Increasing role for females, 
 says farms report

08:00 12 July 2014

Helen Reeve of Waveney  Dexters, with one of her Dexters and calf. Picture: Denise Bradley

Helen Reeve of Waveney Dexters, with one of her Dexters and calf. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

A prominent female farmer in Norfolk has backed the findings of a survey which points to women playing an increasingly influential role in the industry.

The report by Barclays Agriculture paints a bright picture of a new generation of female farmers who are almost universally - 88pc - optimistic about the future.

And it reveals that advances in technology and improvements in machinery, placing less reliance on physical strength, are opening up ever more diverse opportunities for women.

The report, Women in Farming: The Changing Face of Agriculture in the UK, surveyed 1,410 female farmers and highlights the reality that women are becoming increasingly important to the future success of UK farms.

It supports the latest official figures from the Office for National Statistics which show the number of female farmers has swelled to 23,000 compared to 19,000 male farmers.

Helen Reeve, 32, who has an important role on a dairy farm in Starston, near Harleston, taking responsibility for paperwork and calf rearing alongside the milking of its 150-strong Jersey herd, said: “I think the report is spot on. Women are as good as any man. We probably have more perseverence and patience and - as the report highlights - a bit more optimism.”

Helen, who has been a leading light in Young Farmers at both national and county level, said there was definitely a noticeable increase in the number of women entering the industry.

She said: “When I was a student at Easton College I was one of two girls doing a national diploma in agriculture.

“Now I am a lecturer at the college one day a week I see loads more girls on farming courses.”

Helen, who lives at Alburgh, near Harleston, said there was also far more acceptance these days.

“Back in the day, people might say, ‘Helen can’t do these sorts of jobs’. There is not the same inequality now,” she said.

She admitted farming had taken over her life as her spare time is devoted to her own 50-strong herd of Dexter cattle.

The report found that it is younger female farmers who are the most optimistic, with 40pc under the age of 24 and 40pc of those aged 25 to 34 saying they were very optimistic about the future of their farm.

Barclays’ national agricultural specialist Oliver McEntyre said: “We have seen the number of female owned farming businesses increase by 3pc in recent years, particularly strong in lowland cattle and sheep farms and farm services, and we anticipate further growth over the next two to three years as well.”

The Barclays report revealed that female farmers believe their top greatest strengths lie in office management (66pc), domestic duties (52pc) practical work (42pc), business strategy (40pc) and staff management (29pc).

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