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    Observer article on women in agriculture features Harper Adams expert

    18 March 2024

    The changing roles of women in agriculture have been explored in a feature for the Observer – with a little help from a Harper Adams expert.

    The piece, by Observer Lifestyle editor Alice Fisher, notes that: “While women comprised 17% of farmers in 2019, data from the Office for National Statistics for 2023 shows that of the 104,700 registered farmers, 22% are female.

    “In the broader category of managers in agricultural services, women make up 32% of the workforce.

    “According to recent figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 64% of agricultural students are women.

    “For an industry that historically relies on father-to-son succession to pass on land and which used to exclude women from many of its educational establishments, farming has come a long way.”

    It explores the work of women who have forged new roles in the sector – such as outgoing NFU President Minnette Batters and incoming director of the Great Yorkshire Show Rachel Coates.

    It also records the experience of women who tried to forge inroads into what was then a very male dominated sector in past decades – and the changes which have made the difference.

    Principal Lecturer in Agronomy at Harper Adams, Louisa Dines, who was among the women Alice spoke to for the piece, said: “Farmers’ wives and daughters were always important – farms are typically family businesses and intertwined with home life – but women used to operate below the radar.

    “Historically local meetings were in the pub or village hall. Wives often weren’t invited or had to look after the children. Even if they did go, it can be intimidating walking into a room full of men, but new communication platforms – such as social media and video conferencing – have made it easier for women to take part.”

    She also talks about a recent conference she visited in Poland which brought together women in farming from the UK, Ukraine, and Poland, and notes: “It was so interesting to see how far we’ve come.”

    Read the whole piece on the Observer website here.

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