The number of women in farming has grown significantly over the years, rising from just 7% to 17% from 2008 to 2018 according to the Office of National Statistics. Digital farming and the introduction of modern technologies is empowering more women to join the farming industry and take on key leadership roles.
The shift towards smart farming means that today, brains, not brawn, are now the key to a farm’s success and play a key role in closing the gender gap. Influential women such as Minette Batters, President of the National Farming Union in England and Wales, also play a pivotal role in encouraging more female farmers.
We spoke to our very own female lead, Clare Nicholson, company Director, about her views and experience of women in farming.
Q: Can you tell us about your career progression and experience within the industry?
A: I have been involved in this business since the day I was born. Nicholson is a family run business set up by my Father in 1972, so I have been around farm machinery design and business management all my life. I started as an office assistant, and have worked up to Director.
Q: With a rise in female students now actively studying agriculture and farming related courses, do you feel there are more career opportunities within farming and related sectors?
A: Yes, absolutely. The females I come across within this industry are usually office based but I am seeing that more of our customers are female and hold a variety of job roles such as engineering, maintenance, sales and machine operation.
Q: Do you think technology is leading the way for change? If yes, how so.
A: Yes, I think agriculture is going through an evolution. For example, drone technology is being used to enable the farmer to assess crop health, allowing to be seen what wouldn’t be seen by walking through the crop, therefore optimising the best time to harvest, resulting in maximum yield. It is predicted by 2050 worldwide we will need to grow 70% more food to cope with the increasing population. Technology that encourages sustainability benefits the farmer; technology that improves efficiency with water, fertiliser and pesticides benefits the environment and in turn benefits the consumer with lower prices.
Q: What do you think the future of farming looks like for women?
A: I think it looks very positive. Farming is traditionally a male dominated industry for various reasons, such as land being passed down to the boys and older machinery needing muscle power rather than technology. That’s not to say women can’t do the work that requires muscle power, it is just that in the last 20 years innovation has made the industry a more attractive career choice for males and females. Where technology based jobs are more equal in the male/female divide, the rise of technology in farming will open doors for more women in the farming industry. For example carbon farming is urgently important and data driven precision fertiliser applications will use technology to prove reduction in nitrogen.