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17th February 2024

First ‘Farming for the Future’ Conference takes place in Newton Stewart

The Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere with the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) and Propagate hosted the first ‘Farming for the Future’ conference in Newton Stewart on 15th February, attracting attendees from across southwest Scotland. The event explored how farming can be good for both the environment and the farm business and was chaired by Dumfriesshire farmer and former NFUS President Andrew McCornick, with a programme of speakers that included Stuart Johnson (Soil Farmer of the Year), Nikki Yoxall (Pasture for Life), Davy McCracken (SRUC), John Newbold (SRUC), Heather Close (Balsar Glen), Tim Barnes (Trostrie Farm), Iain Mitchell (Bagbie Farm), Ross Paton (Torr Organic Dairy) and more.

Held at the Creebridge House Hotel, all 65 tickets for this free event were snapped up in advance with a waitlist for would-be attendees. The conference programme opened with an overview of current policy and the economic context that impacts production of food, fibre and fuel in and around the Biosphere region, before focusing on nature-friendly practices being implemented on local farms. A panel discussion between expert speakers explored how regenerative farming is both sustainable and profitable, with examples of how caring for soil and adjusting grazing regimes can reduce costs, increase income, and create a healthier environment that is more able to adapt to climate change.

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere covers 9,720km² of Scotland’s southwest. As an organisation the GSA Biosphere Partnership works through a programme that covers conservation, education, sustainable development and climate resilience, with a permanent staff that includes specialists in land management and nature recovery. The UNESCO-designated region is internationally recognised for its outstanding natural and cultural heritage and has a wide range of collaborative projects underway through which the Partnership works alongside rural communities and businesses.  It is a non-profit supported by funding from three local authorities and South of Scotland Enterprise, and has promoted regenerative farming practice for over a decade following the award of UNESCO status in 2012. The GSA Biosphere Partnership is particularly known for its multi-sector reach and ability to generate international knowledge-exchange with other UNESCO designations around the world.

Commenting on the conference’s success, Sara Press, GSAB’s Lead Officer for Land Use & Biodiversity, said, “We were delighted to have such a great turnout and to see such enthusiasm for collaboration and positive change. There was a real buzz right through the day and so many conversations taking place between farmers, land managers and others who don’t often have such a forum to meet and share experiences and ideas. As a UNESCO Biosphere, we are uniquely placed to facilitate such events and we’re planning additional Farming for the Future events to build on the momentum we have now. Thanks to our co-hosts, the NFUS and Propagate, and especially to attendees who took time out of their working day to join us in Newton Stewart.”

Propagate hosts the award-winning South West Scotland Regenerative Farming Network, which facilitates farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing for sustainable and nature-friendly farming. Abi Mordin, Co-Director of Propagate and Network Organiser, said, “The event was a great success with a good range of diverse voices in the room and an engaged, interested audience. The conference built on our knowledge sharing programme by providing an opportunity to bring people together to share and discuss ideas. Feedback has been brilliant and we’re looking forward to the next one!”

Mhairi Dawson, Dumfries & Galloway Regional Manager for the NFUS, said, “The event was an excellent opportunity for people across the agriculture industry to come together. With policy influencers, researchers, advisors and farmers, we had fantastic conversations and information sharing about being a profitable, food producing farm business and meeting nature and biodiversity goals. A broad range of experience from speakers and delegates meant everyone could go away with something different to think about and to consider for themselves whether that be something to implement on their own farming business.”

More information about the GSA Biosphere Partnership’s areas of focus in farming and land management can be found here. The GSAB Partnership welcomes enquiries from farmers, land managers and related enterprise about the support on offer within its programme and opportunities to connect with southwest Scotland’s UNESCO designation. More information is available by email request to

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