WALES

HCC champions female farmers ahead of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate women, challenge stereotypes and mark their achievements. Red meat production is traditionally associated with men, but there are many inspiring women who are making their mark in the industry and are passionate about its future.

Posted on Mar 07 ,00:15

HCC champions female farmers ahead of International Women’s Day

Two beef and sheep farmers from mid Wales spoke to Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) - an organisation that champions equal opportunities - about their passion for the industry.  

Multi-tasking mother, full time farmer and diversifier Sioned Thomas-Jones is one of many generations of her family to farm at Nant-y-Gaseg near Machynlleth, mid Wales. In partnership with her parents, Huw and Eleri, she runs a flock of around 960 head of speckle faced, Welsh Tregaron type and crossbred ewes, selling the finished lambs at the local livestock market. They also keep 30 suckler cows and sell their Limousin X store cattle, again at the local market, where they recently made history in the ring selling their 17-month Lim X steer for a centre record of £2,010.  

Sioned, 37, has always wanted to be a farmer. She said: "I had a keen interest in farming from a very young age and have worked here on the farm for nearly twenty years. I enjoy being out on the hills gathering the sheep, looking down on the Dyfi Valley - it really is heaven on earth for me.  

"My passion is sheep work. Shearing and lambing, I love it! Lambing in particular is a special time of year, there is nothing better than welcoming new life onto the farm, and I enjoy sharing that experience with my 9-year-old son, Huw Ifan". 

Sioned says that she has never felt any different for being female and has been wholeheartedly accepted in the farming community.

"I strongly feel that women play an equal role in the industry and have many female friends who work on farms.  

"Women have always been critical on the farm but traditionally may not have been given the credit they deserve. Despite being quite old-fashioned here – we enjoy coming into the house to a nice meal on the table after a long day on the hills, usually prepared by my mother, who also plays a crucial role in the business - it gives me great pride to see that things have now changed, women are proving that it’s not just an industry for men. 

"I’m involved in all aspects of the farm - from handling the animals to the big machinery - it's what I enjoy!"

However, she feels a sense of sadness that many farmers’ wives these days go out to work for an additional income to support the family. “It’s tough when you have to split yourself between two big demands - the farm and paid employment - and raising a family at the same time too.  

"My husband, Andy, works as a carpenter and we have diversified into tourism to boost our business – back in 2016 we renovated an old farm cottage into self-catering holiday accommodation, and the following year, we started a glamping business. We also sell home-produced lamb meat boxes which are always in popular demand. We pride ourselves on producing quality sustainable food, with low food miles". 

Sioned recognises the importance of protecting the landscape and environment and ensuring a future in farming for the next generation, including women. "I’d like to see more women entering the industry and I’m keen to play my part in securing a sustainable future for the red meat sector. We already do a great deal – we have planted hedges, keep native breeds, have stock excluded woodland on the farm and maintain the dry-stone walls that have been a feature of our farm for centuries!" 

With pure enjoyment and passion oozing from within Sioned as she speaks about her work, she is keen to encourage women to pursue a career in farming. "I think the future for women in agriculture looks bright. If you are passionate about farming, dedicated and enjoy what you do like I do, then my only advice would be to go for it!" 

Another female farming champion is Mali Davies, who farms Pontargamddwr on the outskirts of Tregaron. Bordering the Cors Caron National Nature Reserve which is a vast area of wetland filling the broad valley of the River Teifi, the farm has been in the Davies family since 2000. Here Mali and her mum Sian and sister Gwawr, look after 50 cattle and 300 sheep. 

Mali, 20 years old, studies Rural Enterprise and Land management at Harper Adams and is in her second year. Farming has been her passion from an early age and she enjoys the day-to-day work and variety that farming brings.  

She said: "I’ve been brought up on the farm and have always helped with anything that needed doing alongside my mum and dad. It’s in my blood and something I really enjoy doing. It’s been my passion from the start and I really enjoy being with the livestock and ensure they’re in good health. Being outdoors is great and I love the machinery work too. It’s the variety and no day is the same".  

As a woman in the industry Mali believes that women today have the opportunity to pursue their dreams within the industry and that it’s important for women have an equal opportunity in the agriculture sector.  

"Now is a good time for women to have a career in farming and I would encourage anyone to do so if that’s what they want to do. Women have a different perception about farming to men. We share our ideas with each other and work alongside each other", she said. 

Mali is determined to breed good quality sheep that produce a high-end product for the market, but high cost of production and trying to make a profit for the business can be a challenge.  

"I try to ensure we breed stock that are performing to their highest capabilities and that they can rear lambs as cheaply as possible. We also make sure that our grasslands are kept in really good condition so that we get the best out of the grass and produce meat from the grassland and costs are kept low and we have higher profits", she said. 

Walking the fields, Mali adds: "The opportunities for women now are great. We can do the same as men can do. There has been an increase in women playing an active role on the farm and are we are getting appreciated more.  

"Women are being taken more seriously. From our point of view and talking to my friends at college, I feel the imbalance has been addressed, however, for the future of farming to prevail, both men and women need to unify and recognise that we are equal". 

With lambing starting on the farm beginning of March, Mali has a busy time ahead - regularly checking the sheep and making sure the bedding is kept fresh for the livestock. 

"The cows are also in at the moment so we keep the sheds clean and tidy and make sure they’re kept in tip top condition too. It’s a big challenge juggling college assignments and then keeping up with jobs here on the farm. We have to be efficient and keep on top of everything, but girl power all the way and we’re working well as a team!" 

Women and farming have an important role to play and she adds: "I have been very lucky and my family and friends have been very supportive through the years. Farming is such an important sector. It’s the backbone of our rural communities, it provides jobs and keeps our culture alive. I am concerned about what the future might hold for farming and I want to make sure we have a sector for our women in the future - food production needs both". 

Speaking about the important role of women in the industry and at HCC, Anne Dunn, HCC’s Communications and External Affairs Lead, said: "Women have seen a real change in attitudes over the years and there is more support out there now. However, we mustn’t shy away from conversations around equality and providing opportunities for young women to enter the industry. 

"HCC employs some phenomenal women and works with many others in the sector - on International Women’s Day we are honoured to acknowledge the important role they play on farms across Wales and the tremendous contributions women make to family life, rural businesses, the red meat industry and our economy".

 NEWSLETTER - Stay informed with the latest news!

Comments





Similar articles

SCOTLAND

QMS: How Monitor Farmers stay strong in challenging times

"Today is a yellow weather warning with snow falling in Perthshire,” says Beth Alexander, Q...


Read more Read more
UK

Ceredigion coastal farm tackles changing weather patterns with grass management

Penlan farm, Llanrhystud is home to Glyn, Eleri, Dewi and Ifan Davies, who manage this coastal ho...


Read more Read more
SCOTLAND

Quality Meat Scotland drives innovation within the butchery sector

The events, at Yorkes of Dundee and Strachans Craft Butchers in Larkhall, were led by industry ex...


Read more Read more
Websolutions by Angular Software and SpiderClass