Past Women in Dairy award winners explain why they think the initiative is vital for the industry

Established to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in the British dairy industry the Dairy Industry Woman of the Year Award has continued to grow in popularity and has crowned several worthy winners working at regional and national levels throughout the sector since its inception three years ago.

Women in Dairy patron Di Wastenage says reading the nominations each year is a huge privilege and utterly inspiring. “The conference and awards are our opportunity to showcase the diverse roles, strengths and talents within our sector and I have no doubt our industry is in safe hands.”

Regional winner Ceri Cryer (l) and national winner Jan Prince (r) receiving the Dairy Woman of the Year Awards from principal sponsor HSBC's Denise LlewellynWEB.jpg

Last year Janette Prince, an organic dairy farmer and well known figure within the industry, won the national award for her promotion of the industry – sharing her knowledge and personal experiences to inspire others into the sector. Regional winner Ceri Cryer promised to “live up to this award” when she was crowned regional winner – victorious due to her work with local tv, radio and social media to promote the industry and benefits of dairy products.

We caught up with Jan and Ceri to find out their thoughts on all things Women in Dairy.

What do you think is the biggest benefit of the Women in Dairy initiative?

JP: It’s a great way of networking, not only with fellow dairy farmers, but other women involved in the industry, from processors, vets and nutritionists. The local and national meetings have provided numerous opportunities to develop my business and personal skills.

CC: It’s a great platform for raising the profile of dairy farming – it has a powerful force of active, capable women who are able to make that difference, raise their horizons and go for the committees, chairmanships and non-executive director positions.

Why would you encourage other women to get involved?

JP: Farming can be an isolating business whether you farm in your own right or as part of a family partnership. The groups provide an opportunity to give yourself some space to think whilst sharing and exchanging ideas with likeminded individuals.

CC: Women have worked and acted as a support mechanism in the industry for many years but have not necessarily been recognised for their contribution. I feel the groups provide a platform for women to speak out in an environment that could otherwise be regarded as intimidating. There’s no doubt we are making progress as an industry and I hope one day there will be so many women involved in the sector that their voice will be heard without the need for such initiatives as Women in Dairy.

Why do you think the role of women in the industry deserves to be recognised through awards such as these?

JP: There are many people, men and women, who do a lot to support and promote the industry however many go unrecognised. With these awards specifically highlighting the role of women in the industry they will hopefully encourage others to get involved and show how diverse the sector is. More and more women are coming into agriculture and taking the driving seat and I think that can only be a good thing.

CC: It’s so important to recognise all of the work done by individuals across the industry and awards such as these help further empower women by giving them some of the recognition they deserve for their work – acknowledgements like this encourage us all to keep going when times get tough.

What did winning the national Women in Dairy award mean to you?

JP: As a “townie” who came into farming by marriage 35 years ago, founded the Staffordshire branch of the Women’s Farming Union and was told back then by our NFU county secretary to “leave the important stuff to the men”, it means a great deal. His comment only made me more determined to be a good ambassador for the industry and not be afraid to take a seat at the table with the men! But, it is also with thanks to many people, who have supported and mentored me along the way.

CC: I felt both overwhelmed and undeserving of the award but am glad it generated that bit more media conversation about dairy farming and Women in Dairy.

Where do you see the role of women in the industry in the next ten years?

JP: We need to remember this is not a battle of the sexes, we all have a part to play and I think women bring another dimension to the dairy industry that is very important. I believe, regardless of gender, we must all play to our strengths and bear in mind working together is key.

CC: Simply taking up more space in it and making more noise!

Why would you encourage people to submit a nomination for next year’s awards?

JP: Acknowledgement that your efforts are recognised as a positive force is an excellent way of saying thank you. I was delighted to discover I’d even been nominated, so someone taking the time to do that is very worthwhile in itself!

CC: You know that someone you admire, who’s out their doing great things in the industry? Nominate them and then come along to the conference to find out how they’ve got on – award nominations aside it’s a fabulous day out regardless.

The finalists for this year’s awards will be announced in the next edition of British Dairying with the winners being named at the conference.

This year’s Women in Dairy national conference takes place on Wednesday 18 September at Sixways Stadium, Worcester. The full programme and further information can be found here. Tickets are now on sale via the website with concessions in place for Women in Dairy members and group members. The early bird rate for standard tickets is valid until the end of July.