That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Lizzie McLaughlin in this week’s women in ag segment.
She discusses how a marketing role with a poultry firm sparked a passion for agriculture, her current stint with Farmers Weekly and Boots and Heels and her desire to inspire people to carve a career in agriculture.
“I am originally from Teesside and moved to Yorkshire (Pontefract) less than a year ago.
I do not have any family in the farming industry; however, I have fond memories of visiting farms with my parents growing up. I always asked to go to farms, and I still have a small lamb teddy I bought on my first visit.
My earliest memory is visiting a farm and being in love with the lambs. I picked a tiny lamb teddy which I still have now. I must have been around six. My mum always says that all I wanted to do was visit farms.
I loved visiting farms as a child, but I fell into farming after uni, and I guess my heels just got stuck in.
I completed a BA in English Language and Linguistics with Media and an MA in Design at the University of Sunderland, and after graduating, I secured a marketing and design role at a poultry equipment supplier.
It was the people behind our produce that I fell in love with and soon gained a passion for the industry and sharing fantastic stories.
I managed to be voted onto the Women in Agriculture Scotland Committee in 2020, start my own podcast/ video series with Becca Wilson and now, I work as community editor at Farmers Weekly.
That there are some incredible career options and diverse people – a ‘farmer’ is not necessarily just an old man in a field.
Sharing the stories of the people behind our produce and encouraging people outside of the industry to get involved are among the most enjoyable aspects for me.
Farmers Weekly and Boots and Heels
My current role sees me work with Farmers Weekly / and Boots and Heels, an industry-leading magazine / and podcast-turned video series.
I moved to fill the position of community editor/presenter at Farmers Weekly in 2021 and am responsible for managing social media, writing articles, sharing the stories of those in agriculture and creating video content for farmers and non-farmers alike. Every day for me is different- and that is what I love about my role!
Furthermore, you will also find me on the Boots and Heels UK tour video series, visiting different farms, interviewing fantastic people in the industry, and trying my hand at jobs on-farm.
I do not have my own farm, but I am currently touring on the Boots and Heels UK Tour and getting stuck in across many different and interesting farms.
From milking cows to lambing ewes to sheepdog training, I am taking every opportunity.
I know that access to land and finance is an extreme challenge for the industry, and I am aware that having my own farm may not be feasible alongside my workload.
I think long-term, I would love a small holding… But until then, I am very grateful to be gaining experience on-farm and bringing things home to my smaller garden (such as bee houses, growing my own fruit and veg and supporting local produce).
Feeling like I am making a difference to the industry is the most enjoyable part. I hope to help break the stereotype and encourage people into agriculture.
As someone who came from outside the industry, I was surprised and elated to find the amazing women in our industry – it was not something that was actively portrayed or depicted in books or the media growing up.
I think there is a lot more that needs to be done to break the stereotype, but we are definitely on the right track. I hope that one day, we will not need to clarify a female farmer; instead, we can just say ‘farmer’.
Networking events, educating young children, and more images of women for farming advertising can encourage more women into agriculture.
There are so many diverse roles in the sector; whether you are hands-on, academic or creative, farming has so much to offer.
By using my platform on social media and videos, being a woman in ag means I can uplift other people and encourage more people to understand where their produce comes from.
Misconception and inspiration
If someone told me that I would be involved in agriculture in my earlier years, I honestly do not think I would have believed you.
With the misconception of what it really means to be a ‘farmer’, I would never have known that I could combine my love of creativity, the media and writing with the countryside, food, and amazing people.
I hope that the work I am doing now can inspire people like younger me and change their perception of what farming has to offer.
Plus, I would like to think that little me would be proud that I am now a Yellow Wellies Ambassador, sharing my mental health story to help others who are struggling.
Authenticity can sometimes be a challenge in the industry. I have had my share of negative comments on social media, but most have been extremely supportive and encouraging.
My advice would be to just be yourself, keep learning and try not to become fixated on one negative comment in a sea of positivity!
I wish to continue at Farmers Weekly, sharing the amazing story of our farmers. As for Boots and Heels, the new video series has just launched.
Becca, a fifth-generation farmer, and I started just over a year ago and continue to share our amazing industry through two different perspectives.
I would love to see the video series do well, go to schools and help educate children. I want to be a part of making a difference to the future of farming.
Furthermore, I am a passionate woman who is not afraid to ask questions. Moreover, I want to encourage others and bring a fresh perspective to the industry- even in my heels.
A few highlights of my journey so far:
- Working at Farmers Weekly;
- Charting in Apple’s top 200 for personal journals (podcast);
- Appearing on BBC Look North;
- Featuring on ITV Tyne Tees to promote #MindYourhead week and mental wellbeing;
- Hitting over 100k cumulative views on our series 2;
- Meeting/ interviewing fantastic guests such as Emma Gray, Nigel Owens, Tom Pemberton, Kelvin Fletcher and many more.
I love hearing the stories behind the people who produce our food and think it is essential to share them to help bridge the gap between farmer and consumer.
Hearing these stories and learning more about the industry really sparked a passion to make a difference, and teaming up with Becca has given me the platform to do that. Plus, I have found a real love for dairy cows and tractors.”
You can watch the full Boots and Heels episodes on the Farmers Weekly’s YouTube, access teaser clips on the @bootsandheelsuk Instagram account and see behind-the-scenes clips via @lizziemuddyheelsmac Instagram
To share your story, email – [email protected]
See more women in ag profiles.