That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with artist and farmer, Kathryn Taylor, in this week’s Women in Ag segment. We discuss how she is combining her love for art and farming.
“I am from Mold-North Wales and have lived here since birth. I am not directly from a farming background, but I have lots of relatives from agricultural backgrounds, the closest being my grandad.
The family farm was just outside of Wrexham. It was a smallholding where they would milk 12 Shorthorns by hand and farmed a couple of pigs and chickens too.
Currently, I live in a big farming area, and there are lots of dairy farms around my village. My house backs onto fields and growing up. I would always love seeing cows after coming home from school, especially when they used to come to the fence for a scratch.
I decided I wanted to work with cows from a very young age. Currently, I am working on a local dairy farm in Pulford; I milk cows and do general yard jobs.
There are also sheep, which has given me a new experience, and I am really enjoying it. I have always been keen to work with cows from a very young age. I enjoy being outside and working with animals.
From growing up in a rural area, I was very keen to pursue farming, but I had no idea where I would start. I got a volunteering opportunity on a calf rearing unit in Chester during high school.
I spent my half terms and summer holidays helping feed calves and get involved with whatever was going on that day.
As I came to leaving high school, I applied for an agriculture course at my local college.
A month after applying, I was offered an apprenticeship at the calf rearing unit. Being more hands-on, I took this opportunity right away.
I learnt every aspect of calf rearing calves on buckets and machines.
I got a level 2 in agriculture and a certificate for injecting animals. After two years of calf rearing, I decided it was time for a change and have since moved around local dairy farms.
I learnt how to milk cows, drive tractors, vaccine cattle and all about the day-to-day running of a farm. Furthermore, I gained confidence working with larger cattle.
With always being in the dairy sector, I wanted to expand my knowledge and look for sheep work. My current job has given me this chance to continue with the milking and learn new skills with sheep.
On the other hand, I have always loved doing art from a young age. My mum is an artist and art teacher, and she helped me turn my doodles into something a bit more.
As a child, I enjoyed drawing animals the most and would fill sketchbooks up with different types of animals.
I took art GCSE in school, and the class was set a project to paint an aspect of our life. I chose cows; this soon turned into endless paintings and drawings of cattle.
In 2017, I made an Instagram account to show my work and gained some interest.
I mostly painted on canvas and did sketching with pencils and charcoal too. I got my first commission of a Charolais cow on canvas.
Then, I got the opportunity to show my work in local libraries and galleries. This developed into painting on other things like wooden slices and cattle tags.
I bought some tags online and experimented painting cows on them. With this being such a unique product, I quickly gained a lot of interest.
I only painted cows to start with, but someone asked me about painting a sheep. So, for about six months, I only ever painted cows and sheep.
I took on commissions of painting people’s favourite cows/sheep, and they would send me photos to work from.
This quickly turned into painting more animals and have since painted pigs, dogs, cats, goats, ducks and even a ferret.
My work is now mostly commission-based, but I still try and update my shop when I can.
My love for farming has heavily impacted my painting business to produce more agri-themed products, especially cattle tags.
As an artist, I enjoy painting cows the most and capturing their curious personalities. As requests for other animals have come in, I have enjoyed painting people’s pets and expanding my artwork into more than just farm animals.
Still living at home with my parents, space is very limited. I have a little art corner in my bedroom where I do all my artwork. I have a desk and shelves full of pots of brushes and paints and all my materials.
The lack of space can be quite difficult sometimes, but I can make it work.
Website to sell products
I set up an Etsy account in 2018; after a few sales, I decided to take the plunge and make my own website.
I sell all my pre-made products there. My current products include watercolour illustrations, Lino prints, painted cattle tags, wooden slices, and greetings cards. I aim my products at anyone who loves cows as much as I do!
For producing my artwork, I take photos of cows either from farms I have worked on or cows I have seen whilst out and about and work from these.
I do it all from scratch, which can make the process quite slow sometimes. A tag can take anywhere from an hour to two hours to paint, and my wooden slices can take up to five hours.
I have shipped all over, to Australia, America and even New Zealand.
The Covid-19 pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic had a very positive impact on my business. Sales rapidly increased during the first lockdown, and I had to make a waiting list for the first time.
The farm I was working on during the pandemic enabled me to do the morning and afternoon milking, so I had plenty of time in the day to paint.
I was posting more on social media. This is where my business really gained an interest and a good following.
Juggling a business and farming
Juggling farming and a business can be difficult sometimes. I do take breaks from the business if I need to.
The farm I am currently working at is flexible enough for me to still do painting and then go in for evening milking.
There are some busy days, but I have found a good balance. I also have a waiting list for orders, which allows me to not take on too much at once.
Women in agriculture
As a woman in agriculture, I feel I have the same respect as men and have never felt excluded. I think women in agriculture are getting good recognition, especially with social media.
Women are showcasing what they can do every day through the likes of Instagram and Facebook.
Red Shepherdess and Yorkshire Shepherdess are two examples of influencers online who can show just what women can do.
I believe women should be publicised more on TV farming shows to encourage more women into agriculture. This will give women from a non-farming background like myself a chance to see that they can apply for farming jobs.
Lots of farms are willing to train, but I feel the general public would not know this and think you have to be from a farming family to farm.
Women should consider a career in agriculture because they will learn lifelong skills and make a change to the male-dominant industry.
Women wanting to work with animals, crops, or machinery should not be put off from wanting a career in farming. It is never too late to learn, and it is a great opportunity to make a difference.
For me, I do not feel like agriculture is challenging. My capabilities have never been questioned, and I am confident with my job.
In terms of my plans, I would like to stay in farming and continue to learn new skills.
I am keen to work my way up to a management role. I am proud of how far I have come, from having no clue if I would ever get into farming to now having a whole range of skills and being confident in what I am doing.
It has been a difficult journey, but it has made me who I am today.”
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