9 October 2000
Public has rosy view of rural women

By FWi staff

MOST members of the public have an image of farmers wives as rosy-cheeked, cake-baking child-carers, according to a new survey.

But the reality is that farming women are as likely to be managing the business and devising new enterprises as their husbands, says the National Farmers Union.

Despite this, most of those questioned in an NFU commissioned study regarded traditional roles as primary responsibilities of farm women.

More than half saw her as rosy-cheeked, a third believed she would be plump, and 79% said she would be preoccupied with baking cakes.

Seventy four per cent believed that after cooking, a farmers wife spends most of her time looking after the children.

Some 64% said she keeps track of bills and paperwork, and 79% said she helps feed the animals

But NFU statistics show nearly half farming women have a key role in managing the farm business.

Some 65% are a partner in the agriculture operation and more than a third are responsible for new enterprises on the farm.

Patricia Stanley, who farms in Leicestershire and represents her region on NFU Council, said: “The public desperately wants to believe everything is cosy in the countryside.

“The harsh reality is that so much has changed already. Life as a farmers wife now means turning your hand to everything.

“Of all the things we take on, perhaps the hardest is keeping the mood at home and around the farm positive.”

Farming women team up this week to share their experiences and business ideas, offer encouragement, and listen to business advisors at farmhouse seminars.

These are organised by the NFU with the National Federation of Womens Institutes and the Womens Food and Farming Union

They form part of international celebrations for World Rural Womens Day (15 October), culminating with a day of prayer.