Rural Inspiration Awards winners announced

Rural Inspiration Awards winners announced
James Rose

Last night, as part of the much anticipated NetworX conference held in Brussels, the European Commissioner Phil Hogan announced the 5 winners of the inaugural Rural Inspiration Awards.

The Scottish Rural Network would like to extend a massive congratulations to all 25 finalists, and the 5 overall winners.

The winners were:

  • Improving competitiveness: Agroberry (Spain) - An organic blackberry plantation run by a young female farmer, Nuria Alvarez
  • Environment and climate action: Kowalski Farm (Poland) - This farm has adopted a series of good agricultural practices beneficial to soils, water quantity & quality, and biodiversity conservation
  • Rural revitalisation: Kuitua Pohjoiseen (Finland) - This project helped villagers set up cooperatives and apply for public grants to build their own hi-speed broadband networks.
  • Social inclusion: Enerterre HELPS (France) - Promoting the voluntary renovation of traditional houses to the benefit of people in fuel poverty in rural areas.
  • LEADER: Tiges chavées (Belgium) - Supporting the sustainable management of local small private forests through training, tailored advice and awareness raising.
  • Popular vote: Zeitgeist-Enns (Austria) - Successfully demonstrated a pop-up temporary shop concept in vacant sale spaces in the snall Austrian town of Enns, revitalising the local life.

Scotland was well represented at the event with nominations for Castlebank Park who were nominated under the ‘LEADER’ category, and GrowBiz Perthshire who were nominated in the 'Rural Revitalisation' category.

The event consisted of a full 2 day plenary celebrating the past 10 years of rural networking across Europe, with plenty of opportunity to share ideas and meet rural stakeholders. The Scottish Rural Network were proud to host a spotlight session showcasing Scottish culture, with a live bagpiper performance as well as a whisky and shortbread tasting session. You can check out our pipers performance here. Many thanks to our colleagues at Scotland House in Brussels for their help!

We were also given the opportunity throughout the event to showcase the work of our partners in the Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS), and we hosted an exhibition stand sharing materials and holding discussions on the important work RISS has carried out since its launch last year. Mark Borthwick, our colleague with RISS and a member of Soil Association Scotland, said “It’s really interesting to meet other rural networks, and interesting to see how our progress compares to other innovation support services. It’s cool to share ideas with our European cousins and see what we can learn from each other.”

We also got a chance to catch up with Chair of Dumfries and Galloway LEADER Peter Ross who said, “I’m always humbled when I come to Europe to these conferences, because you suddenly realise everyone is doing the same thing and everyone’s enthusiastic. It makes you reflect on what you’re doing, and your place… it gives me great hope for what LEADER might achieve.”

This event has happened at a pivotal time politically for Scotland, where it is of utmost importance that we showcase Scottish culture and rural development on the international stage. We hope we did it justice!

You can catch up on our social media posts from the event by searching the hashtags '#RuralNetworking' and '#RuralInspirationAwards' on our Twitter and Instagram.