Women don’t get credit they deserve in rural businesses

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Good news, we’ve had the warmest spring on record in Scotland since at least 1910, and by implication that must also be true for much of the north of England.

Bad news, the wet, mild winter followed by such a warm spring is encouraging record numbers of midges and ticks plus large numbers of bugs and diseases liable to affect crops and livestock.

True, the worst affected areas for midges and ticks are in the West of Scotland and Highlands, but we get our share. Ticks in particular can be a menace to humans and animals so never ignore a tick bite. Infection can lead to severe health problems, including neurological and joint pains and they don’t do sheep or cattle much good.

I’ve always contended that women never get the credit they deserve in farming and rural businesses. Many have off-farm jobs while still responsible for most family activity, meals, book keeping and records, emergency stockperson and go-for at busy times, not to mention nursing male egos and providing consolation for those inevitable farming disasters.

I’d also bet that most farm diversifications such as B&B, farm shops, holiday lets and livery stables originate with women. In spite of that , farming is still seen as a man’s world and with chauvinism remaining prevalent change is slow. But perhaps not as slow as I thought according to a survey of more than 2000 men and women carried out in a joint effort by Farmers Weekly and Barclays Bank. An encouraging two-thirds of women said that they are treated mostly or always as equal to men for pay, benefits and daily work routine – as they should be.

The survey also found that 59% of men and women said that agriculture is the same as, or better than, other industries for equal opportunities, and believe that will continue to improve. Confirming my belief, suggested above, most women think they deal with most of the farm paperwork, administration and domestic chores and usually slot in to a supportive role.

Most feelings of unfair treatment related to the thorny problem of succession. Two thirds of women responding to the survey felt they were rarely or never treated equally when it came to the crunch of who would take over a farming business. Ironically, given the ages-old advice to men trying to get into farming that the three main routes are patrimony, parsimony and matrimony, only 2% of men in the survey said that marriage had got them a start in farming. For women, marriage brought 25% of them into the industry.

Is it possible that genetically modified crops could soon be grown in Britain on a large scale? I think, and have thought for 15 years and more, that would be a good thing and that non-scientific opposition to these crops is nonsense. But whether relaxation of European Union rules to allow individual countries to decide whether GM crops can be grown or not will make any difference I’m not sure.