'We're no shrinking violets'- IFA exec, despite survey showing Irish female farm managers among lowest in EU

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Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Ireland has one of the lowest percentages of female farm managers, a new EU survey has revealed, but dairy farmer Imelda Walsh believes that "women aren’t shrinking violets" and the tide is turning.

According to a new Eurostat survey, in 2016, seven in every ten (72 pc) farm managers on the 10.5 million holdings in the European Union (EU) were male, while 28pc were female.

Ireland ranked 24th out of the 28 countries for the number of female farm managers, with only 11pc of farm managers categorized as female.

IFA North Tipperary Chair Imelda Walsh, who runs a dairy farm with her husband Tom in Ballywilliam told FarmIreland that the figures were not a surprise but said that there are no barriers to women entering farming.

“There’s nothing stopping women from getting involved in farming. We’re not shrinking violets and we are we well able to put ourselves forward for doing something when we want to,” she said.

“I’ve never believed that there were barriers. Since I was elected last year to the IFA I have travelled the length and breadth of the country and can talk to farmers about everything and the subject matter is never about the height of my heels.”

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Ms Walsh feels that more focus needs to be placed on encouraging young people of all genders to help close the labour shortage that is currently gripping Irish farming.

“Irrespective of gender the amount of young people staying farming is greatly concerning. There’s huge pressure on the livestock sector to encourage young people to stay in the sector,” she pointed out.

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“This is part of a bigger story of labour issues on farm, especially on livestock farms where they are fighting for survival.”

Ms Walsh added that women often work off-farm and their income supports the farm and that sometimes isn’t recognised.

“In the past men would have traditionally got the herd number but things are changing and there is greater female participation. Women often work off farm and their income is keeping farms afloat. Their income is a real lifeline to the farm.”

According to the survey, the EU countries with the highest proportions of female farm managers in 2016 were Latvia and Lithuania (both 45pc), followed by Romania (34pc) and Estonia (33pc).

Ireland ranked 24th out of the 28 countries for the number of female farm managers, with only 11pc of farm managers categorized as female.

In contrast, there were four Member States where the proportion of farm managers who were female was at or below 10pc: The Netherlands (5pc), Malta (6pc), Denmark (8 pc) and Germany (10pc).

In terms of age, the majority (58pc) of farm managers were aged 55 years or more. Only about one in every ten (11pc) farm managers was under the age of 40 years and this share was even lower among female farmers (9pc).

A EU survey last year revealed that Ireland had one of the lowest levels of female farmers in the region with 11.6pc female farmers.

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