Farmer Focus: Arable needs to break the male monoculture

Although I am an arable Farmer Focus writer, sheep are an integral part of our arable rotation and our annual crop of lambs is the yield element of our fertility-building leys.

They have also increased the farm’s diversity in terms of income, even though we have some rotational fine-tuning to do, and profitability.

Diversity is key to any farm’s overall resilience, and since our conversion to organic production, our business is unrecognisable in terms of multiple enterprises, and the introduction of livestock is our latest diversification.

See also: How Cambs grower has halved glyphosate use

But there is one area that we are horribly lacking in terms of diversity. We employ no women within our arable enterprise. But hopefully that will all change.

Inspiring women

A female leader of our National Farmers Union has to inspire more women to join the industry, and it does seem that locally I am increasingly behind a growing curve.

Beth Duchesne is a regular sight on the roads around Shimpling, going from field to field for her family contracting business.

My daughter, Lilly, inspired by a local farmer and contractor Sally Brewis, now has a temporary job with Alex Sell, who by all accounts is harvesting, foraging and baling most of south Essex.

Jo Franklin’s Nuffield farming scholarship on soil and crop nutrition is now being thoroughly tested in her own expanding farming business.

It’s an increasing list, and long may it continue. But what about my own arable operation? Three years ago we advertised for a machinery operator and had five applicants. All were male.

When and if we do have to advertise again, I hope there is a greater gender diversity in the response, and if there is, I hope that I will be like Alex Sell and break our male monoculture.

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