Farming Women In Their Own Words: Alison Shacklady

A farmer’s daughter brought up on an arable farm in Merseyside, Alison, 36, spent school holidays and weekends working on the family farm, from cutting veg to baling hay. She left school after A levels to pursue a teaching degree, until a summer job at an agricultural seed merchants came along and turned into a full-time position.

She moved on after 12 years to manage a wholesale nursery producing trees and shrubs, but missed having a link with farming. When she saw the position for a machinery sales rep at a local dealership that had recently taken on the New Holland franchise, she thought: “They’ll never give it to a woman” but they did

Describe a typical day

As a sales rep for J&S Lewis, New Holland dealers for Lancashire, my day consists of being out and about visiting customers – existing ones and cold calling. No two days are ever the same. I also spend time at the depot and follow up sales enquiries both from farmers coming into the yard or via the telephone. I deal with all aspects of the deal, from pricing of new or second-hand kit to the valuation of trade-in machinery. I follow all my sales through to signing off finance and delivery of machines.

What is your biggest achievement?

Being the first New Holland dealer saleswoman in the UK and making a success of my job in a male-dominated environment.

If you had one piece for advice for a rural woman, what would it be?

Anything is achievable. A rural lifestyle is an excellent platform for being able to turn your hand to anything. It provides you with common sense, confidence, life experiences and opportunities that can form a strong basis in any career path.

If you could change one thing to make life better for rural families what would it be?

I would change the public’s perception of rural life. People have a stereotypical image of farming, but don’t see the real graft and stress behind the scenes. They see farms, land and big machinery and think that the lifestyle is very affluent. They don’t see the long hours, poor returns on products, rising costs, high risks, weather constraints, disease and government factors that are continually faced by farmers.

What personality traits/skills do women in the countryside most need?

I think women in the countryside need to have a “can do” approach and be hard working. Countryside life is certainly not nine-to-five.

How do you think the life of a young woman on a farm has changed compared with 50 years ago?

Hugely. 50 years ago the emphasis of the role of the woman on a farm would have been to look after the home. She would have undertaken some manual farm jobs, but predominantly household ones. Most women are now hands-on and taking on exactly the same role as the men. Women now are key decision-makers and are involved in all aspects of farming life. At the same time there are many farmers’ wives that have to also maintain a full- or part-time job away from the farm to guarantee a regular income coming in.

Is the countryside a sexist place?

No not at all. There are a lot of women-driven businesses now – from farm and village shops to agricultural contracting.

What are your hopes/dream for the future?

Continue to learn and achieve within my current role and look forward to whatever new and challenging opportunities that this may create.

If you hadn’t chosen the course in life you have what would you have done?

I would have most likely taught, but am sure that ultimately this would not have given me the lifestyle and experiences that I have now.

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