Both Part 1 and 2 of our Women in Agriculture mini blog series have focused on women involved in, and driving, tourism diversification projects. For Part 3, we interviewed Emma Gray who is predominantly known for being highly successful in sheepdog breeding and training, a diversification project in itself but perhaps more traditional. Emma, her husband Ewan and son Len have recently featured in BBC Two’s documentary series “This Farming Life”, all about farmers and their experiences over the course of a year - well worth a watch on BBC iPlayer if you didn’t catch it!
With Emma’s experience running both her own farm ‘Fallowlees’ and her joint venture with Ewan at their new farm on the Isle of Bute, we asked her what she thinks women bring to the agriculture table and who she views as a female role model in her industry…
“I think women have better empathy compared to men, and I think this translates into a better understanding of people and animals needs, beyond the obvious
As for my first role model… it would be my mum. She wasn't from a farming family but was expected to deal with everything from the get go. Then later Katy Cropper. I remember devouring her book and being very impressed by the fact that she was still very feminine and was well respected in the industry and she didn’t have to act like a man to get that recognition. Later on I was to discover Julie Hill as well, also a well respected dog handler and the only female winner of the Supreme International Championship. These two women really trail blazed the sheepdog industry and farming as a whole for me.
Sheepdog breeding and training is more than a job for Emma, it's something that she is hugely passionate about. At 23, Emma wrote her first book “One Girl and Her Dogs” which details the period of her life where she built her own life and path to success. We asked Emma what her most proud moment would be when she looks back on that path so far…
“My proudest moments have been winning the Nursery final the second time and beating the world record a second time, because it proved it wasn't a flash in the pan! The second time meant I was getting consistent not lucky”
In the last couple of years, Emma has also “diversified” into motherhood, and raises son Len alongside running her farm businesses with fireman turned farmer, Ewan. We asked her how she’s found the progression to motherhood as a farmer, and her answer was admirably honest, but also hugely familiar to so many who live such a full on, independent life…
“Having Len was a real struggle, I'm not a natural born mother and am naturally very independent. It felt like my wings were clipped, but now we have progressed past the newborn stage I feel much better about it. I do feel guilty often, but I think guilt and motherhood go hand in hand!”
Well we’d definitely agree with that one. Being true to your own passions and dreams does carry a level of guilt for any mother but we’re firm supporters of all women (not just in agriculture) being able work their way towards their own goals. We asked Emma what her advice would be to any women who want to get involved in agriculture or who want to grow their involvement in the industry...
“My advice, don't try to be someone else, just be the best version of yourself. At the beginning I was always trying to emulate other people, trying to copy their path, trying to be a woman, being a man, in a man’s world. Now I've realised it's much more fun being a woman in a man's world!”
Advice that probably applies to life, not just agriculture!
If you would like to read more about Emma’s life, her book One Girl and Her Dogs is available on Amazon and you can catch up on This Farming Life on BBC iPlayer now.