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Saturday 23 June 2018

'Can I speak to your husband' - First ever woman to run National Farmers' Union tells how she overcame sexism in the farmyard

Minette Batters has become the first female president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU/PA)
Minette Batters has become the first female president of the National Farmers' Union (NFU/PA)

Christopher Hope

The first ever female leader of the National Farmers’ Union has told how she has had to overcome sexism in the farmyard by reminding people coming to her farm that she is “the boss”.

Minette Batters, a beef farmer from Wiltshire, became the first woman to lead the NFU in its 110-year history after winning the union's elections this week.

Ms Batters told how she had to make it clear to visiting delivery drivers to her farm that she was in charge.

She said: “I can always remember somebody delivering something to the farm and saying ‘can I see the boss’. And I said ‘I am the boss’.

“And he looked me up and down and he looked very surprised that I was going to get in the loader, put the pallet forks on and unload the delivery.

“There is a lot of that and often you get phone calls from people saying ‘can I speak to your husband’.

“So a lot of women suffer from that. It is more interpreted by the outside world as being a male industry than those working within it.”

Ms Batters, 50, a mother of two, also called for less fruit to be sold in plastic wrapping. She urged retailers to learn the lessons from greengrocers which tend to sell loose fruit which is not covered in plastic.

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She said: “Addressing packaging and plastic has to be a core priority. We are the producers of whole foods and the more we can take out of plastic packaging the better.”

A recent report in 2016 found that two-thirds of plastic household waste is sent to landfill or incinerated each year.

Ms Batters said it was wrong that hardier root vegetables are wrapped in plastic when they are sold to consumers.

She said: “We all remember when we were young buying swedes from the greengrocer.

“It is important that food is protected – but if we can all be committed to taking out more plastic and behaving really responsibly for the environment in how we recycle – that has got to be a good thing.

“We have become fairly plastic obsessed and we still see local greengrocers selling things without the plastic.

“Everybody is committed to trying to use less plastic and if we do to make sure we recycle responsibly.”

Ms Batters also spoke out against a recent trend which has seen militant vegans attacking farmers for keeping cattle.

She said: “It is up to individual people how they choose to eat and what they want to eat. I personally want to understand and be involved with our consumers more.

“We can’t tolerate abuse at any level from either side – that cannot be good for anybody.”


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