Women on Irish Farms Have Been in The Shadows For too Long

The Nationa Rural Network invited Ulster Bank to attend a Research Workshop in the Horse and Jockey Hotel recently. Annemarie Butler Agricultural Manager and Louise Dineen Business Development Manager were proud to represent the Bank on the day.

Next Rural Development Programme

Ciaran Lynch NRN Director began proceedings with an overview of why more than 30 women were invited to participate in the Workshop from different walks of life including Farming Organisations, Teagasc, Universities, Financial Institutions and the Department of Agriculture to name but a few. Ciaran Lynch outlined the importance of the day and how the participants’ contribution, their ideas and observations could be incorporated into the next Rural Development Programme.

The next speaker was Dr Pat Bogue of the NRN who would be facilitating the Forum and gave the audience an overview of how the Workshop would run. Dr Pat Bogue introduced some of the Guest Speakers; Sinead McPhillips from the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine, Lily Mulhall Researcher and Imy Breen a Farmer from West Clare.

Surprising or Not So Surprising

Sinead McPhillips shared some interesting facts with the Group, surprising or not so surprising, 13% of the Farmers in Ireland are Female. Sinead went on to share with us that 10% of Irish Agriculture Land is owned by women, contrasted with Spain where 36% of Farm are Female owned. Only 2.2% of Irish Farms are held in the Joint Male Female Name. Interestingly, of the €1.2 Billion Irish SFP paid out, females make up 8% of the recipients, compared to 27% in Spain.

Not surprising, the Age Profile of the average Farmer shows that 41% of female farmers are over 65 years compared with 30% of men.

Year of Family Farming

Sinead discussed how 2014 has been designated International Year of Family Farming. Promoted by the World Rural Forum, Sinead outlined that this initiative aims to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of agriculture. Sinead went on to tell the audience that there would be an aspect to this initiative which would focus on female farmers.


Farmer , UCD Lecturer and Researcher, Lily Mulhall was welcomed by Dr Pat Bogue as the next Guest Speaker. Lilly completed Research on the "Role of Women in Agriculture" on behalf of NRN involving 23 female farmers. This research involved consultation with three specific groups of women, broadly categorised as : landowners/ managers; spouses/partners; and part time farmers.


A series of recommendations were made following the research and these recommendations address measurement of female involvement in farming; access to land; agriculture education; image of farming; and organisation / representation.

Women ownership of farms

Lilly's research shows the role of women in agriculture has been traditionally understated due to predominance of male farm owners and the preference to transfer the family farm to a son or other male relative. Lilly went on to tell the audience that women are more likely to be working on and contributing to farms but without any ownership status.

Farming as a career for women

Lillly research shows that there is a belief among many that farming is not a suitable career for a women and this is reinforced by many parents or in schools. Lilly identified a need for better measurement and reporting on women's contribution to farming and to decision making on the farm and looked to Government Bodies to use Farm Survey as a means to gather this information. Lilly also saw a real need to improve the Image of Farming and the portrayal of the Female Farmer.

Famers Journal

The Farmers Journal has done some work here in presenting a better image of farming life, but there is more to be done through Schools where there is a focus on farming as a possible career path and under the next Rural Development Programme which according to Lilly should proactively target women for courses in Agricultural Colleges. Lilly concluded her presentation by telling her Audience that "Women on Irish Farms have been in the Shadows for too Long".

Policy issues

To conclude the day, Ciaran Lynch Director NRN thanked the participants for their involvement in the Forum, noting some of the key themes discussed during the day - the need for recognition of the role women play in agriculture and the need to influence policy to achieve a greater involvement of women.

Inspiring ladies

As an Ambassador for Business Women Can, It was great to have the opportunity to participate in the Network Forum on Women in Agriculture. Being from a farming background and working as an Agri Business Development Manager with Ulster Bank, I was delighted to have participated and I met some inspiring ladies on the day.



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