‘Herd number obstacles hamper women’s farm business ambitions’

The difficulties farm women face in trying to secure a herd number was highlighted at a recent event led by the West Women in Farming Ireland (WWFI) group in conjunction with the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT).

More than 250 people attended the event titled ‘Farm Diversification and Enterprise Day’ which was aimed at encouraging women to contribute to the viability of farms and the sustainability of their rural communities.

Organised by Martina Calvey, Ciara Shields and Paula Mullen of WWFI – a group set up as part of a national movement to empower and support women in agriculture – the event showcased supports available when setting up an agri-enterprise.

It also included presentations from experts in the fields of education, business, agriculture and legal expertise.

The conference was sponsored by County Galway Credit Unions (main sponsor); Mairead McGuinness, MEP and vice-president of the European Parliament (refreshments); and GMIT (host sponsor).

In her opening address, Martina Calvey – chairperson of WWFI and active member of family business Achill Mountain Lamb – said there is “a real sense of positivity and excitement” in welcoming new and different farm food products.

It’s a great time for doing other things on the farm. Our mission is to call on everyone to help us get more women up and running on the farm and operating businesses that are linked into every sector.

“For women thinking of investing on-farm there are no issues around support from people or the general public – support couldn’t be better.

“The deterrent is the difficulties experienced by women in securing a herd number. As we all know it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to invest in anything they don’t have control or ownership of.

“Establishing or building a business in those circumstances is not business acumen; it’s foolhardy.

This must be addressed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; it should prioritise farm start-ups to compensate for this handicap.

A presentation on ‘Women in Rural Areas: Challenges and Opportunities’ was delivered by Maura Farrell, lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway.

Other speakers included: David McDonnell, of Galway Credit Unions; Christopher Scally of Roscommon LEADER Partnership; and Orla Casey of Momentum Consulting. The panel discussion was chaired by Mairead Lavery, editor of Irish Country Living.

Other success stories were shared by: Grace Roche of Pretty Bird; Margaret Shepard of Connemara Organic Seaweed; Ami Madden of Goat Ireland; Ursula Kelly of Cormac Tagging; Teresa Roche of Kylemore Farmhouses; and Kirsty McCann of Foran Equine.

West Women in Farming

WWFI is an inclusive group that has members from all backgrounds and ages involved in farming and agriculture.

Since the founding committee met in April 2017 the group has hosted five public events, eight committee meetings and a committee trip to the European Parliament as guests of MEP Mairead McGuinness.

Events organised by WWFI are all based on research conducted by the committee in early 2017 to highlight the needs identified among its growing membership.

Any parties that wish to join the WWFI committee or group are advised to forge a connection with any of the committee members or express their interest through social media.