As part of a series of articles shedding light on FCN volunteers, Helpline and publicity volunteer Chloe Dunne explains her reasons for wanting to get involved and how her PhD is helping to empower women within the sector.
“My biggest motivation for joining FCN is giving something back to an industry and community I’m really proud to be part of,” says Chloe Dunne, who joined FCN last month as a Helpline and publicity volunteer. “From my own personal experience, I’ve seen friends and people I’ve worked with need support but be reluctant to open up for ask for help.
“In light of the ever-changing challenges and uncertainty within the sector, I feel it’s so important – now more so than ever – that the right support is available to those who need it.”
From a young age, Chloe knew she wanted to work in farming. While still at school she worked on beef and sheep farms, and after finishing her A-levels she took a gap year to work on a variety of different farms – including dairy (milking and calf rearing), lambing, seed trials, grain storage, halter training and showing beef cattle.
Her passion influenced her decision to take on a degree in Agriculture and Business Management at the University of Nottingham (2015 – 2019). She enjoyed her course so much, she’s now studying towards a PhD documenting the role of women in UK agriculture and investigating how their development can be supported.
“My research has shown the important role women play in the sector and its long-term sustainability,” says Chloe. “While the position of women in farming has definitely improved, there’s still much more that can be done to increase their participation and leadership visibility.”
While working on her PhD, Chloe also keeps pigs and hens on some rented land and works as a content manager at rural PR and marketing agency Eve Communications, which allows her to apply her interests and expertise in the daily work she undertakes.
“The way we communicate within the agricultural community is very important,” says Chloe. “We’re in incredibly uncertain and volatile times, with increasing commoditisation, supply chain and farm consolidation, uneven power relations, animal disease, extreme weather, political uncertainty and, at the moment, Covid-19.
“With a wide range of challenges facing farmers, it is important that the next generation is still inspired to work in the industry. Encouraging conversations around succession planning, supporting young farmers in undertaking training and education, and beginning conversations around business and personal resilience are vital in attracting and retaining talent within the sector and equipping the next generation to step up to future challenges.”
For Chloe, the work FCN does to support farmers and their families – particularly during this unprecedented period of uncertainty – is vital.
“I’d encourage anyone who is even slightly interested in volunteering to speak to a FCN representative to explore the idea,” she says. “I think perhaps people sometimes don’t realise how much difference a small amount of their time could make to another individual, or an organisation as a whole, and as I discovered there are lots of different ways you can become involved depending upon how much time you have available, and what your skills and interests are.
“I’m also looking forward to the social aspect of being a FCN volunteer and taking part in activities within my local branch whilst being able to help and support members of the farming community through this fantastic organisation.”
- Chloe runs a website (farmherbloggs.co.uk) where you can keep updated with her research and the wider topics within industry.
- She can also be found on Twitter (@womeninagUK) and Instagram (@farmher_bloggs).