Women In Farming – busy summer and what’s next

In this blog post, Fiona Macdonald, Coordinator of the Women In Farming Network at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society offers an update on the Network’s latest activities.

There are 68,000 women employed in UK agriculture, forestry and fishing today, according to new figures published this month by the Office of National Statistics.

Add in the many thousands more working unpaid on family farms, and there is a much higher proportion of women among the industry’s ‘true workforce’ than the 25 per cent suggested by these official statistics.

Women have always been an integral part of our industry so you could argue that it is misguided to make too much of a point around today’s statistics.

Minette Batters, the NFU’s President, was once quoted as saying, “The success for all women will be when being a woman in farming isn’t newsworthy” and it is hard to disagree.

Yet as recently as last November, the BBC published an article with the headline ‘Agricultural college sees 100% rise in women studying farming’.

That was at Moulton College in Northamptonshire where the number of trainee female farmers had doubled in two years.

Value in bringing rural women together

With new generations looking to make their way in the industry, and with disparate geography, busy workloads and family responsibilities limiting opportunities for current generations of farming women to come together, we continue to see our Women In Farming Network here at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society as an important part of the support we offer farming families all-year round.

A measure of the Network’s popularity is the success of its private Facebook community which was launched during the COVID pandemic in March 2020 and now has more than 600 members.

Networking at GYS

This summer’s Great Yorkshire Show gave us useful opportunities to bring some of our members together.

Minette Batters kindly made time in her schedule to discuss topical issues during a roundtable chat covering everything from government funding for educational access visits to farms and making it easier for farms to host work experience placements, to access to finance, gaining employment in the industry and improving knowledge exchange about innovative technology.

It is important that the voices of farming families are heard and their concerns listened to and represented in discussions with policymakers and, as Minette reflected during the roundtable, a lot will follow if food production is rightly made a national priority.

An informal Summer Social also brought members together at the Show in the spirit of friendship, support and celebration, and it was great to catch up with some familiar faces and lots of new ones.

Going ‘on tour’ and Autumn date

This week, we hit the road. A small contingent of network members will be attending The Farm of the Future Women’s Day at FarmED in Oxfordshire, a regenerative mixed farm run by a female-led workforce.

Throughout the day there will be a focus on regenerative farming practices, farming with nature and self-care.

It’s been great to offer this trip to our members at a heavily subsidised rate of £30, including transport courtesy of Askham Bryan College.

We are also gearing up towards hosting the Network’s tenth Autumn Gathering. Save the date for Tuesday 10th October at Pavilions of Harrogate.

There will be more details about this event to share soon but we are already relishing the chance to bring our members together to hear from inspiring speakers in a sociable setting. Stay tuned for more!

Our Women In Farming Network is free to join and all are welcome

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WIF Autumn Gathering 2023