“It is an occupation which is riddled with gender inequalities in access to land, participation in farming organisations, and education and training. The cultural norm of sons inheriting farms is very resistant to change.” That’s how a 2017 gender in farming research review by the Scottish Government described Scottish agriculture.
Agriculture south of the border in England is as entrenched in inequality as Scotland, while similar conclusions have been drawn by research focused on other regions, from North America to Africa. Yet, this male dominated world is slowly changing.
In 2016, despite increases on previous years, just 28% of the British agricultural workforce were women, and just 16% of English farm holders and managers were female. The lack of up-to-date numbers on how many female farmers there are makes it hard to see how much progress is being made on equality today. And the stereotype of the white, male farmer stubbornly persists.
Greater change could be in the air though; since 2018/19 more female students have enrolled at the Royal Agriculture University near Cirencester than male, and Minette Batters recently started her third term as National Farmers Union (NFU) president after becoming the NFU’s first female leader in 2018.
Looking to challenge that male stereotype and bring greater representation to women working the land, photographer Amy Bullock began a journey to capture on film the women running and working on farms around the UK in 2022.
When Amy started volunteering at Soul Farm near Flushing, Cornwall, during the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2021, she was inspired to pick up her camera by the women she heard about and saw working demanding jobs on the land.
“My mum has a market garden, for small organic produce, where I grew up in Devon. And I wanted to find women who were farmers in their own right, like my mother. So I phoned round farms looking for badass women doing it out there.”
Amy’s farm visits led to a mini-series of portraits of female farmers at work, from the head of the Riverford Field Kitchen in Devon to the majority female labourers working and managing the land on a farm just outside Truro, Cornwall.
Images were shot on analog film, using 35mm and medium format 120 film.
For more about Amy, find her @amsbullock on Instagram.
For new research on women in farming in the UK, check out Chloe Dunne of farmherbloggs who is aiming to address the lack of research on women in English agriculture in her PhD project, and is sharing updates on her website.
Women in farming and the agriculture sector: research report, Agriculture and Rural Economy Directorate, Scottish Government
UN Women, Five ways to build gender equality and sustainability, February 2022
Gender Matters: Climate Change, Gender Bias, and Women’s Farming in the Global South and North, July 2020, Glazebrook, T; Noll, S; Opoku, E
Environment secretary salutes Britain’s women farmers, Defra, 2016
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