I was extremely fortunate to be a recipient of a scholarship from the Agricultural Societies Council (ASC) of New South Wales to travel to Singapore to attend the Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) 27th Agriculture Conference. This was an amazing opportunity to join with leaders in agricultural and agricultural show industries to discuss the theme “Agriculture at the Crossroad: Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide”. This felt particularly relevant to me, being part of an agricultural show community within a large metropolitan, urban area (Newcastle) and trying to remain relevant and viable.
A Next Generation forum was held over 2 days (31st October and 1st November) prior to the official opening of the main conference and alongside the separate forum held concurrently for the CEO’s. There was some healthy discussion over whether separating the forums was an appropriate measure for more targeted content or if it served to deepen the divide between older and younger generations. There were 65 NG delegates representing 13 countries and 23 show societies. There is a fantastic video summary of the Next Generation forum available for viewing at: https://youtu.be/apef3SSIMM8
The initial aims in establishing agricultural shows was to propel industry excellence through serious competition, education and light entertainment. It has become particularly relevant to return to these focus areas and ensure that there is an appropriate balance in our events. Leadership and education were introduced as important factors in driving progress within agriculture and the show movement. As members of our local show societies from the ‘next generation’, we have a responsibility to lead action orientated conversations about agriculture, food sustainability for the future, education and opportunities for growth in our local events.
Reflecting on the ‘Big Picture’, the official conference commenced on the 2nd November with an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on agriculture from a theoretical perspective. It was an honour to be in the presence of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, Princess Anne and to witness her knowledgeable and passionate welcoming address. We went on field trips to the Kranji countryside to experience agricultural industry in Singapore, an urban centre with 95% of food products imported.
Day 2 (3rd November) had delegates “Digging Deeper” to discuss innovations around the globe. I was grateful for the presentation from the presentation from Will Hyde (Royal Bath & West England Society) and Peter Cooper (Royal Agricultural Society of Western Australia). The take home message for me was that you don’t need to be unique to stand out from the crowd, you just need to be different. It is crucial for show societies to be flexible/adaptable to meet the needs for different populations in our community. Agricultural shows need to ensure that they are informative for the public, technical for the farmers, fun and entertaining for the families and millenials and professional for the businesses attending.
The final day of the conference (4th November) aimed to assist delegates in “Making It Work” with practical and innovative presentations. ‘Education, a year round task’ from Cindy Hoye (Indiana State Fair) was a particularly inspiring presentation with ideas for education on a BIG scale!
On a truly global level, the conference brought together like minded individuals with a passion for agriculture and their local areas. It was impressive to hear the issues and innovations being experienced around the world. At the heart of this experience, attendance provided me with the opportunity for increased knowledge, ideas, networks and resources to encourage a healthy future for show societies and communities in New South Wales. The conference was personally and professionally inspiring and I would like to thank the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW for giving me the opportunity to attend.