Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Hi, my name’s Chloe Dunne and in September last year I started a self-titled research PhD looking into the roles and recognition of women in UK farming.
This is my very first blog post (yikes!) so I thought I might as well give a bit of an intro to who I am, how I’ve ended up here, and what I’m doing with this research – so here it goes...
I was born and raised in Burbage, Leicestershire, and although I don’t come from a farm, farming is something I’ve wanted to do.
While I was still at school, I worked on a beef and sheep farm at the weekends and was an active member of my local young farmers club. I hated school and didn't even plan on doing my A-Levels. But I got them over with then I took a gap year where I worked on lots of different farms from milking, lambing, tractor driving and cattle showing before deciding to study agriculture and business management at The University of Nottingham.
During my degree I did an industrial placement year with the food chain team at NFU head office and also took on some land of my own and filled it with pigs and hens.
Despite hating school, I loved uni and I first considered doing a PhD around this time last year when Christie (my dissertation supervisor, and now PhD supervisor too) suggested it. I love asking questions, I enjoyed researching and there were a range of industry funded options available - but I felt like something just didn’t click.
After really loving my placement at NFU and my various farm jobs I also really wanted to get out there and spending three or four more years at Uni before doing that again just didn’t feel like the right thing for me.
At this point, I found out you can actually propose your own PhD research project and you can do the work from anywhere!
This meant I could choose a topic I was 100% passionate about and get support from the Uni to make a viable contribution to research knowledge. The downside was a lack of any agreed industry funding to cover course fees or living expenses etc – but choosing a topic I was so passionate about and being able to combine this with still being able to get a graduate job, made it the perfect option for me.
I love farming, business and marketing, and in September 2019 I was super lucky to bag my dream graduate job as content manager at rural PR and marketing agency Eve Communications.
Although it’s quite separate, my current role has been really important in developing my skills and knowledge of effective communications and I’m so grateful to have flexible employers who have let me work remotely or dip out for a progress meeting (I make the time up ofc).
I’m also super grateful to NFU Mutual Charitable Trust whose Centenary Award scheme has actually funded 75% of my Uni course fees. I applied for this funding after my research proposal was accepted and it’s made a huge difference to the manageability and affordability of this research.
I’m massively passionate about promoting and supporting the role of women and new entrants in UK farming and I want to use this research to produce actionable results - to make a real difference to an industry I’m extremely proud to be a part of.
I'm also very conscious about raising the research in a balanced way.
International research from other developed countries DOES show there are certain challenges for women in agriculture. And while the position of women in farming has definitely improved, there is still much more that can be done.
This doesn't mean everyone will experience challenges, or even the same challenges. But rather than dividing opinion or pitching one sex against another, wouldn't it be better if we could be open to exploring these challenges and working together as an industry to overcome them.
Evidence must be based upon facts - not just subjective opinions. Solid research will help and similar initiatives in New Zealand and Scotland have done an excellent job at communicating both the need and the means to support women to enhance the overall sustainability of the sector.
I’m very keen to use effective communications to build greater connectivity and collaboration between research and practice in the UK, and given some of the recent media focus on UK women in agriculture - including Countryfile’s great piece for International Women’s Day - I wanted to find a way to start sharing the journey of this research with industry.
So here it is – my new website and blog! I’m really looking forward to sharing my research process and findings and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
If you have any thoughts or questions please do get in touch directly or connect over social media.
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