Written by Toni Bruce, Women in Agriculture programme Lead & First 4 Milk Specialist at First Milk.
I am passionate about working with farmers to create quality food through regenerative agriculture, reducing the impact of food production on our environment.
In the eyes of the majority, the typical farmer is a male guardian of the land and the countryside, and dairy farmers are stereotyped in many ways, reinforcing the gender gap in agriculture. Female farmers in dairy, and in the wider industry tend not to come front of mind. However, they are actually a small but growing powerhouse of farmers - women changing the face of agriculture. For farmers in Cumbria, this has been with the support of NESCAFÉ and First Milk.
It is true that some outdated gender images and traditional inheritance of farms have been obstacles in the history of women in agriculture, and still today represent structural obstacles for women entering farming. To enable more women in agribusiness (taking over and managing farms) - a fundamental change in agricultural traditions is necessary, coupled with educational work to address gender inequality in agriculture through agricultural educational institutions.
However, this is changing, and NESCAFÉ is part of that change, alongside First Milk they are empowering women in agriculture through their focus and commitment to the ‘Women in Agriculture’ group, whose mission it is to support women in their voices being heard.
Diversity is key for a well-functioning team, whether you are in agriculture or other sectors. This subject is central to the Women in Agriculture group purpose, ‘If you can’t see it, you can’t be it’, and empowering women is fundamental to encouraging driven women to see agriculture as a rewarding career, both financially and personally. Women in agriculture are under-represented in farming organisations, with few holding leadership positions, but those who do are real change makers and highly respected by the industry as a whole. The lack of women in farming, is not a deliberate act, but driven by centuries of tradition, and as farming has changed, so have these attitudes.
The NESCAFÉ and First Milk Women in Agriculture group is a huge opportunity for all female farmers, whether they are established or up and coming. The group provides a platform for women in agriculture to share knowledge and experience, to connect with others, and to seek and provide support to one another. It truly is a valuable network for the female farmers directly involved with farms supplying milk to the NESCAFÉ frothy coffee factory.
Lottie Dunning, who you may recognise from our #FreshFarmingThinking video, is one of the members of the First Milk’s ‘Women in Agriculture’ group.
“I gain loads of support from First Milk’s Women in Agriculture group. We love sharing our farming stories and pictures through our closed WhatsApp group. It helps me realise I’m not on my own and, as women farmers, we’re not a minority. It’s great hearing other women’s opinions, ambitions and achievements. I feel it makes us stronger and able to accomplish more. Farming can be isolating at times, so it is brilliant to know there is someone on the same wavelength as you.”
Source: First Milk
Sarah Workman, another Milk Plan Farmer also echoes the support the group gives her.
“All individuals have talents and strengths; it shouldn’t matter if they are male or female. I expect everyone to be treated with respect and it’s important to provide equal opportunities for education and employment. I believe we raise a safer and healthier society when we value women and men equally… First Milk’s Women in Agriculture group has been a great support to me. It is very comforting to be able to talk about jobs other women do on their farms, share diversification ideas and discuss problems we come across together.”
NESCAFÉ will continue to work towards empowering Women in Agriculture, alongside First Milk. This is #FreshFarmingThinking, and every delicious cup of NESCAFÉ Frothy coffee tastes all the better for it.