Sheena Thomson is a farmer at GWB Fullerton & Son. She grew up helping on the family farm and now her children enjoy helping her out at work!
How did you get involved in farming?
I was involved in farming from a young age. I grew up on my family farm and loved helping, especially in school holidays.
For International Women’s Day this year's theme is #BreakTheBias - why do you think this is important in agriculture?
Breaking the Bias is extremely important in agriculture. The average age of a farmer is 59 and on farms there is an ageing workforce. The industry needs to encourage more young talented people into Agriculture. It’s not just breaking the gender bias but others such as “not from a farming background “. The industry is crying out for people in all sectors from milking people, tractor operators to agricultural engineers.
Have you noticed progress and change towards gender balance during your career in farming?
I am glad to say that there have been substantial changes in gender balance in my career over the years. I have been in the industry for 25 years and it has definitely improved. 30 years ago, you would have been told “You can’t do that you're a girl” or “You won’t manage that”. Thankfully, I don’t hear these comments anymore.
There are definitely more women involved in agriculture now which is fantastic. You can still sometimes get people coming onto the farm asking, “Where’s the farmer?”
Have there been any barriers or challenges in your career due to being a woman? If so, what were they and how did you overcome them?
Yes, there has been barriers, for example I am not as physically strong and can’t lift as much, but there is always a way and techniques to overcome this (power tools, hydraulic sheep crate or a long bar can even come in handy). Farming is so much more mechanised now. The JCB Telehandler does all my lifting for me. It is one of the most important machines on the farm.
My challenges came when having three children and working on the farm at the same time. I am extremely lucky with a great support network and good people around me. It did take true grit and determination as I was told “women can’t have it all.” Now my kids are older and love helping me on the farm, well I think they do.
What advice would you give to younger women looking to work in agriculture?
My advice for young women going into the industry is go for it. It’s a great industry to be in, with lots of skills to learn. Every day is different, there are never two days the same. It’s hard but there is nothing more rewarding than seeing lambs and calves playing in the fields and the harvest coming in. Sometimes you must stand up for yourself and don’t be scared to get involved.
Women can have it all, times have changed.