Girl power growing as thousands of women take over farms
GIRL power is on the increase in Irish farms, with a growing number of farms owned by women instead of men.
The number of farms owned by women increased by almost 15pc to 17,324 farms in the decade between 2000 and 2010, according to the latest CSO figures.
Women also account for more than a quarter of the workforce on farms, with 74,092 women engaged in farming.
Of these female farm workers, 24pc own their own farm, while 76pc were wives and daughters of the farmer or paid staff.
Catherine McCollum (33), from Corranure in Co Cavan, is one of the next generation of female farmers. She and her brother John work in partnership on the family farm, where she runs a pig herd and a flock of sheep.
"I see more and more women at farm walks and agricultural events," she said.
"Years ago it would have been the men who went to the farm walk but now women are taking more of a managerial role," Ms McCollum said.
"Farming is not as physical as it used to be years ago, it is more about skill so women are not at a physical disadvantage compared to men," she added.
"In fact, women were always the first choice to work in the farrowing unit or maternity ward on pig farms and to help with lambing because of their caring nature towards young animals.
"Having more women in agriculture can only be a positive thing for the industry," she maintained.
Ireland's young farmer organisation Macra na Feirme has noted the increase in female farm ownership here and believes the trend will continue over the next decade.
"As Irish families decrease in size, the chances of a farm being inherited by a daughter increase," said Macra's agricultural affairs manager Derry Dillon.
But, he said, there was anecdotal evidence that some farmers still prefer to hand over a farm to a son instead of a daughter.
"Historically farmers wanted to ensure that their farm, which might have been in their family for several generations, would retain the family name," he explained.
"That idea of continuing the family name still persists today."
Ireland's farm sector is still extremely male dominated, with almost 88pc of farms owned by men in 2010, compared to just over 12pc owned by women.
Ireland has one of the lowest rates of female land ownership in Europe, lagging far behind eastern European countries like Latvia, for example, where almost half of all land is owned by women.