Women in Farming and Agriculture: What’s the Big Deal?
Hello hello! It’s great to be back writing again after the fantastic response from my last blog post. For this month’s edition, I thought I’d dive headfirst into an area which means a great deal to me personally… women in farming and agriculture.
Now hold up, before you click off for fear of me starting into the usual spiel about ‘the pretty blonde’, ‘the striking eyeliner’ or ‘her tiny frame’. Or do an eye-roll after you read about how ‘she’s faced massive hardship’, ‘huge amounts of discrimination’ and ‘lots of sexist comments’, this isn’t what this post is about.
I mean sure, I’ve been stared at for longer than normal in a sale yard, stood extremely close to a show ring and been called “Barbie” before, but to me, that’s not what speaking up for women in this industry is about. It’s about being capable. It’s about being knowledgeable. It’s about knowing you’re working in an industry traditionally geared for men and yet you’re succeeding
Experiences of Women in Agriculture
Most women in agriculture will tell you that their experience in the industry has been 99% positive. In my opinion, the 1% of negative encounters are generally accredited to egocentric folk who, deep down, probably feel threatened by the ability of a female. We were, for years, touted as ‘too gentle’, ‘too soft’ and ‘too weak’ to establish ourselves at the forefront of food production but that in no way depicts 2020 Agriculture.
Of course there is still a way to go in totally wiping out old-fashioned opinions about Women in this sector. A 2019 expose, however, on the gender pay-gap reporting that the skilled agriculture industry is the only sector to have a positive pay-gap overall shows that changes are happening.
5 Female Farmers You Should Follow
and not because they’re women… but because they’re really flipping brilliant at what they do. Take a look at some brilliant women in the agriculture sector below:
1. Maighread Baron (@maighread_b)
Maighread is a 26 year old dairy farmer from Co Waterford in Southern Ireland. In 2018 she won the Land Mobility category for National Farmer of the Year as well as being a finalist in Zurich Farmer of the Year in 2019. Maighread is currently leasing a farm (on a 15 year lease), milking close to 100 cows, managing the grazing block and picking up the manual work as well. In her time in the industry, she’s worked on her home farm as well as other farms in both Ireland and New Zealand.
2. Hannah Jackson (@redshepherdess)
Hannah won’t need much of an intro, she’s the unmissable “Red Shepherdess” from Cumbria. She’s travelled far and wide as a contract-Shepherdess, returning to farms year on year having impressed with her natural flair for farming. Hannah is also a first-generation farmer, exemplifying the line ‘you don’t have to be born into it’. She’s created her own opportunities and worked her way up. She’s appeared on SAS “Who Dares Wins” and more recently Countryfile and is a fantastic ambassador for the industry.
3. Mary Troy (@marytroy19)
I came across Mary on Instagram a while back and was truly humbled at what she has achieved. Mary took over the running of her Waterford family farm at 17. After completing her studies at Kildalton College, she successfully re-established the farms dairy enterprise (having been beef for a number of years) at just 20. Sourcing quality dairy stock and upgrading the parlour were just two of the challenges Mary faced but she knows, despite being a one-woman-show, that there is support out there if it's needed. Carrying that responsibility on such young, but level-headed shoulders makes Mary someone we could all learn from.
4. Tania Coxon (@countrygirl_andlabradors)
Coming from a dairy and sheep farm myself, I’m the first to admit my knowledge on arable is somewhat lacking. Introducing Tania. What she doesn’t know about crop rotations, combining and grain isn’t worth knowing. She’s taken up a tenancy on her own block of ground, managing the crop from when the seed is first drilled until the plant is harvested. She’s a wealth of knowledge on crop diseases and is a dab-hand at operating all the necessary kit required in the running of a profitable arable enterprise.
5. Joanne Devaney (@joanne.d.shearer)
Last, but certainly not least, is Joanne. She’s an award-winning “Queen of the Shears” (having won no less than 3 times!!!). Working alongside her father and brother, they run a flock of blackface ewes as well as shearing commercially in County Sligo (even travelling to Australia to shear). Currently studying at UCD, Joanne is never far from a shearing handpiece. Grasping the technique of shearing (rather than having to rely on brute strength) has seen her become a Master at her craft.
Speaking Up for and Encouraging Women in the Farming Industry
Forging a community amongst women in farming is so important. It’s about answering questions about your farm, your animals and your good practices and not having to talk about whether or not you dream of marrying a farmer. It’s about normalising women in wellies, women in tractors, women in lambing sheds, in milking parlours, in combines and piggeries. It’s about encouraging other women, young and old to know their worth, to trust their understanding and take pride in the work that they’re doing.
It’s about educating others on the value of work that a woman can do. I’m not here to tell you we’re good at multitasking (some of us aren’t), I’m not going to say we’re better at rearing young stock (some of us aren’t) and I’m not going to profess that we’re superior to any man (some of us aren’t).
What I will tell you, is that we are able and willing to learn. We don’t mind if you have to show us how to do something and we’re not scared to ask for help if we need it. We want to work alongside men, as a team, blending our knowledge and abilities to be the best possible farmers we can be.