5 Female Farmers Growing Change
19th Mar, 2021
Nearly one in five farmers are women, with the number rising all the time. From all walks of life and involved in sectors across the farming industry, there are thousands of women in the UK who are using their skills to educate and inform people about agriculture. In support of International Women's Day we are highlighting five female farmers who are growing real change within the industry.
Sinead Fenton runs Aweside, a plant-based Farm in East Sussex that grows and sells vegetables and edible flowers. Fenton cultivates the land using three principles: more flowers, more trees, thriving soil. The farm is pesticide-free and relies on the fact that the more diversity it has in the system, the fewer problems they’ll face. When asked about her experience as a female farmer and the current levels of diversity within the industry Fenton comments: “Socially, economically and environmentally, something needs to change. Things have been done the same way by the same people for a long time.”
Recognising a need for locally grown food in Detroit, Kimberly Buffington imagined that by growing produce herself she could help provide jobs and establish another local food source. “It creates food security in our community,” she says. But instead of a traditional soil farm, Buffington started Planted, a hydroponic farm on Detroit’s east side.
The 6,000-square-foot production space is filled with heavy duty shelving for holding lights and hydroponic growing trays. Buffington sees her company at the ground floor of a whole new industry. “I relate it very much to the same time when Henry Ford was bringing the first Fords off the assembly line.”
Lynbreck Croft in the Highlands of Scotland is held under crofting tenure of start-up farmers Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer, and together they have created a successful crofting business focussed on working with nature and providing sustainable food for their local community.
The pair place a huge importance on starting from the ground up. Their interest in improving soil health, natural land management and good agricultural practice is apparent when listening to their future hopes and plans: “…every decision we make has to have a positive environmental impact. We don’t want to alter things in any way that isn’t ecologically sound.”
Glencross’s path to farming was circuitous. She studied chemical engineering but later decided she wanted to learn more about soil and its role in food production. In 2016 she started to ask questions about the way we were farming grains and wondered if there was a way to harvest wheat for human consumption rather than animal feed. Later joining Duchess Farm as their Head of Grains.
Glencross acknowledges that it is almost unprecedented for women to run arable farms but hopes this will change with more diversity in the industry. “I’m hoping that it might become seen as quite a desirable, almost cool career.”
Originally from London, Ruby Radwan had a background in farming but wanted to live a more sustainable life. 17 years later she runs Willowbrook Farm in Oxfordshire with her family.
Willowbrook is run according to Islamic principles to live in balance with the environment, physical, social, political and economic and Radwan believes they may have been the first ethical and sustainable halal farm in the UK. Community is important at Willowbrook: “We let our customers in to see the farm and be our conscience,” Radwan says. “They’re going to question us – and that keeps us on our toes.”
Image credits: Adrian Sherratt, Alex Lake, Perou and Nick Hagen