Women in farming and the agriculture sector: research report

Findings and recommendations from research into the role of women in farming and the agriculture sector in Scotland.

7 Training and Practical Experience

Key Findings

There is a need for more, and to increase uptake of, accessable vocational, practical training for women entering agriculture.

Scotland seems unusual in that many women do agriculture degrees and find employment in the agriculture sector.

Continuing Professional Development ( CPD) training is different: women felt this is aimed at men. Women, even women working in the agriculture sector, found attending CPD events daunting.

Women working in the agriculture sector have access to CPD through their employment and they all find it useful for their farm.

Those who 'married in' to the farm had less access to CPD. They said they would have particularly valued training early after entering farming to improve their confidence.

Some women who attended training said it did not bother them to be the only woman present, but they could understand that it might be an issue for other women.

Men and women recognised the particular implications for women of not receiving practical training. It cannot be assumed that women have the same exposure to on-the-job training growing up on the farm as men.

7.1 Qualitative Analysis of Training and Practical Experience

Most agricultural training is structured in a vocational way for those who will enter the occupation. In many ways, then, it is not surprising that previous research has found that most agricultural programmes have a majority of male students. In this research however, we found that many of our women interviewees did have agricultural or agricultural related degrees. These women have gravitated towards employment in the agriculture sector, and some have subsequently entered agriculture either as new entrants, mostly tenanted farmers, or through marrying a male farmer. Nonetheless, when it came to continuous professional development training, women reported finding it difficult;

I think so...everything in farming is aimed at men I think that's just the way it has been for years that kind of needs to change. I think you just need to go out and...there is a lot of things like SAC do a lot of open days on monitor farms and stuff like that. It's open to anybody. But maybe...I don't really feel because I've been to monitor farm meetings and stuff like that, and farmers groups ...but you kind of just need to go and not think that it's just for males. Because it's not, but it probably would be more aimed at males probably. Because that's what it's been like for years and some folk don't like change. # Young new entrant woman # 1

I don't know what can be done but I think that's right enough that...I think within the SAC there's a really good mix of female and male consultants. I would say it's probably 50-50 I don't know without looking at the numbers. But at farmer meetings if we host a meeting nine times out of ten I'm the only girl there. Like we run the [name of Society] so I was chairperson and secretary of that for a while before I had James. And yeah I was the only female there... they're generally quite welcoming but it can be a bit intimidating and I think when I first started at SAC I felt I had to link into my own family background… And so I would sort of say something oh my dad has done this in the past, and they'll be like 'oh' so you're from a farming family?' Which I don't know if men would feel the same way? # Young woman farming married into farm # 13

In the first instance, the new entrant, who has an agriculture degree, advised 'not thinking' about it. In the second instance, a young woman who works in the agriculture sector found the environment 'intimidating' and uses her farming background to establish her credentials.

Women working in the agriculture sector are those who have most ready access to continuing education. They all reported finding it useful for their own farm work, which underlines the importance of ensuring women feel training is accessible to them:

Well to be honest we're very much...if there's any training courses going we tend to want to go on them. We're lucky in our work that we've both got CPD courses to attend anyway that relate to agriculture. So our full-time jobs are training us for our own farm as well. ...But if there is anything comes up that we want to do we certainly go and do it…women… I can see how for people coming fresh into it, how it could possibly be a bit undermining maybe. # Young new entrant woman #3

And plus I arrange those kinds of things in my work as well but...really fundamental though and some of the best...I was in a Planning 2 Succeed group which Scottish Enterprise used to fund, Business Improvement...We were actually an all women group, which was fantastic, really great, so it's drilling down at your finances but...absolutely great, got a lot out of that. But...well I mean I suppose I also work...partly why I work its fundamental to get off farm and see what is going on because you know you can become a little bit blinkered. # Focus group new entrants

While these women could access training through their employment, by contrast, women who 'married in' had less ready access, and would have liked to avail themselves of training:

I just didn't, I didn't need to know in the centre of Edinburgh! From the centre of Edinburgh what it was so...but I think you have to realise just how much there is involved in every different type of activity and that's why it takes time, it does take a long time. I mean I get sent down to check the calving cows and I know that I've learnt something because I know for a fact he knows that I know what I'm looking for now. And I'm probably super careful about looking just in case because [laughter] if I miss one...if you miss one then it's... I went to a day's thing at Craibstone, they did the sheep, the lambing course and when I went, because I kind of felt there were things that I didn't know. I think because I'd been doing it, it made sense oh yeah that's what by the time I went on that I actually realised that the people there had a lot less sheep and a lot less experience but I still really learnt a lot because there were some things that I just didn't know...I knew we did them but I didn't know why we did them and then suddenly I thought oh that makes sense. Focus group #1 Women in agriculture not by choice 3

I did go to various like talks, the vet would be giving a talk or a...I dinnae go very often because it's nearly always men. # Older woman married into farm #10 Orkney Islands

Well I always say when I got married and came into farming that I would love to have gone onto a women's course for farmers to prepare me, to show me, to tell me do you know what I mean? I would feel intimidated to go to the farming college I think. It would give me more confidence as well and a bit of knowledge. These men have done it since they were born just about and they know what they're doing and they presume that women know. And they know all the terminology and you're going hey what! # Woman married to farmer Orkney # 15

Women reported that they found access to agricultural training very useful. They learned a lot, and it also validated their existing farm knowledge. Women are daunted by going to all male environments to access training. It is difficult for women new to farming to access training. However this is equally true of women working in the agriculture sector. While they reported they had availed of training, they also recognised other women might find it difficult;

I was...I don't know maybe 20 or something I did...a shearing course and I just never thought anything of it. 'I'm one of the lads' type of thing, 'I'll go and do a shearing course.' I was the only female there and I never thought funny of it at all and they never treated me any differently, but I can see how somebody coming in, how that might be a bit scary to go into. # Young new entrant woman #3, also working in the agriculture sector

I've only ever been on one and that was in Mull and it was a lambing course. I can't remember who ran it, I was the only woman on it, it didn't bother me but I could imagine it would bother some people. That's the only course I've ever been on. # Older woman croft # 8, also vet

It is a lot of men, yeah. And it wouldn't phase me to go but you know they would...yeah...the typical demographic is for it to be mainly men I think that...it is quite tricky when you're at those sorts of things. ...Part of my training I had to do for the Grass Grant because it was my grant was I had to do a fertiliser course so I went to that and that was in the majority men as well you know but it was really interesting. Too many technical questions, they were all like what! But you know I learnt a lot from it you know...it was really interesting, efficient use of fertiliser so… # New entrant woman Orkney # 11, also vet.

It is interesting that these women, who have availed of training, do not berate other women for not doing the same. They recognise that it is an intimidating environment and that they are exceptional.

Both women and men recognised the importance for women of having 'practical training'. There were general discussions about the implications of the demise of practical training available, but it was seen as having particular implications for women;

Because so much is just expected that its expected innate knowledge ...because they've not taught the son, he's just kind of picked up by following him around and there's an assumption that because I've not taught him how to do it he just knows how to do it, everybody just knows how to do it! And so it is...I would agree with that because when I'd been growing up dad would never give me the jobs like ploughing and sowing and stuff it's always been the kind of basic level...I was always carting in the bales rather than… baling them. # Women in agricultural industry focus group

I've got just now is a very, very academic, very bright girl (apprentice), and I sent her to grease a tractor the other day and she didn't know what to connect the grease thing to. She's taken a Fergie to pieces and rebuilt it again five times but she's never worked a grease gun. She just stood....she didn't know what to do with the grease gun. # 1 Men focus group #3

…[lack of training is] a particular issue if you're not from a farming background or if you're a girl I think. # 1 Men focus group #2

Both women and men in this research see the lack of practical training having particular implications for women. Even if women were brought up on farms, they are not, in general, being trained to be the heir. There is a lot of tacit, on the job training that they miss out as a result.

7.2 Quantitative Analysis of Training and Practical Experience

Recent figures from SRUC indicate that in the 2016/2017 student year, 32.3% of agricultural science students and 63.5% of Rural Business Management students are women. This suggests that there is a promising cohort of young women who are interested in developing businesses in rural areas.

The survey respondents identified a number of topics on which they would like to receive training (see table 7.2). Grant applications were chief among these, followed by livestock husbandry, animal health, accounting, business entrepreneurship, large vehicle driving, environmental protection and legal compliance.

Figure 7.2 Topics on which respondents wish to receive training
(Please note that respondents gave multiple responses).
Figure 7.2 Topics on which respondents wish to receive training

Although there were some difference between cohorts - women not raised on farms were more likely to want training in animal husbandry and large machinery driving, for instance, these proportions were generally consistent across the subcategories (farm, non-farm origin; although younger people were more interested in leadership training) in the analysis.

About a quarter of main survey and 15% of student and alumni respondents respondents agreed with the statement "I would be uncomfortable at an agricultural training course because they are mostly attended by men". This suggests that although the majority of women would be comfortable at training events, there is a cohort who require additional support.

The survey respondents were mixed in their responses on the appropriateness of availability educational opportunities with approximately one third of respondents agreeing and one third disagreeing with the statement "Current educational opportunities available address the topics of greatest interest to me". Just under half (45%) agreed that "I can access all the knowledge I need to develop the farm" and 48% agreed that "Current agricultural education opportunities are not well suited to the needs of parents", suggesting that there is a need for greater flexibility in training provision. Some 73% also agreed that "Women could be more active in farming diversification if they had the opportunity to further develop relevant skills".

7.3 Concluding Remarks

Many new entrant women to farming and women working in the agriculture sector have full time agriculture degrees and access to Continuing Professional Development. All reported the benefits for their farms of this training. These women comment that while they have availed of training, they recognise that it can be a daunting environment as it tends to be almost entirely male. Women who 'married in' to farming would have welcomed training in the early stages of their marriage. It would have given them confidence, and when they do access training, they report the value of what they learn, and the value of having their knowledge validated. Both women and men note the importance of practical training for women. Women are not, in general, prepared to be the heir, so they have less exposure to training on the job.

While most agricultural degrees in Europe tend to have an under-representation of women, this is not so pronounced in Scotland. Most of these women go into employment in the agriculture sector because of the barrier of access to land. If these women do make it into farming, they are highly innovative because of their prior agriculture sector work experience. There is a policy opportunity to work closely with this group to maximise their innovation. All women, even those who have an agricultural degree, find Continuing Professional Development ( CPD) options in farming to be daunting. The predominantly male nature of this training provision is a barrier. This is different for some crofting courses. Women new entrants who have accessed CPD through their employment report that they found it very useful information to apply to their farm. This suggests it is important for women to access this training and there is an opportunity for policy to think creatively about how to ensure women have access to CPD and ensure their needs are met. When women first marry into a farm, they have particular needs for training, and there is an opportunity to consider how to make training available to this group. Both women and men note the importance of practical training for women. Women are not, in general, prepared to be the heir, and as a result receive less exposure to on-the-job training.


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