I took over the management role within our farm partnership and the question we asked ourselves was – “where do we want to be in 20 years-time?”.

To help us answer this we engaged other specialists, not just technical specialists but people from out-with the industry who could ask us challenging questions that made us uncomfortable.

The challenging questions helped us to change our mindset and outlook on the future. It made us realise that a farm business holds significant opportunity, but sometimes it’s a question of opening your eyes wide enough to see it clearly.

When we opened our eyes, we spotted an opportunity to add value to our arable enterprise by diversifying into craft malt production. It has been a long journey but 2019 will see our new business, Crafty Maltsters, begin production and we can’t wait!

Our Crafty Maltsters journey and our farming journey have been shaped by the people we have interacted with along the way. The roles I have had in the industry have offered me the opportunity to work with people all over the country, and for that I am truly fortunate. Our industry is populated by amazing people who have so much to offer and I remain unconvinced that we use that network to its best advantage.

In my first few weeks as a regional manager for NFU Scotland, back in 2005, I remember visiting an elderly farmer in Caithness. I clearly remember him walking me round his land, showing me all the nesting sites, naming every species of bird and plant as we went, and I remember thinking what incredible value our industry delivers but doesn’t always shout about.

That lesson has stayed with me. Our industry provides a network of expertise the length and breadth of the country. My hope for the future is that we work together and use that to its greatest potential, to tell our amazing story.