International Women's Day- Meet Zoe McDonald

Zoe McDonald is a self-employed farmer with her own suckler herd which she hopes to continue to grow.  

How did you get involved in farming? 

I was brought up on my parent's farm and liked working with the cattle. I left school and went to Craibstone agricultural college then when I graduated in 2016 I set up my suckler herd business and have slowly built up my cow numbers from there.  

For International Women’s Day this year's theme is #BreakTheBias - why do you think this is important in agriculture?  

I think breaking the bias is important in agriculture because farming is sometimes not seen as a viable career choice for young people these days and if the industry can attract more woman to farming this can only be a good thing for farming in the future. Technology is also helping break down the male/female barriers by helping take some physicality out for the workplace as I have found by having my loader equipped with a bedder this is just one example of how the field is levelling out.  

Have you noticed progress and change towards gender balance during your career in farming?  

I studied a HND in agriculture at college and there were more females in my classes than I expected and almost all went on to work in the agricultural industry. I know many females that farm and have noticed a lot of the new vets are all female. 

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? 

The biggest challenge I found when I started my business being young and a female is I was not taken seriously when I tried to purchase stock or machinery, so I just went elsewhere. As my business has grown and more females have come into the industry, I’ve found this process has been a lot easier. 

What advice would you give to younger women looking to work in agriculture? 

Farming is challenging work and can be very frustrating and I think it’s important to have a mentor for advice and encouragement. It is very rewarding when it goes well and with determination anyone can do it and just because you are a female doesn’t mean you don’t have a place in agriculture. Machinery is a lot better now and makes some jobs a lot less work like having a bedder, feed cart and a loader with reach so this makes the work a lot less physical. It’s good to speak to other people and keep an open mind and not be scared to do things differently and ask for help. 

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