AN ethical conference has been arranged for the south west of Scotland, to explore sustainable models of food production that prioritise high animal welfare and environmentally friendly practices.

The event, on Thursday May 16, will be held at Rainton Farm – home of the "ethical dairy" that provides the raw materials for Cream O'Galloway ice cream – where owner David Finlay was recently awarded farmer of the year at the CEVA Animal Welfare Awards, for his dedication to enhancing the health and welfare of his herd.

The Ethical Farming conference is being co-organised by four Scottish farms who all lead on an ethical production proposition – Mossgiel Farm, Peelham Farm, Rainton Farm and Whitmuir Organic. The conference programme will comprise four sessions focusing on the core ethical pillars driving production on these four farms. Areas covered will include fair work for people, high welfare for livestock, environmentally regenerative closed-loop production, and sustainable circular economies.

Co-organiser Denise Walton, of Peelham Farm, said: “Our industry needs to change. Members of the public are increasingly demanding that farming finds a way to deliver high quality food with positive environmental impact alongside excellence in land-management, animal care and environmental stewardship.

“It is through collaboration that we will find ways to make the changes needed. This conference is a very exciting opportunity to bring together innovators and leaders in ethical farming and food production to share knowledge, inclusive science application and farmer and practitioner experience,” she said.

Bryce Cunningham of Mossgiel Farm was recently named as one of four Young Farmer climate change champions by the Scottish Government. His farm has recently become the first single use plastic free organic dairy in the UK: “People are becoming much more interested in where their food comes from and what it is packaged in, and as an industry we have a responsibility to respond to their concerns,” said Mr Cunningham. “Farming with a focus on environmental sustainability, waste reduction and high animal welfare is simply good business.”

Ten young women have been awarded bursaries to attend the conference free of charge following a funding announcement by the Scottish Government’s Regional Food Fund. While the bursary opportunity was open to all new entrant farmers and young researchers, all the applications made to it were from women.

ScotGov's minister for rural affairs and the natural environment, Mairi Gougeon, will open the conference. She said: “The Scottish Government is proud to provide funding to the Ethical Farming Conference. These bursaries are a great innovation, which will provide ten young women with the opportunity to attend the conference, and perhaps be the catalyst for a long career in the industry. I know that many within Scottish farming will be keen to welcome those new faces, with the fresh ideas and impetus that they can potentially bring to the whole sector."

Co-organiser Wilma Finlay added: “Ethically-produced food is an important emerging market and livestock farming needs to have a place within that market. We are very much looking forward to welcoming these ten young professionals to the conference and we look forward to hearing their contributions to the debate.”

The conference will also include tours of Rainton Farm, with an explanation of its 'cow with calf' system – and a lunch showcasing sustainably produced food.

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