Galway farmer calls for more women in agriculture

By Eimear O’ Dwyer

Teresa Roche, Galway farmer and owner of Kylemore farmhouse cheese calls for a more diverse agriculture industry.

She set up her business in 2017 and began cheese production in a converted sheep shed in 2018.

“The idea was to diversify and add value to our farm and to be able to showcase and educate people about where milk comes from… I felt there was a big educational lapse in knowing the food production cycle on farms.”

When the pandemic hit in 2019, she had to diversify her new business as restaurants and hotels shut their doors.

“I set up the farm shop and that was a great success and continues to grow.”

“I felt there was a poor attitude towards farming and a negativity towards farming, and not much understanding from the public of how sustainable farming was.”

Women in agriculture

Teresa says there have been many positive reforms for women in agriculture.

“With grant aid, partnerships, getting your own identity, herd numbers, participation, and women getting a wage from it.”

Undoubtedly, Teresa says there has been a large growth in the number of women doing agricultural science courses, green certs, and participating in the food and agriculture industry.

“It’s been a massive growth and I think it’s really exciting for the future of women in agriculture.”

However, more work needs to be done to put men and women on the same playing field, working together, says Teresa.

“We need to work together and be able to support each other and show that there are different role models out there, working in partnership.”

Highlighting women’s roles in agriculture would give them more strength and an identity on farms leading to empowerment, says Teresa.

“Without education and funding, women can fall through the cracks in farming and in rural communities.”

“We need to get recognition for our roles in farming.”

Rural life

Teresa grew up on a dairy farm in Galway. She trained as a nurse in England and worked for many years in rural areas around the world.

“I always felt like I was moving in that circle of rural life and enjoyed it.”

Teresa is very proud of the standard of farming in Ireland. She says there has been negative coverage surrounding carbon emissions from cows.

However, she says very short chains of manufacturing keep this carbon output very low.

“We are the most sustainable country in the world producing milk, outside of New Zealand. and we do it from a strict grass-based system.”

“Farmers are open to change, and their practices are improving continuously.”

Agri-food tourism

Additionally, Teresa is involved in the agri-food tourism sector, offering luxury unique experiences and tours for clients, schools, universities, and international corporate groups.

She says incorporating the community into her business is important to her.

“Your community is your backbone in rural areas. [They are] part of your product, your location, your history and your heritage.”

Female-led innovation

Furthermore, Teresa says education and research projects such as FLIARA [Female-led innovation in agriculture and rural areas] are very important.

“It’s really important for female farmers to have that voice, and through education, we can show where the pitfalls are, and through education and research the EU can see where women have not been supported.”

“EU funding can knock these barriers giving women more leadership roles in the future.”

Thus, with initiatives like FLIARA being introduced, more women like Teresa can take on leadership roles and diversify the industry.

“Women need to be recognised and supported through funding and leadership roles and be given more of a voice at the top table so we all can be in partnership and given a little bit more scope to do what we want on our farms as well.”

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