Dairy Event 2009: Farming Women’s Workshops launched

There is no doubt that farmers’ wives and partners play critical roles in farms across the UK, be it taking care of the paperwork or taking a more active role in the day-to-day work of the farm.

To recognise this, RABDF has launched a series of Farming Women’s Workshops at this year’s event. Specifically designed for farmers’ wives or their lifelong partners, the seminars will be delivered, chaired and supported by women – The Women’s Food and Farming Union and the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators and sponsored by EnviroSystems’ managing director, Liz Russell.

The workshop seminars will offer solutions to some of the complex issues farming women frequently have to manage, including; employment law, succession planning, negotiating skills and business implications for diversification enterprises.

This year farmers are being encouraged to bring along their wives or partners to the event, says RABDF chief executive Nick Everington. “We are well aware that women play a significant role in managing the business, as well as providing that vital and invaluable support.

“Livestock farming women frequently excel in multi-tasking using a diverse range of skills. Apart from managing a busy family life, they can often be found working on the farm and running the farm office. Farming Women’s Workshops will provide useful information on how to deal with some of the significant challenges they have to face, as well as an opportunity to meet other farming women to discuss common issues.”

Having spent more than 20 years visiting farms across the UK, Liz Russell, managing director of Envirosystems is well aware of the valuable role women have in many business. “Some work full-time, while others have their own careers off the farm yet still make time for active involvement. I have found them all to be quite unique and remarkable in the contribution they make to the farming business.

“These women need patience to help their partners run a successful business operating in an ever-changing market place and economy. They need tenacity to continually learn and adopt new skills – for example, IT and computer programming – and they need to have the ability to see the bigger picture from beyond the farm gate when it comes to introducing new ideas. They are often the ones who say, “why not” rather than “why”.

“Farming women need huge confidence to put forward well thought through views which engender good debate within the business and contribute to its rapid progress. Most importantly, those with children need to balance the requirements of both the family and the business; they have the massive responsibility of instilling in the next generation a belief in the future of farming, an appreciation of country values and their role in managing the environment.”

Speaker profile

Sian Bushell – succession facilitator

Succession planning is vital, but all too often is postponed or ignored, says Sian Bushell.

Potentially fraught conversations on the subject can be relatively pain free, however, when simple guidelines are followed, adds succession facilitator Sian, who’ll be speaking on the topic at the Farming Women’s Workshops.

“Succession is going to happen to a business, whether you plan it or not, so it’s wise to prepare.” Such planning can avoid personal, business and tax problems.

Whether it’s planning for what happens after the older generation dies, or more short- and medium-term considerations, talking is crucial. “I’ve seen huge problems of families falling out – usually because of a lack of communication and understanding. Once you sit down and talk, the anger and frustration dissipates because people understand what is happening.”

The summer and autumn months can be a good chance to broach such subjects, with young people coming back to family businesses from college and university. “Parents often assume that they know what their children want to do. Never assume.”

Issues such as what hours they’re going to work, their wages, where they’ll live and what training they will be given should be discussed. Involve other brothers and sisters into the conversation, too, she urges.

For all such topics, it’s advisable to have a family meeting. “It’s wise to pick a neutral venue, so no one feels vulnerable or threatened. Make sure you’re not interrupted, turn off your mobile phones, be honest and make sure everyone is listened to and understood.”

Farming Women’s Workshops schedule


Subject, speaker and chairman


Farm training, what’s available and funding opportunities, Lantra’s Laura Biddick-Bray. Chairman, IAgSA’s Tracey Nicholls


Diversification and the business implications, CLA’s Sarah Slade. Chairman, Baroness Byford


How to develop an effective succession plan, Sian Bushell. Chairman, Farmers Weekly‘s Jane King


Latest developments on employment law, Wright Hassall’s Suki Harrar. Chairman, WFU’s Helen Bower


Improving you negotiation skills, Julie Sargent, Carrs Billington. Chairman, EnviroSystems’ Liz Russell


Making headway with your paperwork Ð the maps and the data, RPA’s Elizabeth Lore and BCMS’s Tina Bland.Chairman, farmer Sally Macalpine