Women in farming groups a growing phenomenon

Women in agriculture groups are a growing phenomenon, with North-West Women in Farming the latest to join the fold.

It will hold its inaugural meeting tonight, Friday, May 19 at 7.30pm, in the Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey, Co. Donegal.

Hannah McNeilis who is spearheading the north-west gathering, is a farmer’s daughter.

She helps out on the family hill sheep farm in south-west Donegal, with its flock of horned black-faced ewes.

The UCD agricultural science graduate is an agri advisor in Donegal.

She is assisted in forming the group by Donna Maskery who farms a herd of pedigree moiled cattle with her husband.

The business development manager with Safetech Training and Consulting is a Harper Adams graduate with a degree in Rural Environmental Protection.

McNeilis said: “Over the past number of months I have been following the likes of South-East Women in Farming and West Women in Farming.

“I thought that this was a fantastic idea and something that was greatly needed in Donegal and the north-west,” she said.

“This region is a hugely agricultural area. There is a huge number of small to medium farms in particular and a lot of people involved in farming in many different ways.

“Farming in its nature is often seen as a very male-dominated industry.

However, there are a lot of women out there very heavily involved in the daily running of the farm.

“That is what we want to promote and celebrate,” McNeilis said.

“We also aim to focus a lot on the farming family. Typically women are the backbone of the family and the home.

“We hope to discuss several topics in relation to this such as education or training – for women returning to work after children – health, wellbeing and safety,” said McNeilis.

“Rural isolation is a big factor in the north-west.

“We hope to encourage women in these areas to come join the group and meet others with the same mindset. There is a huge social aspect to the group also. Women can come together and share experiences and learn from each other,” she said.

“We can discuss important topics and get a better understanding on different aspects of farming in a comfortable environment where we can ask questions,” said McNeilis.

On the night there will be a panel of speakers, and group discussion will be encouraged.

The panel will include: Marian Harkin, MEP; Ciara McGowan, Teagasc Education Officer; and Eimear McGuinness, manager of Donegal Livestock Mart.

“We hope that through our excellent panel we can showcase the brilliant role models we have within our region and encourage discussion among group members,” said McNeilis.

There will also be a guest farmer on the night.

Admission will be free. “This is thanks to a fantastic group of sponsors within the county who have helped us with the running costs of the night.

“These include: Ballybofey and Stranorlar Credit Union; Donegal Rapeseed Oil Co.; Safetech Training and Consulting; and North-West Polytunnels,” said McNeilis.

“The response to the group so far has been very promising. We are hoping for a large turnout on the night.

“There is currently no other group within the region catering for this demographic of agricultural women so I expect it will be well attended,” McNeilis said.