Women in farming

We’ve had a busy time over the winter: keeping feed in front of 1,100 ewes has been a bit of a full time job for both of us and just as it peaked, the pigeons started on the rape – arrgghh! Anyway, the sun is pushing through now and everything’s got a dose of fert on it so hopefully we’ll turn a corner soon – fingers crossed – we start lambing in 10 days!!

I had an interesting invitation last week all of a hurry – the secretary of state hosted a ‘round table’ event for women in farming on international women’s day. There was a broad mix of representatives, only two mainstream farmers, a small holder and then a lot of ancillary industry representation –this seemed out of kilter to me until someone commented that only 48% of people in the industry were farmers – eh? I thought? I’d always thought of farming being 100% farmers, but no, we’re seen as a minority in our own industry!?!?! Perhaps this explains a lot!

My main aim for the meeting was to drive home that the only real difference between us and the boys is the having babies bit. I’ve never thought of myself differently in the industry ‘because I’m a woman’. There are many industries where we’re the minority but I don’t believe any good will come from banging some feminist drum all the time. Women in farming is also nothing new: tough and resilient women have always been a key part of British Agriculture. My only plea was to please do something about the childcare options to make it more flexible for us. (We have a nanny, partly because I had to go back to work so early and partly because in farming a flexible friend is vital and nurseries tend not to understand the copious excuses of why we’re late…again!). My eldest has just started pre-school and it’s an education to all of us at the moment, particularly when you write on the calendar all the days she won’t be at school (which includes all of lambing and all of harvest).

I know a lot of people will say oh, take them with you, we used to. Which we do a bit but they get bored and I don’t believe that modern farms are great places for children. Particularly our main arable yard – I don’t let the girls loose there – too many lorries and big tractors flying about – it’s not safe and it’s not fair on anyone.

We heard about new entrants and apprenticeships, which brought us nearly to the end of the meeting. I interjected and pointed out that you can plan whatever you like for women, but if the child care’s not right then they cannot benefit from it  – which seemed to resonate a little more this time!

So fingers crossed something good will come from it.



Jo Franklin is a partner in her family farm and grows approximately 970ha of combinable crops just to the west of Royston, Hertfordshire. Jo also has 230ha of grassland for 1,000 New Zealand Romney ewes and runs a 400ha mixed arable and cattle unit in Hampshire. Jo has a keen interest in soil and crop health, and uses a number of precision farming techniques to ensure accuracy of application. She is currently developing a commercial grain storage facility on-farm. Financial viability and pushing yields are her other main interests.