SRUC celebrates International Women’s Day with talk from agribusiness leader

Published Wednesday, 15th March 2017 in About SRUC news

Professor Christine Watson, Caroline Millar and Professor Wayne Powell at SRUC’s International Women’s Day event.

SRUC celebrated International Women’s Day with a talk from Caroline Millar who shared the story of her journey to become an award winning business leader in agritourism.

The event took place at the Edinburgh campus and was watched live by staff and students across Scotland.

Organiser Professor Christine Watson, Team Leader Crops and Soil Systems, kicked off the proceedings explaining some of her early career experiences including her parents telling her: “agriculture is not a suitable career for a girl, go away and think a bit more about it.”

Professor Watson persevered and became a leading soil scientist. She described how she was influenced by other inspiring women including biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson whose book Silent Spring helped shape the global environmental movement.

Caroline Millar, a current Director of the Oxford Farming Conference, started her story with her return from Australia in 1999 with just £3.50 in her pocked.  She described how she managed to “wing it” in a an interview and get a marketing job with Forth Ports where she went on to spend the next 10 years improving their business structures and her business skills.

While working at Forth Ports, Caroline continued to farm with her husband at Auchterhouse, near Dundee and started to diversify by developing the Hideaway Experience which went on to become an award winning luxury agritourism business.

In 2012 she took on the Nuffield Scholarship where she researched how Scotland could effectively grow the agritourism industry. She travelled to Australia and New Zealand but was hugely impressed by Tuscany - an area smaller than Scotland with a 1.2 billion Euro agritourim industry.

Caroline said: “There is market demand for agritourism from the public, which is willing to pay for the chance to interact with a real farmer. Unlike Italy, in the UK this tourism product has not been developed in a significant way.

“Development of an agritourism business can provide an opportunity for another family member to join the family business and can help solve succession issues.”

Caroline told her audience that she is glad to see more women in the farming world moving into leadership roles – however she acknowledged that they need to have thick skin and constantly battled with perceptions of a women’s role on the farm.

Professor Watson said: “Caroline Millar’s talk was an inspiring description of the important, dynamic role that many women play in agriculture and business in Scotland and worldwide. At SRUC we are proud to celebrate International Women’s Day as part of our wider programme of work on Equality, Human Rights and Inclusion.”

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