To coincide with our @WomenInAgriculture Instagram #TakeoverTuesday yesterday, we thought that we would explore what it’s like being a woman, not just working but leading and driving success, in agriculture.
We’ve spoken to three women and have split their interviews into a 3-part mini blog series! In Part 1, we hear from fellow local farmer and diversification boss, Lucy Tile, who runs self-catering holiday cottages at the Bairnkine near Jedburgh. In Part 2, we introduce half of the fourth generation farming duo at the Newton of Fothringham Farm and owner of Newton Farm Holidays, Louise Nicoll. And in Part 3, we hear some personal insights from a familiar face from BBC Two’s ‘This Farming Life’, nationally renowned sheepdog breeder and trainer, Emma Gray.
But firstly… Just why might women be the future of farming?
Ok well maybe not the future, not the only gender in the future - after all we are not going to eradicate men.. or are we?
More and more women are now at the forefront of farming and we are darn right here to stay. For so long the most common role for women in farming has been that of the ‘farmer’s wife’. Now that is a title I personally own and am proud of, but like so many other women in my position it just isn’t a good enough description for the many roles we fulfil each day! With help from the fingertips, brain power and the sheer determination of women, agriculture is making great forward progress. Farmer’s wife, farmer in her own right, diversification entrepreneur like myself, or commonly all three and more, women in agriculture manage their roles as expertly as a seasoned street juggler - knives and flaming batons galore! I’m not sure if there’s any industry which requires the born-with-skill of multitasking quite as much as farming!
So as mentioned above, I spent this month interviewing my fellow countryside loving, muddy-booted, scruffy-on-the-school-run gender sisters and heard about some of their experiences of their chosen role working in agriculture…
First up we have Lucy Tile who lives, and runs a tourism diversification business, at the Bairnkine, near our farm on the outskirts of Jedburgh. As she was not born into a farming family, Lucy has had to adjust to farming life and after many learning experiences, she has taken the lead of the beautiful self catering cottages at their family farm. It didn’t always feel like second nature though...
“The biggest hurdle [when marrying into farming life] was having to learn everything… fast! There was so much to learn and take in as my knowledge was zero! I think Matt had second thoughts when he realised I thought you decided on a tractor and then let the dealership know what colour you wanted! Just like a car...”
From those early days, Lucy has grown her knowledge and is now welcoming people onto the farm to stay and experience rural life in the Scottish Borders. But where does her drive and inspiration come from?
“I love meeting new people and chatting to them about what we do. We are passionate about farming, the countryside and conservation so what's not to like about letting people know? I love when they take a walk on the farm and visit one of the ponds or see a deer or buzzard”.
Despite the amazing scenery and abundance of wildlife in the local area, it’s not just farming and conservation that Lucy is passionate about. At the Bairnkine, it can sometimes be a three strong female team, and Lucy points out that their strength lies in their ability to work together whilst focusing on shared farming values...
“Compassion and drive to succeed are two of the best skills women bring to agriculture. We also work well as part of a team. Our values are the same as men where farming is concerned, we just sometimes want to go about it in a different way. Men and women work well together on farms. The partnership has been there for generations”.
And for generations, farming has been built on the memories and skills of those that came before us. We asked Lucy what her best farming memory or accomplishment was to date…
“I have lots of memories….. I love a sunny lambing! Early on when we first arrived Matt had me doing some things that I just got on and did, with hindsight and what I know now I may have said no! I was sent off in a tractor with a mower on the back to cut firebreaks on a hill. I was hanging on for dear life thinking “it must be safe as I was told to do it”. I am not sure I would be keen to be at that angle in a tractor now! My best accomplishment is an easy one - my daughter!”
If you’re looking to book a relaxing, rural staycation this summer, check out the self-catering cottages at the Bairnkine! You can visit their website here: https://www.bairnkinecottages.co.uk/