ONE Somerset MP has shared her experience of growing up on a dairy farm in the south west for International Women's Day (IWD). 

Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, met with many women working in landscape and environmental roles last Friday (March 8) - and so decided to write an article based on her own experience.

When she was young, Ms Pow was 'immersed' in her life on the family dairy farm - she moved cattle, built fences, fed calves, hauled bales, plucked turkeys, ran a small chicken businees and a bed and breakfast. 

"In the 80s there was little option for women to farm," she said.

"The farm inheritance structure meant many tenancy agreements largely favoured men and the manual and physical nature of farming was considered 'challenging' for women.

"The main role for a woman was in her capacity as a 'farmer’s wife'. My mother took this up a notch, setting up the Women’s Farming Union in the region, the British Food Hall at the Royal Bath and West Show, and as a fierce campaigner for British food and a fair deal for farmers.

"For me it was a job with the National Farmers’ Union – running Bath Food Week, a local food initiative called the Taste of Somerset and campaigning for our local farmers on broad issues.

"This too was a male-dominated world – the men all decades older than me. Then a stint in academia doing rural research (all male too!) and following that a long career in broadcasting specialising in agriculture, the environment and gardening. I was the second woman to produce and present Radio 4’s Farming Today."

In the article, Ms Pow talks says that just 12 per cent of principal farmers are women today, and for those under 24 the figure rises to 26 per cent. 

"A recent Farmers Weekly survey found 60 per cent of women in farming believe 'industry attitude' is preventing them from achieving their career goals," she explains.

"There are certainly many women keen to get into the industry, demonstrated by the fact that 64 per cent of agricultural students are now women.

"More than half of the nearly 200 participants in our recent Defra new entrants support scheme pilot, which looked at how we can better support and unblock barriers for those wanting to enter farming, were women.

"Today, my family’s farm, which is part owned, part tenanted, is run by my brother and cousin, and in a sign of the changing times my niece will soon be joining them.

"In terms of wider land-based roles, a new world of opportunity is opening up and women are well placed to get involved. Forestry Commission apprenticeships and short training courses, for example, are skilling up the workforce required to deliver government tree targets and our forestry for the future."