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HomeDairy‘Even with tractor work, I am always treated equally’
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

‘Even with tractor work, I am always treated equally’

That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Ellie Browning, (20) in this week’s women in ag segment. They discuss her non-farming background, working on dairy farm and her agricultural studies. 

“I am from Chelmsford, Essex, and live in Maidstone, Kent. I do not come from a farming family or background.

My passion began for farming when I joined the school young farmers’ club when I was 12-years-old; I then started getting work experience on working farms at the age of 14.

I have planned to work in agriculture from a very young age. If I could not work in the industry, I would probably work for either the police or fire and rescue.

There are many opportunities in agriculture; you are outside in the fresh air, and I am proud to help produce good quality food for Britain.

Being a university student, I have found being self-employed was my best option on getting as much work as possible and being somewhat flexible with my working days.

Non-farming background

I am currently working for two different dairy units alongside my agricultural course.

The first farm, JW Boyd & Sons, is a dairy in Ashford with an average milking herd of 280 Holstein-x-Friesian. It is a progressive farm looking to milk more cows in the future.

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The second enterprise is Boreplace Farm, an organic dairy in Chiddingstone with an average milking herd of 240 cows.

The farm started with a pedigree Holstein herd 25 years ago, and they then went to a 3-way cross with a British Friesian & Montbéliardes.

For me, the most enjoyable aspect of farming is working with cows and calves. They all have their own personalities and are genuinely curious animals that love a fuss.

I find juggling university, work and a social life can be tricky at times. I find myself not having much time to myself some weeks if all three are full-on.

The best way to juggle university and work-life is by planning and setting goals on when to have certain things done before a set date.

I am a Kent young farmer, which I love, and I enjoy going to various events and meets throughout the month.

Ellie, from a non-farming background, is an FdSc Agriculture Year 2 (Level 5) student at the University of Greenwich & dairy farm worker.

Education

I am an FdSc Agriculture Year 2 (Level 5) student at the University of Greenwich (based at Hadlow University centre).

Furthermore, I plan to do a top-up year in BSC farm management (Level 6).  I started my degree in September 2020; my studies will finish in the summer of 2023.

I chose to study the first two years of my course with Greenwich as their land base campus is very close to where I live, and I have been able to drive in rather than live on-site.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, I also felt this was the right thing to do as I thought it would impact teaching, which it did. I was very glad to be learning in the comforts of my own home rather than university accommodation.

The course is only two days a week, and students have to get work experience or jobs in the industry to make up for no gap year.

This is when I saw my opportunity to get more experience in the dairy sector and still do my degree simultaneously.

I have found my study choices have worked out well for me. It is all going towards my future career plans, and I am very excited to see what the next year brings.

We have been back in normal lectures since the second year, and I hope to keep going back in after Christmas.

I find doing my course from home quite challenging because it is not the university environment that can make me feel unfocused on the given tasks and assignments as I am not moving around much.

Ellie, from a non-farming background, is an FdSc Agriculture Year 2 (Level 5) student at the University of Greenwich & dairy farm worker.

Women in ag

I have found I have been treated the same as my male colleagues on all the farms I have worked on. Even with the tractor work, which is a very male-based part of the industry, I have never been treated differently and am always treated equally.

I do feel women in agriculture are getting recognition. As many farmers or industry-related people have said to me, some of the best workers, managers etc., have been female, and they have excelled in all their positions regardless of size, build, appearance etc.

I think to try and encourage more females in agriculture, especially the ones which are not from farming backgrounds, we need to showcase how brilliant the industry is and the opportunities it holds.

Furthermore, I think social media and TV documentaries are excellent ways of getting this message out.

I am very proud to be a woman in agriculture who is not from a farming background or relations.

My family are all very hard workers. This is where I have gotten my drive from since a young age to learn more and move up the ladder in the industry.

Also, being a petite build, I love that I am just as capable as any man in the industry.

I may not be able to lift as much or do things in a certain way. However, I find a way around it and still complete the job regardless.

Ellie, from a non-farming background, is an FdSc Agriculture Year 2 (Level 5) student at the University of Greenwich & dairy farm worker.

Future

I hope to travel to New Zealand and work there for six months to a year after my studies. Then, I plan to return to the UK and hopefully go into an assistant farm managerial position.

My ultimate goal would be to manage farms in the future.

My best advice to younger people, who are considering a career in agriculture, would be to go for it. It is an industry with many opportunities, and you will always have a job.

Choosing to work in agriculture is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am so glad I found this industry at a young age.

I love photography, and I am always uploading all my photos and documenting my farming journey on my Instagram page – The_Farmerette – where you can follow my farming journey,” she concluded.

See more women in ag profiles.

Do you come from a non-farming background but work in the sector? If so, email – [email protected]

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