Women in Agriculture Taskforce: final report

The final report of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.

7. New Entrants

The 2017 research showed that when men and women enter agriculture together more equal gender relations exist. Supporting new entrants is an important way to bring more women and a greater gender balance into the Scottish agricultural industry.


  • The Scottish Government, its agencies and major agricultural organisations must promote and encourage innovative routes to access land and capital, to overcome recognised barriers for women new entrants.
  • The Scottish Government, its agencies and major agricultural organisations, including education providers, must address the skills gap facing some women new entrants to agriculture in the areas of business skills and confidence.

Specific Actions

  • Agricultural organisations and the Scottish Government must raise awareness of alternative routes to establishing new agricultural enterprises that provide opportunities for women new entrants (e.g. joint venture models with existing farmers and landowners).
  • The Scottish Land Matching Service must provide positive opportunities and information for women utilising this service, and ensure all materials reflect gender diversity in agriculture.
  • Organisations with skills, education and employability remits, should develop a national ‘agri-employability’ programme and provide inspiration for girls and women to encourage them to pursue agricultural career pathways. All publicity materials must ensure an equal representation of all genders.
  • Training providers delivering programmes for new entrants to agriculture should highlight their suitability for women and promote the Rural Training Platform being delivered by the Skills Action Plan.

Key Taskforce discussion and supporting research

The 2017 research included a recommendation that more land should be made available for new entrants. The Taskforce recognised that increasing opportunities and overcoming barriers facing those entering agriculture was an industry-wide concern. While there appears to be more women entering agriculture as new entrants, the number of women is currently still lower than the number of men. Increasing opportunities for new entrants will enable more women to come into the industry and will support diversity in agricultural communities.

The 2017 research identified the main routes for women entering the agricultural industry. Interviewees and focus group participants included those who had acquired land and established their own agricultural businesses through land purchase, tenancies, or inheritance. These women were highly motivated and highly educated, often with a background of working in other jobs in the agricultural industry.

"I would say if there’s any sort of specialist advice, obviously that’s what I do for my job, I’m a consultant so I do the IACS forms. We’ve also got agri-environment schemes, because that’s what I specialise in, so we’ve got one of those running…We’re in the new Beef Efficiency Scheme so...I applied for that." #Young woman who married into a farm

Another key route by which women enter agriculture is when they marry into an established agricultural business. The 2017 research found these women experienced challenges around the perception of traditional female roles in agricultural businesses and a lack of practical experience.

The Taskforce discussions occurred while several initiatives to support new entrants to agriculture were ongoing, including the ‘Farming Opportunities for New Entrants’ (FONE) Group and the initiation of the Scottish Land Matching Service (see Cross-cutting Issues Section). The New Entrant Taskforce Sub-Group gathered evidence on the experiences of new entrants, key individuals and opportunities which could support more women to enter agriculture.

Rising land prices combined with increased demand from expanding rural businesses and farms are considered to have reduced opportunities to access land by new entrants. The current legislative landscape, combined with other factors, has created some hesitance amongst landowners to let land. New entrants can also face difficulties in accessing start-up funding, but new entrant capital grant schemes can be a mechanism to obtaining land and other support. The Taskforce are keen to promote alternative routes for land access, including contracting, share farming, partnership agreements and other joint ventures.

The Taskforce also considered the reasons why the current and retiring farming generation may be less willing or able to make land available for new entrants. Issues included fears regarding housing availability and relocation, uncertainties regarding succession processes and relinquishing land at the end of a tenancy (e.g. compensation for tenant’s improvements), and the affordability of retirement.

There appears to be reluctance amongst some potential new entrants to move significant distances from home to access land. This may be an additional concern for women new entrants, who can become isolated from social networks, childcare and family support. A perceived barrier to women-led new agricultural enterprises was ‘land only’ lets (i.e. with no available farmhouse). Nonetheless, the Farm Advisory Service New Entrant Programme and the Forestry and Land Scotland Starter Farms present examples of where aspiring new entrants have successfully relocated and highlight the importance of positive stories to encourage others.

It is important that careers’ advisors at schools, colleges and universities are made fully aware of the range of career opportunities available within agriculture. This will enable them to empower and enable young girls and their families to recognise that the Scottish agricultural industry can provide young women with a sustainable career, and a place to develop their skills and abilities. The ‘Field to Fork’ programme supported by the Queensberry Initiative in Dumfries and Galloway was highlighted as a good example of an innovative approach.

The Taskforce agreed that changing the perception of farming and crofting from a male-dominated industry to a professional career and business choice for women will lead to long-term cultural change for future generations. Promoting secondary school opportunities such as the Rural Skills programmes and modern apprenticeships specifically for girls, will be an important step in embedding change for the future.

The Taskforce heard that young people on farms, crofts and small holdings may be best placed to develop business planning skills and support succession planning. It was acknowledged within the Taskforce discussions that young women and men are equally represented in regional young farmer clubs. The 2017 research also found that the Scottish Association of Young Farmer Clubs was by far the most common source of leadership experience for women. However, the trend of young women then not moving on to leadership roles in the wider agricultural industry, was prominent (see Section 2).


Email: womeninagriculture@gov.scot

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