Smallholding Scotland 2016 Conference

Following the success of its first outing last year, the Smallholding Scotland conference is back for 2016. Taking place at Pitcairngreen Village Hall just outside Perth on Friday 19th February and organised by Smallholder Events Scotland, it is an all-day event with refreshments and lunch included in the ticket price of £25. The conference is a great opportunity for smallholders to:

  • Meet up to discuss issues of importance to them
  • Learn from experts across a range of topics related to smallholding and small-scale food production
  • Enjoy a bit of smallholder chat and socialising before the days get longer and outdoor tasks start to take priority.

The programme

The conference has a single stream, providing six presentations in all throughout the day.

Registration and refreshments start at 9:00am with the first sessions starting at 9:30am. The conference will close at 4:45pm. The full programme:

9:00 – Registration

9:30 – Improving biodiversity with wildflower meadows – Dallas Seawright, Grassland Management Specialist

This session will cover establishing a wildflower meadow, meadow management, what a wildflower meadow will attract & how that will positively impact on the smallholding. It will also consider the compatibility of wildflower meadows with grazing livestock.

Dallas’s involvement with grasslands extends back many years, providing training courses on grass ID and grassland management. His main focus has been at Lochore, bringing abandoned and rank sites back from the brink and transforming areas from amenity grassland into meadows with anything up to 35 species in a square metre. In the course of this he’s chased Shetland sheep, driven tractors older than himself, walked twenty miles a day behind a pedestrian Aebi alpine mower and still been throwing bales onto a trailer in the dark!

10:15 – Refreshments

10:45 – Livestock feed from hydroponics – Geof Burnet-Smith

Hydroponics is the growing of plants without soil, either in a nutrient solution or on inert matter, feeding the plants with a nutrient solution.

We produce our animal feed without an inert matter base and without nutrients. This enables the “biscuits” of feed produced to be fed entirely to the livestock. No nutrient is required in the water as the entire growing cycle is 6 days and in this time the seed goes from seed to feeding out stage using the nutrient of the seed only.

The rational behind the hydroponic growth is to be able to produce a consistent feed, day in day out, no matter what season, rain, hail or shine. The grower has absolute control over what has been fed or sprayed onto the feed, improving control and resulting in straightforward compliance with regulations and notification to the relevant authorities.

11:35 – Preventing and treating lameness in sheep – Caroline Robinson, SRUC

Have you received conflicting advice about foot care in sheep? Unsure about how best to deal with a lame animal in the first instance?

The information available on foot care can be confusing, and lameness can cost you a great deal in lost production (and vet bills!) – as well as being a welfare problem. Today we will take you through the reasons that a sheep could be lame, the various treatment strategies available and, most importantly, the updated advice on how to keep your flock’s feet in good condition. Plus, tips on spotting problems before they start, and how to avoid bringing footrot onto your farm with your next purchases – vital knowledge for those of you who don’t have a lameness problem, as well as those who do!

12:30-13:30 – Lunch, provided by the excellent Pitcairngreen Inn

13:30 – Selling and marketing online – Dan Champion, Champion IS

It’s not unusual for smallholdings to generate income by selling a range of goods and services – holiday accommodation, courses, meat, craft, produce, hatching eggs and more. If your potential market extends beyond than your road-end it can be hard to know how to market what you sell, especially if it generates a limited income.

The internet provides a massive potential market for any business, but the choices can seem endless, range in cost from free to thousands of pounds, and can be hard to match to your business needs.

In this session we’ll look at the pros and cons of several popular options for marketing and selling online, from Facebook to your own full-blown e-commerce website, and identifying some of the issues you need to consider before deciding which route to take.

14:20 – Alternative feeding for pigs – David Michie, Soil Association

In this session David Michie will describe Soil Association Scotland’s Feeding Silage to Pigs field lab, and report on the lab’s progress and results to date. The Feeding Silage to Pigs field lab is running from 2014-2016, and is investigating if including silage in pig rations can:

  • Reduce production costs (in order to improve financial resilience)
  • Improve gut health (in order to improve animal welfare)
  • Reduce the reliance on soya as a source of protein (in order to reduce the environmental impacts associated with soya production)

15:05 – Refreshments

15:30 – Abundant Scotland – Graham Bell, Permaculture Scotland

Over the past 40 years, Graham Bell has amassed a huge amount of knowledge in permaculture, renewables and sustainable business. Unsurprisingly, Graham is frequently asked for advice, which, in the spirit of creating a sharing economy, he wants to make widely available – so we are delighted to have him speak at this year’s Smallholding Scotland conference.

The author of two books “The Permaculture Way” and “The Permaculture Garden”, Graham’s home is Garden Cottage, which is sited in part of the old walled garden of the Lees Stables, Coldstream. It is a forest garden started from scratch twenty six years ago, and is now sufficiently mature to show the intention of its original design. As well as producing 1.25 tonnes of edible produce in 2015, the garden also produces firewood, hundreds of plants and trees a year for the Red Shed nursery, a haven for wildlife, and a general sense of well-being. For anyone interested in practical applications of permaculture principles it’s an inspiring visit.

As well as providing advisory and consultancy services, Graham runs courses on permaculture, forest gardening and food preservation.

Graham’s talk at the conference is “Abundant Scotland: How polyculture, diversity, respect for nature, adding value, alternatives to money, food preservation, sharing knowledge and showing the light to others can lift your enterprise to true sustainability whilst spreading goodwill and yielding 14 tonnes per hectare.  Oh, and feed your family at the same time.”

16:15 – Plenary & discussion

An opportunity for delegates, speakers and the organisers to raise points for discussion arising during the day, ask questons, and provide feedback on the event.

16:45 – Close

Other speakers will be confirmed soon. We are expecting a number of relevant organisations to attend to provide information and advice for smallholders going into the new year.

The venue

The 2016 conference is being held at Pitcairngreen Village Hall near Perth, the venue’s postcode is PH1 3LR.

Buy tickets online

Tickets are on sale now priced £25. Payment by debit card, credit card or PayPal account. NB: Last date for online orders is Wednesday 17th February 2016.

Order tickets online now