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Monday 1 May 2017

'I was expected to be a teacher, nurse ...but not a farmer'

Karen Elliffe from Westmeath: ‘For me, farming is a way of life and a vocation.’ Photo: Lorraine Teevan
Karen Elliffe from Westmeath: ‘For me, farming is a way of life and a vocation.’ Photo: Lorraine Teevan

Gavin White

A young female farmer has said a new EU report on women's access to agriculture can help challenge "the financial burden" on women entering the industry.

A new report by the Agriculture and Women's Rights Committees of the European Parliament said women entering farming is key to sustaining populations in rural areas and should become a top priority in future rural development policies.

Karen Elliffe (27), from Ballinagore in Co Westmeath, is the 2016 Macra Queen of the Land and she hopes the report will tackle the perception that "women can't farm".

"Farming was never an occupation that was said to me going through school. It was more expected that you would become a teacher or a nurse.

"Even my career guidance teacher said it was uncommon and unusual when I wanted to get involved, but for me it is a way of life and a vocation," she said.

Ms Elliffe said the report "is just common sense and is great to hear due to the financial burden and personal burden taken on".

"I am quite lucky because I am an only child, but there is an expectation there that the farm will always go to the oldest son even if there is a daughter there," she said.

The report said the EU should promote women's farm ownership or co-ownership, facilitate equitable access to land, ensure inheritance rights and facilitate access to credit.

Mairead McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament and a member of the Agricultural Committee, said the report should bring a firm focus on future EU policy.

"This new report recognises the need to incentivise women so that they have the economic ability to commit their futures to rural Ireland when that is where they want to be," she said.

In 2014 women accounted for 35pc of total working hours in agriculture, with 53.8pc part-time work and 30.8pc full-time.

However, only 30pc of farms in the EU were managed by women.

"Much of the work on farms is carried out informally by spouses and other female family members and it's often invisible because they're not listed as legal farm owners," she said.


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