World Rural Women’s Day to celebrate women’s growing role in the farming world

Women are playing an increasingly high-profile role in the world of farming, a fact which people are being asked to celebrate this weekend as part of World Rural Women’s Day (Sunday, 15 October).

The NFU has said the annual international event is an ideal time to recognise that women are starting to take more of a lead in the sector.

The union’s ruling council has traditionally been very male dominated, but it now has seven women as members, which is more than ever before.

One of these is Sarah Pettitt, vice-chairman of the NFU’s horticulture board, and agricultural technical manger for Christian Salvesen foods, the UK’s largest frozen vegetable processor.

Although only 32, Ms Pettit (pictured) sits on various industry bodies, so is widely consulted on issues. She is also a fourth generation farmer involved in a 202ha (500-acre) farm in Lincolnshire.

Rural Women’s Day (15 October) is organised by the Associated Country Women of the World, which has over 9m members in over 70 countries.

“I think there is a debate raging about how to attract more young people and women into horticulture and I hope I am helping that,” she told Farmers Weekly interactive.

“I am a young, vibrant person who is passionate about what I do and I’d like to think that as a woman, I might attract other women into the sector.”

Another council member is Julia Evans, Herefordshire county chairman, a beef and sheep producer.

Mrs Evans (pictured right) was drawn into the NFU after her business became severely affected by bovine tuberculosis and she wanted to know what the union was doing about it.

“I’d definitely like to see more women in the organisation, as women address problems in a very practical, pragmatic way. None of us expects the union to make a way for more women (ie give them preferential treatment).

It is just about encouraging more women to get involved.”

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “It is great to see more women heading up farm businesses and taking a lead in the industry. I see British agriculture as a modern and dynamic industry and women are very much part of that.”