Let’s hear it for the women in our farming community

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Lorna Robinson has won numerous accolades for her farming prowess.

As well as being the Farming Life/Danske Bank Woman of Excellence in Agriculture 2016, she has also been twice named a Focus Farmer under a scheme supporting best farming practice.

Lorna was recognised for her poultry business and her farm shop and ready meals; she was also the only woman out of 80 farmers recognised in the farm diversification category celebrating farm to fork business success.

When Lorna won the Female Entrepreneur of the year in 2006 the judges said it was great to see a female heading up a real farm shop on a real farm - which at that time was something of a unique concept.

“When I go to meetings, whether to do with farming or Agri‐Food, it is mostly men,” says Lorna. “However, it is up to us women to change this, whilst not losing our identity as women. We are unique, we cannot be or don’t want to be the same as men in all things. Like mother earth we want to be key nurturers of our family. With the support of the men around us we can do this and be recognised as inspirational women on our farms and in our businesses.”

Lorna adds: “I consider myself an ordinary farmer’s daughter who became an ordinary farmer’s wife so I was humbled by other women thinking I was an inspiration. What I have accomplished with help from my family and farming friends, has shown that women can be leaders within the farming community.

“I remember my mum whom I now recognise as an inspirational woman, being left a widow, with a farm and six young children. She worked tirelessly on the farm, but when anyone came about the farm, she melted into the background believing women should be subservient.

“So for all the strong farming women who hide their light under a bushel, we owe it to them and ourselves to come forward and be counted as women in the farming industry.”

Lorna is a founding member of the monthly Tyrone Farmers Market that led more supermarkets to access products from local artisan producers.

She used her marketing degree to promote both Cloughbane and the produce of other farmers. “My passion as a founder member of the Farmers Market was to give farmers a platform to add value to their produce and to give a growing number of consumers access to wonderful fresh produce. It is my view that it was the upsurge in demand for farmers markets that led to supermarkets wanting to stock more products from artisan producers. I am proud to have had a small part in this.’’

As a focus farmer Lorna “really enjoyed bringing other farmers to our farm and sharing my experiences by mentoring them. We do talks with women’s groups sharing our farm and ready meals business story.”

Lorna served on the board of the Farmers Union for four years and was able to run the gamut representing the views of women in agriculture.

From making a few pies in her farm shop in 2006 she is now managing director of Cloughbane Farm Foods Ltd which presently employs 47 staff and has a turnover of £4m.

Lorna is a hugely successful ambassador for women in Northern Irish farming and an inspiration to other women in the agri-food industry which is why she was our Farming Life Woman of Excellence in Agriculture 2016.