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Students and alumnae join Secretary of State for International Women's Day

Posted 8 March 2016

“I count myself as lucky to be brought up with the ethic that gender doesn’t matter, it is if you are able to do the job."

Leading women farmers from around the country – including Harper Adams students and alumnae - will join Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss today to celebrate women’s contributions to British farming and the increasing number of women looking to the industry for a rewarding career.

Among those joining the Environment Secretary to mark International Women’s Day will be 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 will discuss a wide range of issues relating to women in farming, including the barriers women continue to face when starting and building a career in the industry. As well as exploring ways to reduce these obstacles, the roundtable will look at how to encourage more female students and women to consider farming as a serious career choice.

Today, women make up 28 per cent of the British agricultural workforce and the numbers of women running farms has steadily increased to just over 25,000. Dynamic groups such as Ladies in Beef and Ladies in Pigs are fantastic examples of women who are at the forefront of promoting quality British produce at home and overseas. 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. Harper Adams University has recorded a doubling of the number of female students studying agriculture over the last five years – boosting female representation on agricultural courses 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.”

In addition to hosting the roundtable, the Secretary of State will also attend a Ladies in Agriculture event to mark International Women’s Day. Inspirational women working across the industry will talk to the professional networking group about qualifications and careers in agriculture, including how to put an agricultural qualification into practice and why agriculture is a great career opportunity.

Case study:

Jessica Spencer – Studying Business Management at Harper Adams:

Currently studying Business Management at Harper Adams, after graduating Jess wants to move into farm retail/business and one day hopes to take over her family’s farm shop and expand it further. Jess’s family farm made the decision to cease dairy farming in the early 1990s and diversify to concentrate on farm retail, selling fresh fruit, vegetables and free range eggs through their farm shop which expanded to include an in-house butchery, Deli counter and bakery.

Seeing this type of innovation first hand Jess believes that for British farmers to survive through time of hardship UK farming families need to become innovative and discover alternative means of income.

She believes that the need for change within the sector can and will be stimulated by the introduction of women into the agricultural field. Jess is passionate about farming and supporting British farmers, taking inspiration from a quote which was part of the driving force for moving into agriculture: “Once in your lifetime you will need a doctor, a lawyer and a policeman, but every day, three times a day we need a farmer.”

Jess said: “There are never two days the same in the farming sector and our British farmers work so hard to produce sufficient food to feed our nation. We need to continue to support our farmers by buying British grown/reared food and ensure a prosperous future in UK agriculture.

Lynsey Martin:

Lynsey is a young beef and sheep farmer and chair of Chair of Agriculture and Rural Issues Steering Group for the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs.

After studying Agriculture with Animal Science at Harper Adams, Lynsey has worked as a self-employed livestock worker which she is passionate about. Working in a male-dominated environment, Lynsey has experience some scepticism about her ability to do the job , however with hard work Lynsey has been able to prove others wrong and finds that people involved in agriculture appreciate hard work.

In the future Lynsey would like expand her small sheep and cattle business to become a completely contained supply chain selling everything she produces through the farm shop.

Lynsey said: “I count myself as lucky to be brought up with the ethic that gender doesn’t matter, it is if you are able to do the job. My mum before me was an only child so our family was already well used to women in agriculture as she took on a full role in the farm.”

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