Leading women farmers from around the country joined the Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss on March 8th to celebrate women’s contributions to British farming.
Among those joining the Environment Secretary to mark International Women’s Day were Lynsey Martin, a young beef and sheep farmer and chair of Chair of Agriculture and Rural Issues Steering Group for National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, Beverly Dixon, HR Director of major fruit veg grower and exporter G’s, in Cambridgeshire, and current Harper Adams Business Management student Jessica Spencer.
The group discussed a wide range of issues relating to women in farming.
Today, women make up 28% of the British agricultural workforce and the numbers of women running farms has steadily increased to just over 25,000. Women are increasingly taking on senior positions in key farming organisations – including the NFU and AHDB.
Universities and colleges are also reporting a rise in female students taking agricultural courses. The latest Higher Education enrolment figures show 25% more women (1,115) than men (820) enrolled onto agricultural-related courses last year. The Royal Agricultural University, in Cirencester, has seen a 44% increase of female students, while Harper Adams University, in Shropshire, has recorded a doubling of the number of female students studying agriculture over the last five years – boosting female representation in the agricultural faculty to nearly a third.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
‘The increasing number of women looking to a career in food and farming is positive and exciting. Farming, like any industry, needs to attract new talent and ideas and harness the skills of both young women and men.
International Women’s Day provides us with an excellent opportunity to celebrate the contribution women are making to farming – from agricultural engineering to food production and advising retailers and supermarkets.
With agricultural often perceived as a male-dominated industry, it’s important we recognise the leading role women are playing. Now I want to see the industry build on this and more women taking on jobs in farming.’
Latest available figures show the numbers of women running farms has steadily increased from under 23,000 in 2010 to just over 25,000 in 2013.