Rural women celebrated at Autumn Gathering

07 November 2023

A group of women speakers at the Yorkshire Agricultural Society

Photograph: Laura Forbes, Fiona Macdonald, Rachel Clark, Elizabeth Nelson of sponsors Savills, Judith Wood of sponsors Barclays Agriculture, Sammie Hall, Olivia Midgley and Yorkshire Rural Support Network Chair Laurie Norris

Stories of innovative diversification and inspiring accounts of rural careers were shared at the 10th Autumn Gathering of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Women In Farming Network in October.

130 delegates attended the get-together at Pavilions of Harrogate on the Great Yorkshire Showground, where a panel of guest speakers explained their career adventures to date, sharing insights from the worlds of contract farming, flower growing, digital marketing and agricultural journalism.

Rachel Clark, a former Dragons Den contestant and host of the Yorkshire Leaders podcast, shared her journey and marketing tips for farming businesses, inspired by the wisdom of her grandmother.
Laura Forbes, who now farms in Settle, spoke about how she had forged her agriculture career via a Rich Wigram Scholarship to New Zealand and her time managing dairy farms in Ireland and the UK, and her work as an agricultural contractor.

Farmers Guardian Editor Olivia Midgley, who grew up on her parents’ smallholding in Gomersal, West Yorkshire said it was important that success stories of rural women are shared to help attract new talent into the industry.

Strength to strength

Sammie Hall shared her story about how, after a career as a corporate lawyer, she worked on an organic farm in Canada, which inspired to launch her own flower growing enterprise at her family farm near Leeds.

The Women In Farming Network is part of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Yorkshire Rural Support Network, which is chaired by NFU North Riding and Durham County Adviser Laurie Norris.

The speakers all gave inspirational and fascinating presentations.

NFU North Riding and Durham County Adviser Laurie Norris

Laurie, who attended on the day, said: “This is the 10th year of the Women in Farming Autumn Gathering and it goes from strength to strength. The speakers all gave inspirational and fascinating presentations, but it was apparent that the time taken for networking was equally important.

“With the event coinciding with the World Mental Health Day, I was struck by how necessary it is to take the opportunity to stop, step away from the business of work and celebrate the achievements of women in farming for just one day. I think that everyone left feeling positive and energised and happy to meet like-minded people.”

Fiona Macdonald, Women in Farming Network Co-ordinator said: “It has been a brilliant occasion. The energy in the room was inspiring. The Network’s events throughout the year and our community provide a safe space to share our highs and lows, knowledge and experience as well as our plans for the future and our contacts.

“I’d encourage any woman in the farming world or allied industries to become part of Women In Farming.”

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