My First RASC Conference – John Bennett

I can still remember the telephone call that invited me to attend my first Royal Agricultural Society of the Commonwealth (RASC) Conference in 2004.

When I put the ‘phone down I excitedly told my parents all about it and explained that I’d been asked as a Next Generation candidate – for the under 35s – because of my involvement with our local agricultural show.

That first conference for me was held in Albury, here in Australia, and my overriding memory is of how much we all had in common. Agriculture is a shared language and we all have similar challenges – it doesn’t matter if you are from Zambia, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, anywhere in the commonwealth – we are all bound by our shared experiences and interests.

Talking of Zambia, on that very first conference I met Anna Nawa and we had our photograph taken and now – 20 years later – we are still the best of friends. I have sent seeds and water pumps over to try and help her out in a practical way, but most importantly we are great friends. If somebody had said to me, before I went on that first conference, that I would have anything in common with somebody from Zambia I wouldn’t have believed them.

Two years later and I attended the next conference in Calgary. We went along to the Calgary Stampede, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, and having horses and cattle here in Australia I was quite simply blown away.

When I have returned home from conferences over the years, I have gone out to speak to local clubs and societies about the experience and this has led to others going on to attend. A key part of the RASC is spreading the message about what can be achieved if those of us – from different corners of the commonwealth – involved in agriculture work together. A large part of what we do is supporting show societies, which then go out and do great work helping with education about agriculture.

I attended the Edinburgh conference in 2010 and am very much looking forward to returning and am so pleased it’scoinciding with the Royal Highland Show.

I have huge admiration for the RASC’s president Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, who is incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to both agriculture and the challenges facing the commonwealth countries. She, like all of us, is very aware of the need to encourage the next generation to get involved. Whenever I have met her she is kind enough to send her regards to my father, who represented Australia in the Montreal Olympics of 1976, the year she was also competing. For her to remember that connection – given all the thousands of people she meets – shows what a thoughtful lady she is.

To anybody wondering about buying a ticket, my simple message is get yourself there. I have yet to meet anybody who hasn’t enjoyed themselves or had their money’s worth from the great ideas they have returned home with.