Women in Agriculture Blog - 18 December 2017

Earlier in 2017, NFUS published its plans to get more women engaging in NFUS structures. Having carried out a membership survey to establish demand, the Union was able to begin to put the wheels in motion for positive evolution. In my blog earlier this year, I noted that the Union recognised that it needed to do more to ensure that women were able to engage, should they wish to do so.

I’m pleased to say, that since that blog was published we have been able to make some positive steps in effecting change. For some, this will no doubt not be quick enough, but many members are taking the time to contact us, and to put their shoulder to the wheel of furthering the cause.

For NFUS, the women in agriculture workstream is in two parts. Firstly, engagement with external organisations and the wider working group. NFUS President Andrew McCornick has been attending Scottish Government’s taskforce on this issue, and I know he has found these meetings to be interesting and eye opening.  Internal work is the second piece of this workstream, and this is where NFUS staff have been working to try to progress the women in agriculture cause.

The first event of this year was held in the Dumfries and Galloway Region. Supported by NFUS Regional Manager, Teresa Dougall, the Dumfries and Galloway ‘Dairy Women’s Network’ launched at Ayr Show in May.  Due in no small part to the energy and enthusiasm of Tracey Roan-who has recently graced our screens in the BBC program ‘This Farming Life’, this was followed by an open meeting which was attended by more than 20 ladies.
I attended this event as a speaker, and found it to be warm, engaging, inclusive, and very positive-something which cannot be said for all of the agricultural meetings that I attend!  Attendees came were a mix of women working directly in agriculture, and others in associated ancillary industries. By close of the meeting it was clear that there was demand for the group to provide training and networking for women in the area. I’m very pleased to say that since that time, Teresa and Tracey have worked up a calendar of events for 2018, with subjects including book keeping and calf training on the menu.

Following on from this event, the NFUS Argyll and Islands region held a very successful mini conference in Lochgilphead. Again, this event was very well attended, with a mixture of both male and female attendees.  Participants were provided with a workshop seminar, on subjects such as becoming politically active. As with the Dumfries and Galloway event, this event was universally positive, and with a clear desire to both share ideas and engage further with NFUS.

Having used these two events as a learning experience, NFUS is in a positive place with regards to progressing the apparent under representation of women in the Union. There are plans in motion to hold more events in 2018, and we are starting to see a steady trickle of women contacting us at Head Office, looking to become more involved. Having had discussions internally, NFUS would like to see more regional women in agriculture groups, although this must be member led and have sufficient demand.

I would urge women (or men!) with an interest in this subject, and who have views to share, or who feel strongly that their NFUS region could or should have an event, to contact with me directly.   Meanwhile, NFUS is looking ahead to events that are the mainstays in our annual calendar, for example our excellent conference and annual dinner in February which is held in Glasgow. My challenge to the women amongst the membership is to attend these, ask questions, be vocal, work with us, and help drive change. The door is certainly open, and we are inviting you to lead the charge.

Author: Gemma Cooper

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About The Author

Gemma Cooper

Gemma Cooper is a graduate of Harper Adams and started her career in practical land and estate management in Perthshire and Angus. She developed her career as an agricultural and rural business consultant with a specialism in farm diversification. Gemma joined NFUS in 2012 as Legal and Technical Policy Manager and was later promoted to Head of Policy Team. She has extensive experience of a broad range of rural policy issues relating to land reform, land use, access and rural law and her role includes influencing at a Scottish and UK level on behalf of NFUS members. Gemma combines advocacy work with management and development of the NFUS team of policy professionals.

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