Delegates to the inaugural Women in Dairy conference staged at Worcester, on 9 September were reminded they had a vital role to play in promoting the industry and were well positioned to take this up. They connected and shared and were also inspired by other dairy farmers’ experiences.
Women have real passion and compassion, they’re good communicators, good listeners and good at nurturing – values which would match up-coming opportunities, said LEAF chief executive, Caroline Drummond who officially opened the conference.
“There are real changes going forward in the rural identity which will provide women with the chance to focus on explaining what’s behind our food – its’ authenticity, the high standards to which it is produced, explain the Red Tractor label, discuss health aspects and encourage the use of real, non-processed food as part of everyone’s diet.
“Farm women have many roles – from caring for children to farm business management, in fact they’re behind 80% of farm diversification enterprises,” she said. “It’s a case of having the confidence to stand up and be counted, whether it’s one to ones or hosting an Open Farm Sunday or an Open Farm School Day.”
Amanda Ball, head of marketing and communications AHDB Dairy said: “I see and hear the passion from Women in Dairy and I encourage as many as possible to seize the opportunity to become ambassadors to help promote our industry.
“We’ve recently been actively promoting to the public information provided by our market intelligence colleagues and introducing ‘experts’ including farming ‘ambassadors’ as we call them who can give first-hand knowledge and accounts of the issues faced. These ambassadors are often women with a solid perspective and understanding of the farm business and able to relate to the public the story of modern day farming.”
Nuffield scholar and Gloucestershire NFU county chairman, Tanya Robbins urged delegates to take time out. “Time away enables you to think more clearly about your farming business and your family; my eight week Nuffield study tour ‘Innovative Women in Today’s Agriculture’ to seven countries was a turning point and gave me a lot more confidence,” she said. “Overall, I found these women were prepared to work hard, they had a will to succeed in business even if it was against their culture, and they were willing to mentor others. For many, education, infrastructure and family were keys to their success.”
Di Wastenage, a director of a South West family farming business which includes four block calving units said: “Succession planning should be the number one item on the ‘to do’ list that you cannot put off forever; get it right and it can harness your aims and ambitions and energise the next generation; ignore and it will stifle the farming business.
“Our business is all about numbers; we look at them on an on-going basis so we can react and make an early decision; in fact they provide the evidence and lead every decision we make,” she said. “Every new year’s day we ask if everyone involved in our business deserves a slice of our milk cheque.
“Don’t be afraid of change. We’ve done everything from organic farming to milking bails. This year we’ve set up a training farm for extended grazing. Identify what you are good at and then stand back from the business, engage in training, travel and research together with mentoring; it’s never too late to learn. We are not satisfied to learn just from the media, we have to go and see for ourselves – each year, my husband Peter and I arrange a study tour with our two teenage boys; we regard it as training and investment for the future. Last year was Australia to discuss weather and risk management.”
She added: “If you are passionate about your ideas, and think they are going to work, then go for it. Enjoy what you do, despite moments of panic. However don’t give up on an idea when things get tough, remember if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it.”
Saskia Korink, Wisconsin based Genus ABS chief operating officer commented: “Recognizing the strengths of both men and women in the industry, and aligning those strengths to the roles that are out there will be of benefit both the individuals and the dairy businesses however large or small. I’d urge all women to be focused on what they’re passionate about, they’ll be good at it and pave their own way to success,” she said adding: “Women in Dairy’s involvement in establishing and facilitating women in dairy groups will help the women in the dairy industry to build confidence in aspiring career progression which will have a positive impact on the individual dairy businesses as well as the agricultural sector as a whole.”